By Jessie Seigel / Washington, D.C.
According to Newton’s third law of motion, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And our society right now is a living example of that. A person could get whiplash from it.
On one hand, people have been fighting for social tolerance and acceptance of differences for decades. That work has resulted in the determinations that racial intermarriage, a woman’s right over her own body, decriminalization of homosexuality and lesbianism along with the right to legal recognition of same sex marriage are constitutional rights .
But along with those progressive changes has come the right-wing reaction: the murder of doctors who perform abortions, attacks on and even murder of LGBTQ+ people, along with a rise in a variety of hate crimes based in xenophobia, an ever-present racism, and the calumny of Jews.
Powerful reactionaries are now on the march, bolstered by the Supreme Court’s evisceration in June of the constitutional right to abortion as held in Roe v. Wade and Justice Thomas’ concurring opinion in which he advocated the court use future cases to do the same to Griswold v. Connecticut (the right to obtain contraception), Lawrence v. Texas (the right to same-sex intimacy), and Obergefell v. Hodges (the right to same sex marriage).
Although Justice Alito’s majority opinion in the Dobbs case, which overturned Roe, voiced a pretense that the opinion did not augur attacks on other constitutional rights like same-sex marriage, he revealed his true leanings in a November 2020 speech to the Federalist Society. In it, he complained that one can no longer say that marriage is a “union between one man and one woman”–that to do so is now considered “bigotry.”
Well, Mr. Alito, that is bigotry. It betrays a political slant unworthy of a Supreme Court justice.
That Alito feels free to so openly express his own bias gives full license to right-wing zealots like Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (as if she needed any) to go even further, calling educators “trans terrorists” and claiming heterosexual people will disappear.
But the right-wing putsch goes far beyond Alito, Thomas, and fringe Marjorie Taylor Greene types. According to the Human Rights Campaign, state legislators have introduced more the 340 anti-LGBTQ+ bills this year, the Equality Federation has estimated that at least 35 of those have passed thus far. Furthermore, Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee have passed laws restricting the provision of transgender health care. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration has also gotten in on the act, making moves to restrict transgender care for minors and for trans people of any age who are on Medicaid.
Naturally, gay people feel threatened, with concerns ranging from possible loss of their marital status and the medical, parental, and estate rights which go with that, to fears of gay parents that their children could be taken from them.
And if that were not enough, there is fear that monkeypox, which currently is found mostly among gay men, will be–as AIDS was in the 1980s–-tagged as a “gay” disease, resulting in scapegoating and renewed attacks on the homosexual community.
But pro-gay organizations and their allies are determined to fight back. Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, told the Washington Post, “Thomas’ [opinion] is a blaring red alert for the LGBTQ community and for all Americans. We will never go back to the dark days of being shut out of hospital rooms, left off of death certificates, refused spousal benefits, or any of the other humiliations that took place in the years before Obergefell.”
New Jersey, acting proactively, passed a law codifying marriage equality in that state. And Democratic Utah state Sen. Derek Kitchen also introduced a bill to codify marriage equality in his state.
Many gay couples are opting for second parent adoptions to make sure that both parents will retain parental rights even if their marriages are invalidated.
Most important, there seems to be a recognition that gay people cannot fight only for preservation of their own rights.
The Rev. Wes Mullins, a senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis, told NPR, “Throughout history, gay rights have always followed women's rights. Now really is the time to stand up and to recognize that whether you are a person who is able to bear children or not, Roe is about all of us.” And Steven Louis Brawley, who documents gay history, also told NPR, “People understanding their history matters because it helps them realize how precious our rights are if they can be taken away.”
Andy Cohen, host of Watch What Happens Live, a late-night talk show, cautioned the government and the media not to stigmatize the gay community regarding monkeypox, saying, “if you’re not a gay man you might think this doesn’t affect you now, but this is everyone’s problem because…unless we act now these things can get a whole lot worse very quickly.”
The lessons here are that any right that is given can be taken away. And all those whose rights are threatened—LGBTQ+ people, Black people, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, women and others—should band together to advocate for all their rights. Because, as Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
Political columnist Jessie Seigel had a long career as a government attorney in which she honed her analytic skills. She has also twice received an Artist’s Fellowship from the Washington, D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for her fiction, and has been a finalist for a number of literary awards. In addition, Seigel is an associate editor at the Potomac Review, a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books, and a dabbler in political cartoons at Daily Kos. Of this balance in her work between the analytic and the imaginative, Seigel jokes, “I guess my right and left brains are well-balanced.” More on and from Seigel can be found at The Adventurous Writer, https://www.jessieseigel.com.