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Two Halloween Acts: Defense of Marriage and Gay Bashing

Commentary by Tim Campbell

It's Halloween already and I still have DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, on my mind. That's mainly because come November 5, lots of people are asking, telling, or expecting me to vote for Bill Clinton and Paul Wellstone both of whom supported the Defense of Marriage Act. Yuk!

When Clinton signed DOMA and ran radio ads bragging about supporting DOMA, Robert Bray with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force sent out a news release calling on Clinton to "Stop Gay Baiting." Bray's term struck me immediately as inappropriate.

"Gay baiting" is the act of suggesting someone is gay or gay friendly because one hopes that suggestion turn people against the "baited" target. Those who wrote or voted for DOMA were not suggesting that anyone was gay or gay friendly. There was nothing like "baiting" about DOMA..

No, the Defense of Marriage Act was much uglier, much more Halloween-like. I would call DOMA "gay bashing" rather than "gay baiting " Political gay bashing.

With this comparison, I have in mind the garden variety of gay bashing in which a physically grown but intellectually deficient male or group of males identifies someone as a faggot and or sissy, then beats up on him a little, rather arbitrarily, to teach him that his behavior is not acceptable, to defend social norms, and to assert the basher's own normalcy, superiority and power.

Gay bashing and the Defense of Marriage Act have another thing in common: they are both "acts." By that I mean the victimizers loudly pretend that the faggot is a threat so that they can justify beating up on him. The truth, however, is that the faggot is not physically threatening anyone. This is the classic "Blame the victim" scenario. And a rather silly one at that: "Your Honor, Miss Sissy was scaring Mr. Bully. Mr. Bully had to protect himself.." What a crock!

That is precisely what happened with the Defense of Marriage Act. Right wing bullies pretended loudly that the future possibility of same-sex marriages was an eminent danger to heterosexual marriage that needed to be cut off at the pass.

A second way in which the Defense of Marriage Act was like gay bashing is that, although the act itself was dreamed up and pushed primarily by the religious right in the Republican Party, it was supported whole-heartedly by moderate Republicans and even by Democrats as liberal as Paul Wellstone, the so-called "ultra-liberal" from Minnesota. These politicians were more hungry for the support of the religious right than concerned about justice or fairness or the rights of faggots. They joined in pretending the Faggot was threatening the Bully, claiming family values were being threatened. Another crock!

Happy Halloween. Think twice before you vote for any gay bashers or bashers friends.

Tim Campbell is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis. He has been writing about gay rights topics since 1973.
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