heel-digging in North Carolina. (If they had voted on letting black and white people get married 30 years ago, that would have lost, too.)
Nonetheless, and at the risk of seeing a half-empty glass, I can’t help but recall the 2008 vice presidential debate in which Joe Biden and Sarah Palin quickly confirmed that they were in full agreement—that marriage should be limited to heterosexual couples—and then dropped the subject as if it were a live hand grenade. Biden didn’t even take the opportunity to endorse civil unions or allude to the rampant discrimination gay and lesbian couples and individuals face every day.
The fact that absolutely nothing achieved by the movement for sexual emancipation was a gift is hardly news. But it’s a tribute to the skill, professionalism and focus—not to mention the money—of the LGBT organizations that marriage equality is suddenly a reality for many young couples today, a state of affairs that would have been unthinkable even during the Clinton years. (Remember him? the guy who gladly signed the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act to preserve his ‘centrist’ credentials and yet remains a hero to many girlfriends with short memories?)
In addition, the acceptance of new family forms is the result of the courageous decisions of millions of men and women to be who they are and to live it openly, to show their friends and relatives the easy normalcy that they knew and understood in their parallel lives by making them public. Pretending not to be gay has always been a survival mechanism for many of us in many circumstances, but emancipation needed people who would shed the ambiguities and leave the protective, gray-shaded wraps at the closet door.
No one can accuse me of excessive optimism in these demented times, but I have a strange feeling of insouciant confidence on this topic. I see the bipedal race, which I disdain for its many unlovely qualities, incapable of stifling the vast variety at its heart. There are too many people who know their own truth and, emboldened by their peers, see no reason not to bring it forth. That genie is unlikely to be put back in the bottle, regardless of the reigning prejudices in Fayetteville and Rocky Mount.