It was an eventful weekend: A gay American football player kissed his boyfriend on national TV after being drafted by the National Football League; gay marriage arrived in the Bible Belt; a bearded cross-dresser won one of the biggest TV song competitions in the world.
All indications of a civilization on the move — but where is it going? On a march toward equality, or a descent into a moral Wild West?
It depends on your point of view.
“It was a moment that was 45 years in the making,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, referring back to the Stonewall riots of 1969 that launched the modern gay rights movement.
Sainz remembered tears falling down his face while watching Michael Sam, the 6-foot-3 (1.9 meter), 255-pound (116-kilogram) defensive end about to become the first openly gay player in America’s most popular sport, embrace his boyfriend Saturday.
“I cried,” he said. “Not just because Michael Sam had been selected. Just as importantly, because the networks did not shy away from covering that emotion, and his same-sex partner sharing that emotion with him. He wasn’t ashamed of it. He was proud of it.”
On Monday, Sainz was in Arkansas, where dozens of gay and lesbian couples married over the weekend after a judge struck down the state’s ban on such unions. He recalled meeting couples who could finally marry after decades together.
‘There are definitely big-time cracks appearing in that glass ceiling of equality, every single day, in ways big and small,” Sainz said. “I think it’s all kind of coming together.”
This convergence was a result of “decades and decades of hard work,” said LZ Granderson, a columnist and past winner of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s Journalist of the Year award.
“From community activism, to national organizations, to children living in a conservative home having the courage to come out to their parents as we saw with Will Portman and his father, Rob, a Congressman from Ohio,” Granderson said by email. “I know it appears as if LGBT rights have been moving swiftly, but it is not an overnight success sort of story. No civil rights movement is.”
“I don’t see this past weekend as a singular larger moment,” Granderson said, “as much as more steps in the long journey.”
Arkansas is the latest of many states where courts have ruled gay-marriage bans unconstitutional. Two years ago, President Barack Obama switched his position to favoring gay marriage. Polls have found a growing number of Americans believe same-sex unions should be legal; 58 percent were in favor of gay marriage in a March poll by the Washington Post and ABC News.
There was another milestone in gay political advancement on Monday: The California Legislature elevated Toni Atkins as the first lesbian to lead the Assembly with her wife by her side, succeeding the first gay speaker. Assemblyman Rich Gordon, who chairs of the state’s Legislature’s LGBT caucus, said Atkins’ rise would inspire Californians struggling to accept their sexual orientation.
Sainz dismissed the Eurovision Song Contest victory of drag queen Conchita Wurst, a bearded man dressed as a woman, as irrelevant to the advance of gay issues in the United States. The beard was in some ways a showbiz gimmick, Sainz said.
But to Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for the American Family Association, it’s all of a piece.
“Every advance in the homosexual agenda represents a setback for our culture and for sexual normalcy,” he said. “So there’s nothing to celebrate in any of these situations.”
He said the drag queen’s victory demonstrates the “tragic level of sexual confusion that we have in our culture . to me, the fact that it’s something that would be celebrated, is a tragic indication of how far we have drifted from our moorings.”
Raynard Jackson, a conservative columnist who writes often about LGBT issues, connected last weekend’s events to recent laws legalizing marijuana and allowing California schoolchildren to choose their bathrooms and sports teams based on their chosen gender identity.
“When you connect the dots, you have a society being created in which there are no absolutes, no right or wrong, up or down, black or white,” Jackson said.
So where is guidance supposed to come from for our laws?
“It used to be you could look to God, to the Bible,” Jackson said. “Now it’s almost illegal to mention God or Christian values.”
“If you have no standards of right and wrong, then morally it’s the Wild Wild West,” Jackson said. “If everyone has laws that are unique to them, that’s a recipe for disaster for society.”
Jesse Washington is reachable at http://www.twitter.com/jessewashington