Thursday, February 10, 2005

Time heals all wounds -- and injustices

The Alabama Legislature's homophobia train rolled on down the tracks Tuesday as lawmakers overwhelmingly passed versions of a bill calling for a needless, redundant constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. It was the first statewide bill to get a vote this year, which means our legislators gave first priority to senseless symbolism instead of, you know, governing. How fitting.

A recent Auburn University poll showed that 54 percent of Alabamians support a gay-marriage ban, which is yet another example of why our Founding Fathers were so wise to safeguard minority rights against the whims of an overeager majority. The state's political atmosphere is so polluted with anti-gay sentiment right now that even the president of the University of Alabama's gay student group won't go out on a very short limb and say that the state's gay residents are being persecuted.

But not everyone is as reticent. Howard Bayless of the gay-rights group Equality Alabama drew a harsh-but-true analogy between the government-endorsed discrimination against blacks in the 1960s and the government-endorsed discrimination against gays today: "The politicians are now using the 'Q' word like the politicians of the past used the 'N' word."

As with the days of Jim Crow, history will weigh in with a verdict on the current anti-gay frenzy. And as with the demagogues who railed against blacks 40 years ago, the demagogues who rail against gay people today will find themselves on the wrong side.

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