So Pat Quinn has now signed the marriage equality law here in Illinois. This is extremely good news for my gay friends (married and otherwise), who are now free to love who they want and start a family here in the Great State of Illinois. Or, well, they will be in June when the law takes effect. Why not make marriage equality a Thing immediately? Who the fuck knows. Our legislature here is tainted pink by the majority of counties in this state (counties, remember, not the majority of people) that the GOP controls, so even though this is a deep blue state sometimes the politics here don’t make a whole lot of sense to outsiders.
So Illinois is going to join the other 15 or so states (16? Hawaii just joined as well) where same-sex families are just families in the eyes of the state. At the same time, a little to the West, something really interesting is happening in the Wyoming senatorial race Liz Cheney (daughter of Darth Cheney himself) is fighting against noted incumbent and Cheney family friend (despite the accusations thrown about during Fishing Buddygate this year).
The interesting thing is, of course, that Liz Cheney very publicly disowned her sister’s lifestyle and family on TV. I’m having a really hard time figuring out why. The way I see it, one of only a few scenarios must be happening here. Let’s be clear though. Regardless of what her motivations are for bringing this out into the open, Liz Cheney is very solidly on the wrong side of history here. It’s possible for us to have spirited disagreements over a lot of different things in politics and in life. We can disagree about other peoples' lifestyles, even, and people do frequently. Would you be okay with someone if you disagreed with them about whether it was okay for people of two different races to marry? Would you couch that as just a mere disagreement over lifestyles that you could get past, or would you kind of not want to hang around that person anymore?
And that’s really the crux of it. Within my lifetime, the last of the bona fide real unapologetically public racists died off and nowadays anyone who publicly expresses openly racist views is shown the door in most of polite society. I say “most” because there are still large areas of this country where it’s okay to be openly racist, but on the whole the country has changed. I think it’s really important to recognize that dynamic and to see how it has happened and, most importantly, to see that the wave of diversity is not so much a wave but a flood whose waters never recede. We are never in this country again going to have the situation where the various races are kept separate for no other reason than to give one race a false sense of superiority. I think it’s important to recognize that fact because we are about to see the same transformation happen with regards to homosexuality, and with it also all other kinds of sexuality that are different or even fundamentally at odds with the “traditional” view that a marriage isn’t valid unless it’s between one biological man and one biological woman. Call it a wave of gender diversity I guess, but it’s coming and just like the previous ones it won’t ever fall back to the sea, because the wave changed the shape of the shore so that it couldn’t go back.
It is in this environment that we find Liz Cheney very publicly rebuking her own flesh and blood, her sister, her sister-in-law (yes, now in Illinois they will be considered sisters-in-law), and her nieces and nephews. How are those children of her sister’s to understand that their aunt may possibly love them but on a fundamental level does not believe their family unit has a right to exist? How can this be reconciled with the views of her father, Dick Cheney, who despite all my poking fun at the man I genuinely admire his blunt and unapologetic support of his daughter Mary (other Republicans like Chris Christie would do well to follow his example on this issue)?
One thing that could be going on here is Liz Cheney genuinely has this still somewhat common but increasingly viewed as backward view, that her sister’s family is in fact illegitimate in her eyes, and she feels so strongly about this that she is willing to state it publicly, which must have really hurt her sister’s family. (In fact, her sister-in-law penned a wonderfully succinct Facebook post that really gets to the heart of the matter.) Considering I don’t know if anyone really cares about gay marriage in Wyoming’s senate race other than this, I’m not really sure what her motivation could have been for this, but I suppose she has been having to posture herself extra hard for the ultra-super-mega-conservative electorate she’s trying to appeal to.
The other thing that might be going on, which is along the same lines, is that Cheney might have been more honest about her feelings on the matter in 2009 when she said that “freedom means freedom for everybody”. If that’s true, then it feels like an incredibly callous and cynical thing to say on national television you think your own sister’s family shouldn’t exist. My sister and I disagree on a lot of things but I wouldn’t dare question her life or who she loved. That is just way too personal, and that’s why it definitely didn’t belong on television.
I have a feeling that if voters are going to react at all to this, it will be with disgust at Liz Cheney’s craven attempt to gain conservatives favour by disowning her sister, not with delight that she hates gay people enough to represent the state of Wyoming. She should be ashamed of herself, but I get the feeling she takes after her father in that way and probably can’t feel shame.
Accurate polling on something like this is always in short supply, but tentatively it looks like Cheney might be losing this one very badly, which makes her behaviour all the more bizarre: is it really worth disowning your sister for a senatorial primary that you’re likely to lose because you’re obviously a carpet-bagger from suburban Virginia trying to capitalize on your father’s political history in the state? I guess we’ll just have to see, space cadets.
Edit: I think I thought of a reason why Illinois' gay couples will have to wait a few months to tie the proverbial knot. Could it be that Republicans want to have a few months to try to repeal the law now that it’s been passed? It seems pretty cynical to deny the happiness of so many thousands of people just to get a good shot at maybe scoring some political points that will make you look super bigoted, like, really a lot sooner than you think. But, then again, I’ve seen some pretty crass things happen over in Washington so I don’t see why I should presume our ladies and fellas over in Springfield have more scruples about them?