Welcome Back to the 1950s

Via Gordon Friedman at the Oregonian: "Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson answered 'yes' when asked by an Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Wednesday if being gay is immoral."

Dennis Richardson has a very consistent record when it comes to discrimination. This is the same guy who fought against marriage equality. And domestic partnership rights before that. And against civil rights protections for LGBTQ people. He would have been a mainstream politician in the 1950s. 

But here we are, in 2017, with a statewide elected leader in Oregon spouting this stale nonsense.

My feelings on this are complicated. Obviously, I'm angry -- but to be honest, this isn't a surprise. I'm not shocked. This is who he is. His views are obsolete in modern society, but he's been saying them for decades. The difference is now he just gets a statewide platform to say them.

Here's my real concern: I am worried that society/voters/people are so convinced that "gay issues" are "over" that they don't really care if some kooky man says some weird, antiquated garbage. "There's nothing he can do about it," people might say. People who really don't like whoever the other candidate is, or who really like his ideas on taxes/infrastructure/government accountability or whatever it may be, are willing to look past these discriminatory views against the LGBTQ community. 

Let's assume that it's true that "there's nothing he can do about it" -- which I'm not convinced of, nor am I willing to gamble the rights of humans on that bet. But let's just assume. People like Dennis Richardson have more than formal power and authority. I'm talking about visibility and legitimacy. Let me explain.

Today there was a newspaper article in the Oregonian and OPB, both shared widely across Facebook and Twitter, about how a man with real power and responsibility in the world doesn't believe that it's okay to be gay. Sure, it's "only his personal opinion" and he wasn't speaking about any particular policies (in this specific instance) -- but that's missing the point.

What I wish people understood was that at any given moment, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of young people in Oregon who are struggling like hell to figure out who they are, who aren't sure what to make of their feelings, or worse, who know they're gay but feel like that can never tell anyone. Most of those young people have no idea who Dennis Richardson is -- they just know that he's some old guy that wears a suit and gets quoted in the newspaper. He's important. He's visible. He's legitimate.

And today, one of those kids saw someone share that article on Facebook. Maybe they saw a handful of comments affirming Richardson's awful, terrible opinion. For that kid, it was a reminder that, regardless of what the law says, the debate about their legitimacy as a human is ongoing. There are people -- lots of them -- who would still love to take away all the gains that have been won in the equality movement.

There are people, even ones with law degrees who wear suits and get interviewed on TV, who think that my identity is immoral. That's hard for me to accept as a 25-year-old, but it's devastating for a 16-year-old who's still in the closet. 

The moment that some kid read that article made it just a little bit harder for that kid to accept who they are, and it pushed them just a little bit deeper into the closet and a little bit further away from coming out. It was a harsh reminder that the people who think these backwards things aren't living far away in some other state -- one of them is leading our state. One of them got elected in Oregon.

There is good news, though. There's a silver lining in all this. How lucky we are to get such a clear reminder to fight like hell to retire this guy in 2020.