Madden: LGBT activism remains far from finished

Joe Madden, Columnist

Last August, social conservatives nationwide rallied behind Colorado’s winner of the relatively uncompetitive title “Most Homophobic Baker,” Jack C. Phillips.

Phillips was found guilty by the Colorado Court of Appeals of violating state law for refusing to bake an engaged gay couple a wedding cake.

In its decision, the court noted the absurdly offensive fact that Phillips had baked a cake for the marriage of two dogs, which I presume Phillips was fine with doing because it was between one female dog and one male dog.

Regardless, social Republicans came to the defense of Phillips, claiming his First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

I am not writing in opposition of their argument (though I certainly could be), but at the response to the ruling that I heard from friends, teachers and relatives alike: I support LGBT marriage but that is not that big of a deal. Phillips would have made them a cake — just not a wedding cake. Who cares?

I have heard similar arguments from a surprising number of my gay friends. They say that we just won the right to marry; that we have come so far in the past 40 years; that we have never had it better and we should not ask for too much.

My response to the story was, however, much more personal. The story that I heard was one about another place that would treat people differently because of their sexual orientation. One fewer place where I could be attracted to the gender I am attracted to without repercussion. One more example of homophobia that made me wonder if I would have stalled my coming out had I heard it.

I thought about Gloria Steinem, in her HBO documentary, being told by news anchor Harry Reasoner that Ms. magazine could only make one issue because they had written all there was to write about. I thought about the feminists that protested restaurants with men-only sections, being told by what was supposed to be an objective press that they were asking for too much.

I then thought about one of my favorite Steinem quotes and one of Steinem’s favorite Susan B. Anthony quotes: “The primary thing is not that (young girls) know who I am but that they know who they are,” and “Our job is not to make young women grateful. It is to make them ungrateful so they keep going,” respectively. The two feminist heroes articulate the message most essential to activism: keep going.

Demands for LGBT rights should not be placated by claims that a lot has already been done. Just because gay marriage was legalized nationwide this past summer, just because the military stopped wasting millions of dollars on witch hunts for gay soldiers in 2011, just because sodomy was nationally legalized in 2003, does not mean progress should be halted.

It is not the fault of LGBT rights activists that those ridiculous policies were only stopped so recently. They should not be told to stop asking for more just because their movement has never come so far. Just because we have never had it so good does not mean we cannot have it better.

And we will eat cake.

Joseph Madden is a Weinberg freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.