Sexual meltdown

Author Richard Rodriguez says Justice Scalia is blaming gays for the big changes in sexual mores underway in America.

Published May 22, 1996 5:12PM (EDT)

Does Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wear boxers or briefs? What do you think he does in the dark? And should we care?
In broad daylight, Scalia is a hefty fellow, a family man of "traditional values" and a brilliant legal scholar -- or so he has long seemed to me. But on Monday, in a venomous dissenting opinion, the Italian-American Supreme Court judge (echoing a traditional lament of the anti-Semite) informed us that homosexuals constitute a group with "disproportionate political power," "high disposable income" and "enormous influence in the American media."

Justice Scalia's petulance came in reaction to the 6-3 Supreme Court decision that put the final nail in the coffin of a 1992 Colorado ballot initiative prohibiting anti-gay discrimination laws. As a homosexual man, I was relieved by the ruling, although I do not forget that the Colorado provision was passed by 53 percent of that state's voters, or that similar provisions are pending in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and are in effect locally in Florida.

Yet I'm also aware of a deep change going on in America, which is as widespread as it is surprising: Americans -- men and women, married and not, young and old -- are re-examining what it means to be sexual creatures. Mama's decision to leave the kitchen, to be more than mother and wife, to work as an equal with men, may be the most revolutionary change of recent years. But the gay
movement is the most inflammatory evidence of the same sexual meltdown. Gays, therefore, must be punished for the sins of the wife.

Justice Scalia provocatively chose a German word to describe what is happening in this country: "Kulturkampf" -- a culture war. What I see is an astonishing change. I meet homosexual men and women now in every corner of American life. Everywhere people are "out" and, more remarkably, they are being accepted by their families, their friends and their co-workers.

Yes, there are still cases of parents not talking to their gay son or daughter. But I am more impressed by the accommodation taking place throughout this country. I think of two Catholic families in California. They have been united in recent years by two men -- lovers dying of AIDS. There they were, the families of both lovers -- 50 smiling faces in a Christmas photograph, three or four generations, standing alongside the two thinning men. That is the way the sexual revolution is taking place -- by the Christmas tree, within the very family that Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson invoke for their own purposes as unchanging and rigid.

It is, paradoxically, because so many Americans are growing unafraid of homosexuality that the counter-movement has grown. Homosexual activists tend to forget this. They incline to portray the gay movement as "counter-cultural." I think, rather, that the politicians and religious leaders who parade under the banners of "Tradition" and "Family" have become the counter-culture -- and they know it.

I am not being overly optimistic. I suspect that the great, perhaps even calamitous struggle in the next century will be cultural, pitting the secular against the fundamentalist. In America, the sense of being in a new minority has galvanized "traditionalists." They got out the vote in Colorado. They did so because they feel under threat. Much of America is no longer compliant to their will.

Do I think there will be more anti-gay legislation passed? Yes. Do I think that there are still judges in America who remain preoccupied by what I do in the dark? Yes. But the other day I received a letter from my first-grade teacher, a Catholic nun now in her 80's. "About your being gay," she writes, "I don't have any problem with it. I only pray that you will be a good man."

Quote of the day

Fame is the spur

"I met (Richard) Dreyfuss, (Michelle) Pfeiffer, Jack Nicholson, Roseanne. (Carrie) Fisher was my celebrity trainer. She gave me good advice, and it worked. Roseanne helped too. There were things that were going on that I didn't understand. I didn't know how to deal with people."

-- Losing O.J. Simpson prosecutor and best-selling author, Christopher Darden, telling Buzz magazine what it's like to rub shoulders with Hollywood's in-crowd.

By Richard Rodriguez

Richard Rodriguez is the author of "Brown: The Last Discovery of America."

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