Code Orange And June Bugs

It's June, that month more or less identified with weddings -- and Rainbow Pride -- and we seem to have been busily courting a new generation to embrace gay marriage.
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Who'd ever object to too much support for marriage in America? It's June, that month more or less identified with weddings -- and Rainbow Pride -- and we seem to have been busily courting a new generation to embrace gay marriage.

Okay, while the gay marriage juggernaut was temporarily set back earlier this month in the Golden State courts, it's picking up steam from sea to shining sea. In stark contrast to earlier coverage, much of this round has been more respectful in tone. So who should fault it?

Unlike the homophobes who it seems hope to spread the poisonous seeds of California's Prop 8 like so many toxic Johnny Appleseeds, I'm thinking there's another reason to wish gay marriage off the front page -- not so much for what's being covered, but for what isn't, because it's crowding out other critical LGBT issues.

Last night at the New School in Manhattan, Pro-Media, along with the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association-New York and the Department of Media Studies at the New School, supported an event to mark the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, where historian David Carter, media advocate Joan Garry, journalists Andy Humm and Kai Wright conversed, moderated by author Eric Marcus.

This question was explored as an important difference between those who favor a strategy that emphasizes gay civil rights and those who see this as narrowing the broader, initial movement for gay liberation. I was reminded of similar tensions within the women''s movement, which at least in the l970s began as a movement for women's liberation, then became a movement for women's rights in the workplace, and other institutions.

Anyway, that's what Code Orange false alarms do. They rev us up and divert us. Issues like gay marriage, while serious and important, sometimes seem to take up all the bandwidth that other issues desperately need just to get our attention. Editors and senior producers latch onto them, much as they increasingly do to mega-stories since the O.J. Simpson trial, then feel they're done their bit for that group and move onto another.

Is that an accident? If you parachuted in to the U.S. circa 2009, as a kind of ET meets Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz, and just went by the headlines, you'd think the only bad thing happening to LGBT people in the U.S. today, besides that equal opportunity plague, the global economic meltdown, is the denial of marriage licenses.

Of course, in the 21st century in the U.S., a marriage license is often essential for committed couples, for everything from health insurance and adoption, to health proxies and dignity.

But what about all the rest of the serious challenges to LGBT folks? Take rising violence, especially against transgender people. Who outside a few filmmakers is insisting we take a hard look at hate crimes like those? How about the dirty little secret of too many who hype "family values", who personally increase the always too-large number of homeless LBGT teens, a significant percentage of whom are tossed out onto our mean streets by their own families? While we're all led to focus on the something borrowed blues, what of the other barriers based on ways in which gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people, are, well, different?

It breaks my heart each time panelists like those at last night's event talk about the need to humanize LGBT humans for others. It's easier to get traction on the other than sexual stuff, like discrimination at work (unless of course you're a teacher or day care giver) or the "they're just like us" issues like marriage. And it's critical. But it's harder to support increased acceptance of difference.

Don't get me wrong. I'd love to see this particular civil rights issue become ancient history in my lifetime just as biracial marriage did (Hail, Iowa!). Yet like the fan of proposed Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor yearned in a letter to the editor to the New York Times for the day we don't mention a potential Supreme Court Justice's race or gender, because it's no longer unusual, I'm eager for the day when gay wedding announcements just become, well plain, old wedding announcements, no longer newsworthy, except, perhaps, to the invited guests.

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