I love Utah. Today I golfed with my husband and some friends while my brother-in-law and my niece were skiing. There are beautiful mountains everywhere I look, and I’m just a few hours away from dramatic changes in scenery (3 hours to Moab and Arches National Park, 6 hours to Las Vegas). But there are times that I want to deny I was born here. Religious nut jobs like Warren Jeffs make the LDS faith look backward and strange, and once again, some of our elected officials have opened their mouths and allowed their bigoted ignorance to come spilling out.
Local Senator Chris Buttars is a narrow-minded, hateful man. He has recently lashed out at the gay community, comparing them to Muslim terrorists (another example of his ignorance) as the greatest threat to America. His opinions are those of a minority, but he speaks with tremendous volume. Another local senator, Howard Stephenson, marches right along side Buttars in a histrionic goose-step that is not only embarrassing to our state, but is probably costing us tremendous revenue. What tourist in his or her right mind wants to visit someplace that seems so radically fundamental and backward? The millions of dollars spent by our Travel and Tourism office are wasted once these geniuses express their viewpoints.
It is sad and painful at times like this to admit this is my home state. It’s even worse when these ding dongs start their bible-thumping. For people who call themselves Christian, they certainly do not behave in very Christ-like ways.
When I was growing up, I was very active in theater; not only in school, but in community productions as well. I met many gay individuals, and count many among my friends to this day. One of the best statements I ever heard on this lack of tolerance came from a guy who I “dated” as a cover so that our coworkers wouldn’t suspect he was gay. He asked me once, “When did you first choose to be straight?”
I thought about it and said, “I don’t think I actually chose at any point.”
“Neither did I,” he said.
Our society has come so very far, as recent elections will attest to. It wasn’t but 60 years ago that many African-Americans couldn’t go to their local polls and vote because of Jim Crow laws. For hundreds of years our country considered people of color to be lower life forms, incapable of self-governing or higher-level thinking. Those are shameful facts, but true.
This issue is no different, yet many people persist in the belief that being gay equates to being less than. Our grandchildren (or hopefully our children) will look back at us with the same disgust and pity that we now look at the 1950s with. If we are a nation that believes in equality, then why do we insist on making ridiculous exceptions?
So much of this homophobic rhetoric is based on fear and discomfort, just like the arguments for segregation were based on. Optimistically, I believe we are on the verge of a shift in our public policy, much like the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s saw. As we grow closer to making important changes, those people who fear change grow louder and more invective.
Senator Buttars and Senator Stephenson are certainly entitled to their free speech, but they need to bear in mind the fact that what they say is perceived as representing their individual districts, and clearly not everyone within the boundaries of their representation feels the same as they do.
I’m hoping that the God in which they believe will reach down and touch their hearts, and truly let them see what nut jobs they appear to be. In the mean time, I may start claiming North Carolina as home.