A mom weighs in on the future of gay rights in the new year

As the mother of a lesbian daughter, living in a liberal community, sometimes I forget that the struggle for gay rights is far from over.

Witnessing the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, watching the inexorable move toward marriage equality in the U.S., it’s been easy for me to assume the war has been won and there are only a few local and regional battles yet to fight. Sure there’s still prejudice. After all, a couple of my daughter’s friends were attacked just a year ago, apparently for “looking gay.” Anti-LGBT violence continues, and there are plenty of places in this country in which it is not safe to hold hands with your beloved if that beloved is the same sex as you.

But the trends are clear. We can now envision a time when being gay will be no big deal, a time when anti-gay bigots will barely survive on the far fringes of American society. Unfortunately, things are not going in that direction in some other parts of the world.

Rainbow 2014 via Shutterstock

Rainbow 2014 via Shutterstock

I’d been so snugly placed in my happy little equality-encouraging community that I hadn’t paid much attention to the rest of the world until I got a wake-up call a couple of weeks ago watching the Rachel Maddow show. She talked about the recent convictions in Russia of people who had the temerity to do things like hold up a sign saying that it’s okay to be gay, and about the passage of anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

And then I read about the U.S. Methodist Church defrocking a minister who dared to officiate at the marriage of his son to another man. Apparently, the increasing size of the anti-gay vote within the United Methodist Church General Conference is related to the increasing percentage of African church membership in that body.

Rachel Maddow pointed out that both in Russia and in Uganda, the sparks that started off the anti-gay legislative activity were visits by American evangelists to those countries. Who better to stir up hatred and bigotry in the rest of the world than these self-proclaimed voices God, with their claims that the destruction of homosexuality is Bible-endorsed?

The truth is that these forces of backwardism have failed or are failing in this country. The majority of people, and an even bigger majority of younger people, now support gay marriage. Anti-gay legislation and activity in the U.S. is fading as people in my generation die off (or learn better). By 2012, even conservatives were openly acknowledging they had lost the marriage equality battle.

Interestingly, something similar happened with tobacco. As the evidence that tobacco causes cancer mounted, the tobacco companies were hit with lawsuits, were required to post warnings and were restricted in their advertising. Smoking in the U.S. was declining, and the tobacco companies worried that their nice high incomes from tobacco sales might be threatened.

Instead of accepting that maybe manufacturing something poisonous and addictive was not a great idea, the tobacco industry began to increase their exports. They moved into countries full of potential tobacco addicts – developing countries in which the governments were either too weak, too corrupt, or too concerned with basic survival to stop the tobacco companies from selling death to their citizens.

The anti-gay groups in this country have taken a similar tack – they are exporting the cancer of their hatred and intolerance to countries more (and still) susceptible to their lies. And politicians abroad are reaping the same rewards for homophobia that politicians here garnered for so many years.

We Americans have supplied to the world both the good and bad: wheat, democracy, free speech, weapons and tobacco. Now we can add homophobia to the list.


For almost 20 years, Marti Teitelbaum used her doctorate in public health working for the Children’s Defense Fund, producing most of their numbers on children’s health, disability, health insurance, Medicaid, and immunization. Marti is the mother of two high-energy girls (a twenty-something future radical social worker, and a 13-year-old middle-school fashionista), and is married to a psychiatrist who devotes half his work life to a child mental health clinic.

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  • Steven Leahy

    Totally agree – in much of Europe they have laws like this, referencing what happened in the 30′s and 40′s with the Nazis. Christianity and Islam have worked in concert to demonize LGBT people worldwide. The xtians have lost traction in most of the west, and are even slipping in the US, but make no mistake they are still a formidable enemy who will stop at nothing to strip of us our rights if we become complacent and allow it.

  • Bj Lincoln

    How can we stop them from exporting their brand of hate and lies?

  • kenthomes

    We really should have laws like they do in England where you are heavily fined or imprisoned for “hate speech”, which means you cannot say anything about a group of people that would incite hatred and violence towards them. We need to start locking these jerks up who are exporting their hate to Africa and the third world. Free speech is fine, so long as it is not inciting violence or creating an atmosphere where just being yourself (gay) us a criminal offence.

  • cole3244

    when will people start to realize that all the strife and hate around the world are started by religion and its zealots, as an atheist i don’t need religion to tell me right from wrong or explain ethics and morality for me.
    actually the people claiming to be so pious are usually the kind i wouldn’t take advice or guidance from in the first place if i am honest with myself or have a conscience, unless i am a hater myself and just looking for an excuse to join in on their disgusting activity.
    as a liberal i know the black community which liberals fought for will be one i will have to oppose on gay rights because it is one of the most religious in america and as anti gay as any group today, their reason and justification is that being gay is a choice.
    the hate never ends no matter the individual, family, or society and its all based on religion and its doctrine of intolerance.

  • Thom Allen

    “The ones who think climate change is a hoax . . .”
    I’m sure that some do believe that it is a hoax, gay marriage is an abomination, guns are harmless, etc. But the really despicable ones are the ones who actually know better and just shamelessly pander to their constituents and suck up lobbyists’ money for talking about their “beliefs.”

  • tamarz

    you’re probably right, sadly, about decades. Look, we haven’t overcome racism and it’s 50 years since the March on Washington. Still, the progress on LGBT rights has really picked up in the last few years and there are now a significant number of Republicans who have come over to our side. But the ones who think climate change is a hoax will probably never admit that being gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender are just varieties of normal.

  • Thom Allen

    You’re right, Marti, about conservatives starting to admit that they’ve lost the marriage equality battle. But, you know that that won’t prevent them from continuing to be snipers from the sidelines or go guerrilla on us. Look at the Million (mad) Moms going nuts over the KMart “Jingle Balls” ad. The people trying to stop the same-sex wedding at the Tournament of Roses Parade. Utah coming up with lame reasons to get same-sex marriages halted there. Those who won’t bake cakes for the weddings of same-sex couples. The bed-and-breakfast places that won’t let same-sex couples stay there. I believe that even if marriage equality were enacted nationally tomorrow, we’d still be facing decades of resistance to equality. And we certainly don’t need to be exporting this hate abroad.

    For as often as LGBTQ rights gets compared to civil rights, I don’t remember ever reading about US bigots going overseas to extol the virtues of slavery and racism.

  • tamarz

    Thank you! I’m glad to be here!

  • Indigo

    You’re right, we export some highly undesirable products and prejudices.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Welcome Marti—-great article—-look forward to more!

  • riannonqas321

    My
    Uncle Gabriel got a stunning blue Dodge Charger SRT8 from only workin part time
    on a home pc… hop over to here B­i­g­2­9­.­ℂ­o­m

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