I just finished reading the recent DOMA decision given by Judge White of the Northern District of California, and I must say, it was a home-run. As I posted on my facebook page, as more and more of these decisions start to come out, it can be clearly seen that the arguments of our opponents are not only fallacious but are also intellectually dishonest.
Though the entire decision is worth a read, for me the end of the decision was quite important. On the second to last page, Judge White briefly touched upon the concept of animus, and the forms that animus may take. Drawing from the case Board of Trustees of University of Alabama v. Garrett, Judge White stated that
“Even though animus is clearly present in its legislative history, the Court, having examined that history, the arguments made in its support, and the effects of the law, is persuaded that something short of animus may have motivated DOMA’s passage:
Prejudice, we are beginning to understand, rises not from malice or hostile animus alone. It may result as well from insensitivity caused by simple want of careful, rational, reflection or from some instinctive mechanism to guard against people who appear to be different in some respects from ourselves”.
Judge Whites usage of this passage from Garrett is quite insightful, for within this passage, White not only educates us on what exactly animus might mean, but he also has pointedly called out the gay community on a particular issue – namely, that we are often prone to believing that all who oppose our rights are “bigots” or have some negative feelings about us. But as Judge White points out, opposition to something does not always come from a pure hatred, but many times is more rooted in instinctive fear.
Why do people oppose same-sex couples being granted full equality within American society? Why do people oppose transgender people being able to use the bathroom of their identified gender? Often, it is because they are afraid. They have not been exposed to the realities that we live with on a day to day basis, and therefore when these issues come up, they seem foreign and bizarre to them. Does that make these issues bizarre – not at all – but their perception is that they are. This is not to say that there are many who instinctively hate LGBT people and seek to deprive us of our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, but to label all who are not “pro-marriage equality” or “pro-ENDA” as being homophobic bigots sidesteps the root of the issue – that is, a lack of understanding of the issues that LGBT people go through on a daily basis.
It is for this reason that we are actually winning the overall war against those who seek to deny us an equal status with heterosexual couples. As more and more LGBT people come out the closet, we eliminate the fear and lack of understanding that many of our opponents have. We tear down the walls that our society and religions artificially create among groups, and instead we build bridges. That is why the most important thing that an LGBT person can do today is live in openness and honesty to their families, friends, co-workers, and society as a whole. To take that first step into living this life is hard, but once one does that, you feel free.