The recent flap over an innocent law in Indiana protecting religious rights got taken, even before the ink was cold, to be an attack on homosexuals, particularly same-sex marriages, and quickly drew national attention. A powerful gay-rights lobby went into immediate and high-powered action, threatening boycotts and protests, and it didn’t take days before the law was amended.
How did this lobby develop such power, with instant media and political clout, and how is it able to cow elected officials so effectively?
Well, it’s not because it represents a significant part of the American population. In fact, a recent poll by Gallup published in The New York Times estimates that there are only approximately 3 million homosexual men in the cities of the United States, a finding that comports well with previous studies. Perhaps the most comprehensive one was by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using 2013 census data, which estimated 1.6 per cent of the population as lesbian or gay, and roughly 0.7 per cent as bisexual. What all that means is that a tiny percentage of the American population is not straight heterosexual — say, 2 percent, or 6.2 million people.
My question is: why do they have so much influence in American society, politics and culture? Why is the dispute over same-sex marriage front-page news and the source of multiple lawsuits? Why are there now gay characters peppered throughout television series and openly gay sexual acts depicted, and even whole series given over to homosexual and lesbian themes? Why did Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State put forth gay rights — actually the whole gamut, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — as an important American cause?
I have no objection to seeing homosexuals enjoy equal rights and establish a place in our culture. What I am asking is how did such a tiny percentage of the public get to have such sway over American life, when comparable minorities, at least in terms of numbers, have nothing like that influence.
There are nearly 15 million Asians in the United States, but do we see them massing for their rights and demanding that there be Asians on TV shows, or even whole networks devoted to their cause? Do the Polish-Americans, said to be some 9 million people, ask for Polish characters and Polish themes in movies, and measure, with full media attention, how many Polish characters there are on ABC Family and Fox? Are the 6 million American Jews boycotting stores that sell pork?
American Indians, who by any measure deserve some primary place in our national conscience, number a little over 5 million people, just under 2 percent. Every so often, mostly around Columbus Day, you hear something about activists asking for more Indians in Hollywood films (or at least real Indians playing Indian parts). But for at least 40 years, American tribes have been owed something like $3.2 billion that the American government has earned from mineral and other extractions from Indian lands, and while there have been Indian protests and lawsuits, it has remained an invisible issue for most Americans. And even the scandal of the Bureau of Indian Affairs losing $2 billion of that money and not being able to find it has not caused any national attention. And remember, these are the people against whom we committed genocide.
I suppose it could be said that it is the fault of these people for not organizing, not learning how to control the media, not sufficiently proving that their rights have somehow been violated. The homosexual community, especially after Stonewall and in the face of AIDS, was a masterful example of how to achieve all of that, and it took plenty of hard work, devotion, money and skill to do it.
But there’s something more than that. Indians, after all, have organized, have protested, have sued, and their moral claim is the highest of all, yet their collective political and media power is minuscule. There is something more in the homosexual cause that seems to get to American hearts and minds and make their claims to equal anti-discrimination protection legitimate. Something that even convinces more and more Americans that the bizarre idea of marriage between two people of the same sex, which for most of human history was not only not proposed but for the most part not even thought of, is not only legal but morally uplifting. There is something more playing at the American psyche that has seen gay marriage gain public support faster than any other social cause I can think of in the last 50 years.
I am not, alas, able to identify that “something more” with any precision. My initial instinct is to say that it has to do with the victory in America’s cultural wars of the academic skullduggery known as political correctness. Once everything is judged by p.c. standards, all minorities, no matter how small or what their characteristics, must be accorded equality, and if they have been denied that for a long time their case is especially strong. And that matters most in the area of sex and gender, an area that Americans are uneasy about in the first place. Hence the cause of homosexuality, and the attendant unusual gender orientations, has come to the American psychic, and thus political, fore.
Kirkpatrick Sale, who lives in Mount Pleasant, is the author of twelve books of political and ecological studies.