I distinctly remember my first encounter with a gay man.
Don’t get snide. It was strictly a working relationship. I bused tables at the same Mexican restaurant where he was a waiter. As a sheltered 13-year-old, my comments toward him were often mean and childish. I ridiculed his sexuality, rolled my eyes whenever he talked openly, though tastefully, about his dating life. One day I let loose with a comment about “those faggots.” That was the day the waiter finally let me have it.
“You know what you’re going to be when you grow up one day, Ben?” he asked. “You’re going to be a jerk. And you know why? Because you make comments about people you don’t even now. You say vicious things about people you’ve never even met.”
Depending on whom you talk to, I may still be a jerk today. But I’ve since learned some manners, and the lesson that lots of little comments over time will eventually push even the nicest of people over the edge. It’s also wise not to make comments about people you’ve never met. Meet them, hear what they have to say and make necessary judgments later.
At this point in time, you don’t even need to be a gay American to find yourself pushed over the edge by our national obsession over gay marriage. With the news that California Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled that his state’s ban on same-sex marriage served “no rational purpose,” rational people everywhere no doubt nodded their heads in agreement. I did the same. Then I scratched my head, as I always do, when people from the other side of the debate haul out their rhetoric.
Forgive me for saying so, but I can’t for the life of me understand why this issue continues to generate so much time and energy. Fact: Gay people live and breathe among us. Fact: Gay people are every bit as capable of loving their partners as anyone else. Now, in a society that (hopefully, at least) strives toward justice and equality, logic and reason dictate that everyone receive equal treatment under the law. Now tell us again, please, why heterosexuals should have the right to tell homosexuals what they can and cannot do. This entire issue is a sad waste of time, energy and money. It’s an imaginary itch in no need of scratching. Yet some with “moral” imperative to control the lives of others are intent on scratching it all the way to the bone. Unlike that bratty 13-year-old, they astutely ditch words like “faggot.” Instead, they whip up some fluffy meringue of a legal argument, carrying the banner of “family” into battle.
You have to respect, really, the March 15 Deseret Morning News headline announcing Judge Kramer’s decision: “Gay-marriage ruling doesn’t impact Utah.” It’s as if we’ve escaped bubonic plague, or some other contagious disease. Under the headline Monte Stewart, president of the Utah-based Marriage Law Foundation, talks about “the wisdom of Amendment 3.” If California had its Amendment 3, Stewart said, in effect, Kramer wouldn’t feel so big in his britches about taking “what marriage means in California away from the people.” As if gays and lesbians in California are not “people.”
Looking back on my days as a busboy, I realize I learned more then than some people know in adulthood.