Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania, was the site of a battle during the American Civil War. The battle ran from July 1st to July 3rd in 1863, thousands were killed, and later, Abraham Lincoln gave a memorial address there which to this day is memorized by school children across America. Four score and seven years ago, etc. etc.
During that battle, on the 3rd, the Confederate troops were ordered to carry out a major attack on the Union position at Cemetery Ridge. This was to become one of the most well known events during the Civil War. Most of the Confederate troops were unable to cross the 1000 yards of open ground they were ordered to take, but a handful of men reached a point on a stone wall known as The Angle. It is said that the battle flag of a unit of soldiers from Mississippi was later found draped across the stone wall. All of the Confederate soldiers to cross the stone wall at this point were killed or captured, and the rest of the Confederate troops, along the entire line, were turned back. The battle went against the South and many today claim that this event was the turning point in the Battle of Gettysburg, and that the Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War.
Of course, all that is history. But recently, the performer, writer, and blogger Tim Wick wrote an interesting piece linking this and other events at about the same time with the recent, or really, current history unfolding in the anti-same-sex marriage movement. For a few years now, those opposed to same sex marriage…who also therefore disdain and dislike gay people despite the recent trend of adding “We don’t hate gay people, we just want to pass laws against them” to their lame rhetoric…have enjoyed a fair amount of success in getting anti-gay laws passed across the United States. Recently, and rather suddenly, their “luck” has changed and they have just now lost several key skirmishes simultaneously. It is starting to look a lot like the Battle of Gettysburg on the day after July 3rd.
Tim Wick makes the important point that the North, during the Civil War, was never really going to lose, was never weaker than the south, but that the South took advantage of certain things that let them get to a certain point in the war. When I read his blog post, I was reminded of photographs I’d see of Gettysburg, identifying the concept of “The High Water Mark of the Confederacy.” That water mark is the spot on that stone wall where a handful of Confederate troops representing an army that was ultimately to lose everything crossed briefly, where some left their battle flag lying to be captured. That spot is marked today by an impressive memorial structure at that location in Pennsylvania. For many decades, Civil War vets met there, walked to the line from opposite sides representing the army they fought for, and shook hands across the High Water Mark. But the fighting had all stopped, the Union had been restored, the Civil War was over, because after the high water mark only one thing can happen: the recession of the flood, the draining of the valley, the clearing of the sky, and the drying of the inundated landscape under the bright Sun.
Here in Minnesota we had on the ballot a pernicious anti-same-sex marriage constitutional amendment put up for the vote of the people of the state as a last gasp effort by the Republican Party to make hatred of gay people part of our central document of governance. We know that this was done because the extant law in this state, which makes same sex marriage illegal, is doomed to be abrogated as soon as the legislature is made up of something other than all Republicans. Indeed, during the current election, that happened; the Republicans were thrown out of the State House after two years of absolutely appalling behavior on their part, and I refer here not to the money and sex scandals, but to their harsh and uncompromising partizan behavior every single day they were in Saint Paul. The idea was to make anti-gay part of the State Constitution so it would be harder for our legal system to evolve to the next level.
There was a great effort to fight this amendment. I am especially proud of the work Julia did, spending hundreds of hours on phones, going door to door, and getting out the vote along with thousands of other volunteers working for Minnesotans United for All Families. An in fact, it was on election day when I was shuttling Julia between election related activities and getting myself over to the polls, that I observed a young woman standing in the cold rainy wind holding up a home made “vote no” sign, across the sidewalk from a church’s signboard which, in contrast, directed people to vote yes. Then later, after reading Tim Wick’s post, I realized that I had actually photographed the High Water Mark of the Anti-Gay movement. Here it is:
It is substantially less bloody than the Battle of Gettysburg, but far more people were involved. The anti-gay renaissance that emerged in the form of a faux movement to “protect marriage” was never going to win, just like the South was never going to prevail. We have this thing in our country, that people were also fighting over during the Civil War, called Civil Rights, and although our union has been imperfect, in the end we can not tolerate anti-gay-person laws. It is not how we roll as a nation, even if so many among us are mean spirited in this way. Eventually, the battles had to start to go our way, and once that happened, most of them would go our way thereafter. There will be no more meaningful or lasting anti-gay marriage laws passed in the United States, and the existing laws will be removed by legislatures or abrogated by courts when the legislature fails to do its job. And just as The South Will Rise Again (NOT) the anti-gay movement will rise again (NOT).
In truth, I can not declare that strip of sidewalk on Hanson Boulevard in Coon Rapids to be a special place commemorating a turning point in this fight. I cannot do that because Morgan, with her sign, and Julia with her many hours of service, and the organizers of Minnesotans United, and all those who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above my poor power to add or detract. No one will note or remember this blog post, but the world will never forget what those volunteers did here. And so that they will not have labored in vain, we must work to ensure that government of the people gay or straight, by the people no matter what their gender or sexual orientation, for the people no matter whom they love, shall not perish from the earth.