SEVERAL YEARS AGO, one of the religious right organizations produced and distributed a film called The Gay Agenda. The 20-minute video featured lurid scenes from a San Francisco gay pride march and interviews with doctors who had less than enlightened views about gay men and women. I can't say I remember much from that video other than the image of a leather-clad, bare-chested, sweaty man licking the front tire of his motorcycle. But that image is enough to remind me how enraged I was at the time by the crude attempt to tap into the basest fears many people have about those of us who are gay.
The Gay Agenda was intended to scare Americans into believing that if they didn't do something - and do it fast - these outrageous, devil-worshipping, motorcycle-licking hedonists would be moving in next door, invading their children's classrooms and dismantling the very foundation on which our society was built.
Well, that hasn't happened. What happened instead, as evidenced by the video images coming out of Vermont these past couple of weeks, is that the two lesbians who already live next door and have done so without creating a fuss for the past 2 1/2 decades decided to get married. Because they live in Vermont, they went to a justice of the peace and legally tied the knot by getting a "civil union." And as far as I can tell, the ground beneath our feet hasn't yet given way. Yes, gay people want to get married. This shouldn't shock anyone any more than the fact that some gay people behave outrageously - just as some heterosexual people behave outrageously (have you ever been to a football game?). As most of us have been saying for a long time, we gay folks are human beings with the same feelings, desires, weaknesses and strengths as everyone else.
When my significant other and I decided to have a commitment ceremony four years ago, our goal wasn't to undermine society, to destroy the American family or to recruit children into sinful behavior. Our goals were much the same as any two people in our society who love each other and plan to spend their lives together. We wanted to share our happiness with friends and family and to state publicly our commitment to one another, and we wanted our loved ones to know that we considered each other partners for life. Not incidentally, they have treated us this way ever since. To them, we are a couple like any other married couple, with one big exception: Our relationship isn't legal. We live in New York, where we don't have the option of doing anything about that.
Vermont has taken a monumental step in the right direction by giving gay and lesbian couples the rights and privileges they need to care for one another and their families. But Vermont's civil unions, which are not yet recognized outside the state of Vermont or by the federal government, are just the beginning. Gay men and lesbians won't be satisfied with anything less than the same legal rights that non-gay married people take for granted in every state in the union. So if you're already tired of hearing about gay marriage, brace yourselves.
When the day finally comes - and I'm confident it will - that gay and lesbian Americans have the same rights and privileges as everyone else, including the right to legally marry, you won't hear much from us anymore. We'll go about our business and live as conventionally or outrageously as the average Joe and Jane.
And as disappointing as it may be to those who claim that gay men and women are up to no good, given the choice, most of us will opt for legal marriage over tire-licking any day.