Current Issue: Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Column:Gays gaining acceptance in America - door of opportunity has opened

by Paul C. Campbell

Daily Lobo Columnist

While understanding that we in the gay community have a long way to go on our journey toward complete acceptance in our society and equal protection under the law, I am truly amazed to see how America's attitude toward the gay community in our great nation has progressed from even just a short 15 years ago.

With television shows such as Will & Grace, Queer Eye For The Straight Guy and Queer as Folk, the door of opportunity has opened for the gay community to show America that we are not a people to be feared. Of course part of me feels that these types of television shows depict queer men and women in a somewhat stereotypical way, however this attention, I believe, is not negative attention. It is far better than the shows of the past where gay characters were often laughed at and made fun of.

Although there seems to be an increase of support from the public for gay characters in television shows and a minimally supportive Supreme Court with the ruling of Lawrence v. Texas, the most basic of civil rights, in specific regard to the queer community, are under attack. Right-wing conservatives try to argue that the gay community wants "special rights," and this argument could not be any further from the truth because all we want are equal rights.

I fail to see what is so "special" about the right to be protected against discrimination of all forms simply because somebody is gay. There is nothing "special" about two gay adults wanting the legal right to adopt and raise children. And there is nothing "special" about the right for a couple to be legally committed to one another in the form of civil marriage. Right-wing conservatives say the institution of marriage is too sacred to be expanded to same-sex couples. I say they are only half right because there is something truly beautiful and sacred about two individuals who wish to commit the rest of their lives to one another. Right-wing conservatives fail to understand that we are not asking religious institutions to change their ways and traditions but are asking that our own government recognize us for who we are and whom we love.

Just when I believe the gay community is united behind a common goal and working toward equality, I hear about a new high school in New York only for gay youth named after Harvey Milk. Although I believe the intentions of this school and its founders are righteous, I am dismayed the gay community would accept and push for what this school represents. Aside from bringing up the bad memories of "separate but equal" laws of the past, the Harvey Milk School gives the message to high school bullies all across the nation that if they pick on gay youth long enough, eventually we will surrender and just go away.

To me, the Harvey Milk School reinforces the wrong, yet common idea that we in the gay community are too different to function in the general public because we have to have our own "special" schools. Instead, the founders of this school would have been much better off focusing their attention to current public schools and encouraging gay-friendly policies and administrations.

The awesome thing about American public schools, whether it be K-12 or university level, is the mix of people who function together in the common pursuit of knowledge. Let this be a lesson for our society in general. Whether the battle for equal rights is in our schools, our neighborhoods or our workplaces, all Americans need to come to a common ground and realize that we are all precious in God's sight.