My housing situation seems resolved for Midwestern Funky Town. After thinking about it, I opted for the place that fell within 85 percent of the things that I wanted rather than searching again. The last 15 percent was mostly about the ten minute drive to my new campus. I had hoped for a place within quick walking distance. Allegedly, though, buses also connect my new domestic space to my new work place (and I will reclaim my car from Texas).
I am generally excited about my new job. My new colleagues are all super smart and seem genuinely friendly. My new university has a long history of lefty politics (the mirror opposite of my former Texan institution, which had a long history of lynching). MFT will also be a very livable setting. My new rental house will be comfortable.
Political events over the past week, however, reminded me that this move is going to cost me more than the price of bubble-wrap and a security deposit. Leaving the Bay State also means leaving the one place in this nation where queers are guarantee absolute equal treatment under the law.
The Massachusetts legislature took less than half an hour to kill a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage on June 14. Given this vote, radical Christians will have to wait until 2012 to attempt to inject their hatred into the state’s constitution.
We all know that marriage is not the issue that I imagine as the queer community’s priority. On the contrary, I think that we all (queer or straight) should be interrogating and questioning the viability of this civil statute and the purpose we want it to serve. The marriage industry alone makes my stomach turn. I have always thought it is an inexcusable waste of money and resources for any couple (regardless of sexuality) to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a single day’s event. So, when I hear gay couples talk about going to a “cake tasting” where they will decide which $5,000 confection that they will order for their special day, I want to puke. They should be saving that money for their future. Divorce lawyers aren’t cheap.
Nor do I think that Massachusetts is some sort of utopia. Racism, economic injustice, and homophobia are still major problems in the Bay State. Plus, their Mexican food sucks.
All those caveats aside, the fact that Massachusetts thwarted radical Christians’ belligerent tactics gives me more faith in this state than any other (even my beloved New Mexico). I can’t help but think that I am trading my basic civil rights for my new job.
Like 25 other states, the voters in my future state were given the opportunity to make their hatred of gays part of the state constitution. Additionally, nineteen other states have laws that explicitly prohibited same-sex couples from being married. This leaves New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Rhode Island as the only states that have never explicitly passed a measure or amendment against queer people in the past ten years. New Jersey, Vermont, and Connecticut have attempted to side-step the issue by offering civil unions that provide some of the basic guarantees formerly associated with marriage. Only Massachusetts, however, guarantees all its citizens full equality under the law. One state out of fifty.
The United States is leaving its queer population in an impossible situation (as are many other nations (I was very sad to see Colombia bow to a Catholic Church that is run by a former member of Hitler Youth. That, though, is another entry)). In this country, we queer people are not free to navigate the nation or pursue our best economic interests without necessarily thinking about how it might impact our basic civil rights and standard of living.
Marriage is just the most visible and discussed issue. Really, the problems cut deeper. Queer people can’t expect that they will receive fair and equal protection under the law in all parts of this nation. Indeed, I am much better off going to my Midwestern state, even with its anti-marriage laws, than I would have been returning to Texas. No job was worth my living there. Texas, after all, has a governor that explicitly suggested that gay people should leave the state and live elsewhere. This open contempt for men like me resulted in his reelection.
The media circus has given the false impression that same-sex marriage is somehow more important to queers than police brutality or employment discrimination. In many places in this nation, it is still unsafe for a queer person to live their life openly.
One thing I hear a lot is how great queers have it today compared to years past. While I generally agree that things are better, it is shocking to me that some think that equality has been achieved. Okay, I grant that I am not being strapped to a table and given electroshock therapy. True, true – That’s better than it would have been sixty years ago. On the other hand, I am still not guaranteed my basic rights as an individual, either. On the contrary, when given the opportunity, the majority of heterosexual Americans have shown time and again that they wish to preserve their special status in the nation and ensure that queer people are treated as less than human (either through their indifference or by directly voting against gays themselves).
As a citizen of this nation, my sense of safety should not vary from one location to the next. Nor should my basic rights be determined by the whims or prejudices of local voters.