Arizona’s state Senate has approved a bill that allows people to use their religion to deny services to gay people.
Just the other day, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was asked whether he thought gay marriage posed a threat to heterosexual marriage. He expressed concern about that so-called potential threat.
And throughout the nation, all these discussions seem to rely on the assumption that homosexuality is a decision that people make.
It’s as if they awaken one day and decide: “I think I’m going to ‘become’ gay and start being attracted to people of my own gender.” Were that the case, wouldn’t it follow that straight people would make the same conscious decision?
In the interest of disclosure, I now will stipulate that at no time in my life did I ever decide to date girls. My attraction to people of the opposite sex was wired into my DNA the moment I was born, or so I always have assumed. I accepted the notion long ago that others are wired differently, and that their DNA wiring resulted in an attraction of a different kind.
I want to tell you a brief version of a long and moving story involving a friend and former colleague of mine.
His name was Tim. We worked together for several years at a newspaper in Beaumont. In the late 1980s, Tim’s appearance began to change. He was losing weight and his skin color was looking a bit pallid, but he kept working as an education reporter for the newspaper. Then, in 1988, my phone rang at home; it was a Sunday afternoon. Tim called and asked to meet with me at the newspaper. He had something he wanted to tell me.
I drove downtown and Tim and I met privately in my office.
He disclosed at that moment that he had contracted AIDS. He wanted my advice on how he should disclose that news to others. We talked about him writing an essay for the paper. He agreed to do it. He asked, “You know, of course, that I’m gay, right?” I didn’t know how to answer him. I said that I didn’t know it because we never discussed it. I, along with our other colleagues, only assumed it.
We published Tim’s essay. The response was overwhelming in the kindness expressed by those who read it. And from that moment in my office, when he revealed his medical condition, our conversational candor changed dramatically. We talked about private matters.
Tim said something later that stuck with me. “Why would I choose a lifestyle knowing I would be scorned and ridiculed?” he asked, rhetorically. That was his way of saying he was born gay and that there was nothing he could do to change that part of his life.
Tim died in 1994 of AIDS-related complications.
And I think of him often these days when current discussions turn to issues of whether gay marriage would have an adverse effect on the more traditional version of marriage and of laws lawmakers approve that give people the right to discriminate openly against people simply because of who they are.
The Arizona Senate has dishonored itself with its cold-hearted measure by allowing people to scorn others because of who they love.