Lavender Tube :: History Over the Airwaves
Some weeks you can barely look away from the tube long enough to eat, sleep, and play on social media. We like those weeks. Mostly. We sat waiting for 10 a.m. EST June 26, like every other queer in America. And for once we were not disappointed.
TV brought us more than just the big U.S. Supreme Court DOMA/Prop 8 reveal. Edie Windsor getting the phone call from Pres. Obama makes us weep just remembering it. We did a profile of Windsor last month for a national magazine, and have been in love ever since. It was fabulous seeing her get the justice she had fought for with such courage and tenacity. When she spoke to the press after the decision came in, her words cut to the core of the rulings’ impact: "I think this means the end of suicides." Wow.
Our other favorite moment looked inconsequential in the larger panoply. It was the interns, a group of young women, running out behind the U.S. Supreme Court to deliver the Prop 8 ruling to the press corps. As a fledgling reporter for a local newspaper, we covered "Bowers v. Hardwick." A decade ago we covered "Lawrence v. Texas." When the interns run out to give you the copies of the rulings, it’s an experience you don’t forget. So seeing that (on CBS, with their SCOTUS reporter Jan Crawford) felt monumental to us. It’s the moment in which everyone in the press corps gets a little frisson knowing that there will be a tectonic shift in the law, either for good or ill.
Alas, for every positive moment on the tube there is usually a corresponding negative one. After all the hugging and kissing, there was Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, the grim black lining in our fluffy rainbows-and-unicorns cloud. (Periodically we wonder if he realizes he has the same name as the late gay actor, but we digress.)
Perkins was the giant 1950s-horror-movie-sized ant at the picnic of the SCOTUS victories. Why did we need to hear from "the other side" at that moment? Talk about a buzz kill. Perkins was telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos how this was really meaningless, because America had a different view of things than the "radical activist court," and only a few states had "gay marriage." Not to worry, the tide will turn back.
First: This couldn’t be a less radical or activist court. Second: This is America’s view of things now. It’s not 1986 when we stood in the broiling sun in front of the Supreme Court and waited for those interns to run out with the "Bowers" ruling, but instead out came the aging liberal lion of the court, Harry Blackmun, to voice his outraged dissent. (Blackmun authored "Roe v. Wade" as well as the blistering pro-gay dissent in "Bowers," predicated on the privacy arguments he made in "Roe." )
There’s no shade anywhere in front of the Court. You cannot believe how hot it is for all those final rulings. Blackmun could have had a stroke. But he spoke out, very unusual for a justice. Enraged at the court’s decision to deny gays the right to privacy. Enraged for us . And now, all these years later, he’s been vindicated.
But Perkins kept talking to George about how people didn’t want to make cakes for gay weddings or do floral arrangements (we’re not kidding, this was central to his argument, and aren’t all florists gay?) and didn’t want their marriages wrecked by all those lesbians and gays (as if their wives or husbands might run off with a queer). He was joined by other dinosaurs: Mike Huckabee, who apologized to God. Dan Cathy, owner of Chick-fil-A, who apologized to the Founding Fathers and God via Twitter, then deleted it, in case Satan might like chicken more than God does. Justice Antonin Scalia, who read his dissent out loud in the court. Endlessly. And by comparison to the lyrical majority ruling by Justice Anthony Kennedy, it was grubby and inelegant, the last gasp of the wrong side of history.
What none of the reporters said was that this was our "Brown v. Topeka Board of Ed." moment. When those young women came running out, papers thrust forward toward the press corps? That was when the "For Straights Only" signs started to come down all over America. Those decisions were the beginning of the desegregation of the nation with regard to sexual orientation. We got to watch it live, in real time. The President calling Edie Windsor and the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case. Live. And those interns? They will never forget that they were the messengers of history.
The reverberations from the rulings were all over TV. June is the wedding month, so the timing was perfect. The Food Network’s Ted Allen ("Chopped") proposed to his partner of 20 years, interior designer Barry Rice. The two were waiting for "real marriage with a capital M, genuinely recognized by the federal government of the greatest country on earth!" Immediately after the rulings, Allen announced their engagement. The couple are planning a wedding in New York. "DOMA has been chopped, sir," Allen said. Hankies all around, please.
John Oliver on "The Daily Show" made us laugh till we cried. Oliver did a take-off on "Les Miserables," standing on the desk, waving a huge rainbow flag and singing "Judgment Gay." He cut back and forth between news feeds and his own commentary. Spoofing celebrations in the Castro and men who thought the rulings meant that all straight people now had to have gay weddings.
It didn’t take long for TV shows to get involved. That gay wedding the ACLU thought Cam and Mitchell should have on "Modern Family?" A nanosecond after the Prop 8 decision, ABC was telling E! that it could happen now that marriage equality is the law in California, where the couple lives. Just as quickly, Rev. Pat Robertson was talking about it on his TV show, because it could cause the end of the world. We think the fall season is going to bring about a whole lot of queer weddings on the tube. We hope so: it will keep the issue fresh in the minds of straight Americans.