Every once in a while, a political figure says something which hints at a deeper meaning which is usually kept under wraps. One such unintended "tell" is **ACK** Chief Justice **GAG** John Roberts' indication today that the shifting attitudes in gay marriage are due to, get this, a well-funded lobbying effort by gay-rights activists. In a question to lawyer Roberta Kaplan, Roberts demonstrates his roots as a right-wing corporatist hack:
"I suppose the sea change has a lot to do with the political force and effectiveness of people representing, supporting your side of the case? As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case."
Roberts seems to be unable to fathom a societal change taking place without the influence of hacks and flacks like himself. He sees the involvement of lobbyists in a movement that is driven by grassroots efforts. The groundswell of support for gay rights in general and same-sex marriage in particular is due to the fact that more and more gay people are out, and that more and more straight people have come to the realization that they have gay friends and family members.
As far as my "education" is concerned, my first encounter with an out gay person was with one of my dad's cousins, while on our annual camping trip to Maine. I was eight or nine years old when I met Cousin Peter, who was at the camp with his friend Joe. Cousin Peter was extremely funny, a slightly high-strung (he was even more high-strung when he discovered that one of our uncles had let us take turns driving his Jaguar on a dirt road) motormouth with a quick wit. His friend was a nice, mellow chap. We were too young to think that their skinny-dips together were weird- after all, we were in camp in the middle of Maine, where normal rules went out the window... where eight and ten year olds could take a turn driving a car down a dirt road. I subsequently learned that Cousin Peter had spent some time at the family homestead in The Bronx while working for a spell in Manhattan, where he scandalized my grandmother by having a collection of "muscle magazines". My grandmother, as jovial and easy going as she was, was a product of her times, and was a bit freaked out when his "stash" turned up in a routine house-cleaning. Peter's father was the perfect example of a man's man (though not in the sense that his son was)- he was a blue collar guy who was into hunting and fishing, and always wore a hunting knife at his belt while in camp. A few years ago, I asked one of my uncles how such a macho guy dealt with the fact that his son was gay, and my uncle told me that his attitude was, "He's my son, and I'm going to support him no matter what." My forebears didn't have things so easy when they got to this country, so sticking together superseded such petty considerations as sexual attraction.
My education continued in high school- I had two gay friends who tried to kill themselves. Thankfully, both survived. One was disowned by her family, while the other, an only child, was accepted by his. To see lives so adversely affected because prejudices trumped family ties was a horrific eye-opener for me. In college, I knew quite a few out gay folks of both genders. It's was impossible to hate Todd, Danny, and Katherine because they were really nice people- their sexual preferences mattered absolutely nothing to their circle of friends. Two other college friends of mine took years to come out because of the cultural and religious attitudes in which they'd been raised. Finding out that they had eventually come to terms with their sexuality was heartening, and I only wonder what opportunities they missed out on because they didn't do so earlier.
Age-wise, I'm on the "cusp" of the pro-gay rights and anti-gay rights demographics... the first kids to grow up in the post "Stonewall" era. Knowing older out gay people and growing up with people who learned to cope with their sexuality, I came to the realization that same-sex attraction is not a mental illness, merely a personality trait. It didn't take the efforts of a team of lobbyists to form my attitudes toward gay people, just years of proximity to good people who just happened to be attracted to persons of the same gender. I basically learned the same lesson that Rob Portman learned, but at the age of eight or nine... how could I hate hate Cousin Peter on the basis of whom he found attractive? How could a friend's revelation of their sexual preferences change my attitude toward them?
Roberts' career has largely been informed by venality. He's a mercenary hack who can't imagine that others would support gay rights because of their experiences, even though he has a gay cousin who is attending the DOMA hearings. Today, his venality caused him to let a glimpse of the truth slip out... in venality, veritas.
Cross posted at Rumproast.