It’s not often I initiate a discussion about something that doesn’t matter to me, but that’s what I want to do. It involves someone disclosing that he or she is gay and my instant response of ... so what? Other than being sad that the person has struggled to keep this a secret, it makes no difference whatsoever to me. It never has, even in the dark ages of my life, and certainly doesn’t now.
What brings this on, of course, is the latest instance of a celebrity timidly declaring to the world that she is a lesbian. Robin Roberts, a star of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” who has spent most of the past year struggling with and triumphing over two life-threatening illnesses, took to Facebook to express her thanks for all the support she’s received: “I am grateful for my entire family, my longtime girlfriend, Amber, and friends as we prepare to celebrate a glorious new year together.”
That was it, the no-big-deal disclosure. But the media went bonkers. The story appeared everywhere, and even brought a reaction from first lady Michelle Obama on Twitter: “You continue to make us all proud.” She even signed the tweet “mo,” which is her way of signaling she actually wrote it herself and not some staff member. Although Roberts epitomizes courage and she’s a tremendous talent, it is puzzling that anyone cares about her sexual preference. Actually, there is a very good reason.
The world is still crawling with intolerant meddlers who care very much. They harbor hatred in their hearts. As the “Duck Dynasty” uproar demonstrates, they still live in their dark world of fear. Sadly, they can generate a huge amount of support with the vile sort of homophobic pronouncement we got from “Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson.
So those who cling to such hateful views must be taken on. It’s a shame that it’s still necessary, but those who are our role models, like Robin, are needed to counter the bigots.
What a shame that same-sex marriage is still such a primal political issue. How can it be that those who so strenuously argue for limited government demand that government interfere with personal choices? How is it that religious leaders and followers can abandon their claims of compassion to condemn those who simply want to love the ones they choose?
They have many answers: Marriage they insist must be for a man and a woman, because only that coupling can procreate. Of course, you don’t need to be married to procreate, but it’s more orderly. Other than that, the big reason is fear. Yes, fear, which raises its ugly head in an unproven belief that, somehow, gays are a menace, lurking to endanger our children or, in the case of the armed forces, cause chaos in the ranks. Surprise, surprise: “don’t ask, don’t tell” is now military history, and what do you know — it hasn’t been an issue. As a matter of fact, the big problem for our fighters in uniform has been sexual assaults, mostly involving men attacking women.
The battle continues to rage, even while gay rights have made substantial progress. As we begin 2014, 18 states and D.C. permit same-sex marriage; 32 do not. Utah is front and center right now because of a judge’s ruling that the state must not put up impediments. Ultimately, the Supremes will have to decide whether barriers are permitted anywhere under the Constitution.
Even when the legal question is decided, it will take time before millions open their hearts to accept a person’s right to make sexual and lifestyle choices without malicious judgment. It’s none of our business how Robin Roberts or anyone lives his or her life. We shouldn’t care. But until we can get to the point that it doesn’t matter to anyone, it matters to us all.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years ay CNN.