This essay was originally published as a column in The Oklahoma Observer.
There is a strange wind blowing through Oklahoma. Not the dangerous kind like that which destroyed entire communities in May and early this month. Although, to many Oklahomans, it might be perceived as even more dangerous than the most vicious tornado.
It is a wind that began with a strong gust in March and has continued to pick up speed. At the rate it is progressing, this wind will be a truly powerful force by the end of the year.
I’m speaking of the wind of change. There is no question that Oklahoma–and the nation–is in the midst of a quickly changing landscape as the LGBT community continues its march toward equality.
In March, Cimarron Alliance opened the doors to the Cimarron Alliance Equality Center, a full-service community center for lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender Oklahomans and their allies. While this is not a new concept for Oklahoma–OkEq has had tremendous success with the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center in Tulsa, the 6th largest such center in the nation–it is brand new for Oklahoma City.
To be sure, there have been other attempts at such a center in Oklahoma City before. None, though, as broad-reaching as the new center. Envisioned as a place for therapeutic support groups, peer-led discussion groups, 12-step programs, political and historical discussion projects, and a place for public education, the Cimarron Alliance Equality Center has already proven to be an enormous benefit to the LGBT community and to the people of Oklahoma.
May and early June showed Oklahoma City and Tulsa, respectively, enjoying their most successful LGBT Pride events ever. LGBT Oklahomans and their friends came out en masse to demonstrate support for equality for all Oklahomans.
But that was only the beginning of this growing wind. The United States Supreme Court has heard and will be deciding on two cases of marriage equality. This is happening a full decade before many advocates ever thought it might.
On 4 April of this year, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,711 voters and reported that same-gender marriage is supported 50%, and opposed 41%, with 9% undecided. This represents a 3% increase in support in only one month. What’s more, 56% say marriage should follow the U.S. Constitution, not state laws.
On 9 May 2013, ABC News surveyed 1,008 adults nationwide on same-gender civil marriage, and reported that 55% support it and 40% oppose it.
The same month, Gallup surveyed 1,535 adults nationwide and reported that 53% support same-gender civil marriage, and 45% don’t. Regarding the effect on society, 19% think same-gender civil marriage would improve society, 39% think it would worsen society, and 40% expect no change.
These numbers are staggering in that they are moving ever more pointedly toward marriage equality for same-gender couples.
In the midst of this progress as a nation, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved — without a single negative vote — a resolution reaffirming marriage as between a man and a woman and supporting the federal Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages. This was a unanimous decision because some LGBT allies walked out, leaving no representation on the House floor, and other supposed “friends” of the community voted against their LGBT constituents. When this reached the Senate, it sailed through with little discussion.
Not only does this carry no weight of law, it clearly shows an outrageous disdain for LGBT Oklahomans. It served no purpose but to affirm bigotry of the highest order is alive and well in the State Capitol.
LGBT advocates are not surprised by such behavior. There is, after all, historical precedent for this type of action in the face of progressive change. When it became clear that there was no stopping the Women’s Rights Movement, editorial writers ramped up their rhetoric against women. Violence against women–particularly those who were in activists positions–also increased.
When the white power structure came to understand that the Civil Rights movement was not to be slowed, much less stopped, the fear of loss of control resulted in even more hate-filled sermons and the systematic torture and death of African-Americans. When the Supreme Court ruled in 1967’s
Loving v. Virginia that failure to allow and recognize interracial marriage was unconstitutional, 74 percent of Americans felt it should be illegal for an interracial couple to marry and the taunting of such couples experienced a new level of hatred.
That did not, however, stop the winds of change. And LGBT Oklahomans are in no way prepared to allow the poison pens of editorial writers, the misguided rantings of TV preachers, or people in their own community to prevent them from experiencing the same rights and responsibilities of every other American.
Yes, the winds of change are blowing strong through Oklahoma and through the nation. And, yes, there are those who would sooner see tornadoes destroy entire communities than allow the winds of change to increase equality for LGBT Oklahomans.
Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decisions this month, history will reveal these same individuals for the bigoted, misguided people they are. Churches will be shown to be full of people who are too lazy to study–not read, but to truly study, the Bible. And all of these hypocrites will be left in the wake of a storm that provides truth to the notion that this is a nation of liberty and justice for all.
Shake your head or shake your fists all you want. The winds of change are blowing. There is no stopping it now. Change. It is a coming.