John Shields

Overwhelmed By Events

Filed By John Shields | May 05, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, Politics

It's been an interesting couple of months for the gay and lesbian community. In just eight weeks, the "news" has gone from California to Iowa to Vermont to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

As one intimately involved in the news process, I find myself still amazed when people don't understand how the "news business" works and why cable news channels chatter incessantly about the latest "thing" to occur in the last few hours. I also find myself amazed that many don't understand that not everyone has a Twitter account, everyone doesn't live in Manhattan, San Francisco or our much-maligned nation's capital, Washington, D.C., nor does everyone follow our individual views on every single issue.

From farmboys getting to tie the knot in Iowa to legislators in Vermont overriding the governor's veto of a same-sex marriage bill to U.S. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx's incredibly ignorant and bigoted "statement" on the hate crimes bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, not everything happens the way "we" think it should play out, and what's on our agenda isn't necessarily on everyone else's mind.

One just has to take a look at the headlines from the last two months to see how easily it is to become overwhelmed by events on the ground.

From the arguments in front of the California Supreme Court on Proposition 8 in early March, we can easily jump to the Iowa Earthquake and the unanimous ruling by the state's Supreme Court overturning a 10-year-old ban on same-sex marriage.

High on life, and about the same time, we witnessed Vermont legislators override the Republican governor's veto of a same-sex marriage bill, making the Green Mountain state the first in the nation to pro-actively, without court prodding, approve same-sex marriage.

Then along comes an incredibly stupid "advertisement" by the National Organization for Marriage, which spawned numerous parodies, including one by Stephen Colbert.

And then a couple of earthquakes hit. During the Miss U.S.A. pageant (which, frankly I didn't think was still going on), Miss California says she only supports "opposite sex marriage." From Miss Frikkin' California? And sadly, a little bit of all of us died following the death of our beloved Golden Girl Bea Arthur.

A Category 5 hurricane slammed into us about that time also, and one we should have seen coming. The Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill hit the floor of the House of Representatives, and as expected the Republicans were the party of "just say no." Only this time, they took a sawed-off shotgun in the name of North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx and aimed it directly at the LGBTQ community, and most horrifically at Judy Shepard - who was sitting in the House gallery watching the proceedings about a hate crimes bill named after her son who was brutally murdered by two homophobic men in Wyoming.

The backlash was swift and furious. As it should be, as it was disgusting to watch. I'm still reeling and infuriated by Foxx's incredibly stupid and hateful remarks. And my prayers go out to Judy Shepard, who must have felt like a bullet went through her heart.

But back to reality. Why do I bring all this up? We have a saying in the news business: "The news never stops."

That said, there are ways to shape events and the news cycle to our advantage. But we have to take into account that no one could have foreseen the swine flu panic that jumped onto our television screens in April. No one could have foreseen that Republican Senator Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic Party would be, hours later, overshadowed by Supreme Court Justice David Souter's announcement that he was retiring. No one could have foreseen that Miss California (Miss California, for Christ's sake~!) would become a spokesperson for the National Organization for Marriage.

But we certainly could have foreseen that not everyone is aboard the same-sex love train. We certainly could have foreseen that living in the deep South is not at all like walking the streets of New York City. And we could have foreseen that there's a big world out there, with lots of different people in it and not all of them are friends of Dorothy.

I've said it so many times I feel like I'm starting to sound like a broken record. But I'm going to put on my Captain's hat and put it as bluntly as I can: If the gay and lesbian community doesn't choose which priorities are the most important for the entire, national LGBTQ community, then by god someone else will.

It may be U.S. Representative Foxx, it may be the Iowa Supreme Court, or it may be Miss California. But someone's gotta choose, and someone's gotta lose. And unless WE prioritize and choose our battles, we are going to be overcome by events. Some of them good, some of them not so good. Some of them downright nasty.

The important thing is we have choices. Let's make them.

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