Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Is this Backlash for 2006?

Is the Irmo debacle a watershed for backlash against 2006? If you'll remember it was in 2006 that South Carolinians voted overwhelmingly to pass an ammendment to our constitution banning gay marriage and any other type of civil union.

Already in the wake of that peculiar moment in our States sortid storied history, we've seen the State's Major University open a LGBTQ Archive expanding "Queer Studies," municipalities extend rights to the LGBT community, we've seen corporations extend benefits, and we've heard from a variety of leaders that to embrace the new knowledge economy means embracing the creative class which includes.... you guessed it, the LGBT tribe - and all of that is happening here in Columbia, making the State House an Ivory Cement tower, bastion of psuedo-consesrvatism and religious zealotry amidst a sea of progressivism (or as some would prefer to call it liberal fascism).

But is it really a backlash? Or an awakening to cultural awareness. Sen. Jake Knotts (R-Lexington) said in a public hearing during the Marriage Debate that the only way that the LGBT community would defeat the measure was to do as they were doing with him, introduce themselves, make their presence known. Mr. Knotts conceded that if it weren't for the will of his constituency after meeting and hearing the stories of so many LGBT persons, families and supporters that his opinion was already changed. And perhaps that's exactly whats happening here in South Carolina.

The resistance is fading as more and more people get to know Mr. & Mr. or Mrs. & Mrs. Jones next door and understand that, 'hey they're regular people too.' The Economist has an interesting article in this weeks print edition about the California Supreme Court decision to open up marriage.
Across America same-sex couples are becoming more ordinary. Their numbers are growing most rapidly outside traditional magnets like California, New York and Vermont (see map). One of the steepest increases has been in Utah, probably America's most conservative state. Indeed, of the 34 states with above-average increases in the number of gay couples, 21 voted for Mr Bush in 2004. This does not mean there has been a sudden outbreak of homosexuality in conservative states; rather, it means gay couples in such areas are swiftly becoming more open about their relationships. That alters the politics of gay marriage.
Even on the map if one looks at it closely one sees that here in South Carolina the gay population has increased by 15-30% since the 2000 census, as more and more LGBT persons have come to realize that they have a voice and a compelling voice, once their stories are heard.

And these increases are not just in the liberal enclaves like Charleston, they're in Greenville and Florence, and Columbia and even Spartanburg and Aiken and even unto the wiles of Darlington County too. From the Economist:

Palm Springs. The town, which is represented by a Republican congresswoman, a Republican state senator and a Republican assemblywoman, is not easily caricatured as a liberal enclave. It is also increasingly typical of gay America.

The last full census, in 2000, revealed that Palm Springs had a higher proportion of same-sex couples than San Francisco. In California it was second only to West Hollywood, in Los Angeles. Since then it has become a lot more gay. Yet it feels utterly unlike ghettos such as West Hollywood or the Castro, in San Francisco.

Palm Springs has a couple of bars with a strict leather-and-denim dress code, and several hotels where clothing is optional. For the vast majority of its gay residents,
though, social life revolves around nothing more transgressive than cocktails
and dinner parties. The Golden Rainbow senior centre, which Mr Stern helps run,
has started a lesbian bridge night. Although some parts of town are pinker than
others, Palm Springs contains no gay ghetto.

Columbia has six (6) gay bars (thankfully no leather bars or nudist resorts unless you count Pelion *shiver*) and an active program called TakeOver Columbia, where the LGBT community mingles in bars and restaurants not normally frequented by the tribe in an effort of supreme PR, and those traditionally gay establishments may fill to capacity at times with straight and gay clientele alike represent a tiny portion of the group, many of who, like their counterparts in Palm Springs are more apt to spend an evening at home with a dinner party or bridge game with their neighbors or family.

So perhaps that's why there is such a vocal outcry when a Principal at an area high school makes such pronunciations about gay/straight alliance clubs at a school that at the same time sponsors a religious club (FCA/Randy Mecca) and other secular clubs of interest [including the Dinosaur Appreciation Club (D.A.C.)], this is just another step in the long road of becoming socially conscientious of the LGBT communities place in South Carolina society.

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