In an interview with Oui, the late porn mag, in April 1975, the soon-to-be-late Gore Vidal was asked: “Why do you despise the heterosexual dictatorship?” Because it is a dictatorship, Vidal replied: “To hear two American men congratulating each other on being heterosexual is one of the most chilling experiences—and unique to the United States. You don’t hear two Italians sitting around complimenting each other because they actually like to go to bed with women. The American is hysterical about his manhood.” Why is that, Oui asked. “A lot of it,” Vidal replied, “is bullshit from the old frontier, where the only way you could judge a man was if he could knock somebody down—and of course the heterosexual male’s obsession with cock is far beyond that of any fag.”
It’s fun to see that what was once the domain of porn magazine interviews does on occasion descend to the somewhat lower form of journalism known as the Sunday chat show, as it did on Sunday when the Vidalesquely eponymous Dick Gregory played Oui to Joe Biden, the nation’s occasional vice president who, on Sunday, bared his pair on national television and sent the Obama White House scrambling. Biden, you see, had declared himself “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage.
Obama is not absolutely comfortable with gay marriage. Obama, supreme hypocrite that he can be on some issues, still thinks Plessy v. Ferguson has validity when it comes to gays: they can have their civil unions, but they can’t marry. The bigotry rests on two untenable assumptions, if the Constitution is of any concern: gays are second class citizens; and government may define marriage from a religious, as opposed to civil, perspective (the entire crock about marriage being “between a man and a woman” takes its legitimacy from religious writings, not law). It’s almost a given that Obama will, or would, in a second term, make a turn for gay marriage, but one of the reasons his second term looks unlikely is precisely because of the kind of spineless stunts he’s been pulling on ay marriage: he’s a president of calculated half-measures, not a president of altar-worthy convictions.
The administration immediately described Biden’s comments as off-the-cuff, though they didn’t at all appear to be off the cuff in the Gregory interview: Gregory set up the subject carefully, narrowed it precisely, and asked Biden directly–as directly as he’d asked him about his certain place on the Obama-Biden ticket for 2012 moments earlier, as certainly as Gregory had asked him to describe what would be wrong with a Mitt Romney economy before that. The administration didn’t scramble to unscramble Biden’s comments when he said the rich need another tax cut “like they need another hole in their head.”
Here’ by the way, is the word for word transcript of Gregory’s Oui act with Biden:
DAVID GREGORY: You raise social policy. I’m curious. You know, the president has said that his views on gay marriage, on same-sex marriage have evolved. But he’s opposed to it. You’re opposed to it. Have your views– evolved?
BIDEN: Look– I just think– that– the good news is that as more and more Americans become to understand what this is all about is a simple proposition. Who do you love? Who do you love? And will you be loyal to the person you love? And that’s what people are finding out is what– what all marriages, at their root, are about. Whe– whether they’re– marriages of lesbians or gay men or heterosexuals.
DAVID GREGORY: Is that what you believe now? Are you–
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: That’s what I believe. I– I– look, I am vice president of the United States of America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction– beyond that.
DAVID GREGORY: In a second term, will this administration come out behind same-sex marriage, the institution of marriage?
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, I– I– I can’t speak to that. I– I– I– I don’t know the answer to that. But I can tell you–
DAVID GREGORY: It sounds like you’d like to see it happen. If that’s what the president would get–
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, the president continues to fight, whether it’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or whether it is making sure, across the board, that you cannot discriminate. Look– look the the executive orders he’s put in place. Any hospital that gets federal funding, which is almost all of them, they can’t deny a partner from being able to have access to their– their– their partner who’s ill or making the call on whether or not they– you know– it’s just– this is evolving. And by the way, my measure, David, and I take a look at when things really begin to change, is when the social culture changes. I think Will and Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far. And I think– people fear that which is different. Now they’re beginning to understand. They’re beginning to understand that this as a base–I– I was with– speaking to a group of gay leaders in– in Los Angeles– la– two, two weeks ago. And one gentleman looked at me in the question period and said, “Let me ask you, how do you feel about us?” And I had just walked into the back door of this gay couple and they’re with their two adopted children. And I turned to the man who owned the house. I said, “What did I do when I walked in?” He said, “You walked right to my children. They were seven and five, giving you flowers.” And I said, “I wish every American could see the look of love those kids had in their eyes for you guys. And they wouldn’t have any doubt about what this is about.”
DAVID GREGORY: Let me ask you on another topic about the politics– of national security.
I’m reminded of a different exchange, in December 1952, at the United States Supreme Court, when Paul Wilson, the Kansas assistant attorney general, appeared before the court to defend school segregation in his state. He told the court that separate but equal was the law of the land, unless 21 states and the District of Columbia “have been wrong for 75 years.” That’s the very same argument Islamists and their Christian equivalent brandish today in the face of gay-rights arguments: could the Bible have been wrong for two millenniums, or the Koran wrong for a millennium and a half? The natural-law answer, as opposed to the scriptural cop-out, being a resounding yes, echoed in the Supreme Court’s own answer as it re-interpreted the 14th Amendment in 1952, in a squirm out of the bleak box it had built for itself and the nation under Plessy v. Ferguson. Here’s that exchange:
JUSTICE BURTON: Don’t you recognize it as possible that within 75 years the social and economic conditions and the personal relations of the nation ,ay have changed so that what may have been a valid interpretation of them 75 years ago would not be a valid interpretation of them constitutionally today?
WILSON: We recognize that as a possibility. We do not believe that [the] record discloses any such change.
JUSTICE BURTON: But that might be a difference between saying that these courts of appeal and state supreme courts have been wrong for 75 years?
WILSON: Yes, sir. We concede that this court can overrule the […] Plessy doctrine, but nevertheless until [it is] overruled [it is] the best guide we have.
At that point Felix Frankfurter, one of the squirliest justices in the court’s history, tried to sound like Solomon and ended up sounding like an Obama in training wheels, slicing hair in four instead of owning up to 75 years of idiocy and moving on (as the Warren decision finally did a year later): “As I understood my brother Burton’s question or as I got the implication of his question, it was not that the court would have to overrule those (separate but equal) cases; the court would simply have to recognize that laws are kinetic, and some new tings have happened, not deeming those decisions wrong, but bringing into play new situations toward a new decision.”
And you thought Bill Clinton, that beefy heterosexual, was being imaginative with his definition of is.
The parallels with the early 1950s were all over that Meet the Press interview on Sunday. Moments before going into the gay marriage business, Gregory had also asked Biden: “What’s more important to this administration? Standing up for freedom in China or maintaining a very delicate relationship with this emerging power?” Biden’s answer: “Standing up for freedom.” That had been FDR’s answer to fascism in the 1940s and Truman’s and Eisenhower’s answer to communism in the 1950s, even as blacks were being terrorized, lynched, murdered, and reminded at every turn that they were second class citizens. Let’s stand up for freedom for 1.3 billion Chinese today, just as long as 30 million gay Americans are still asked to bend over and take legalized discrimination up their Vidalias.
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Bill McGuire says
The more things change, the more they remain the same. Joe Biden = Dan Quayle. This is the best we can do for a person one heartbeat away from the Presidency?
Damn right Skippy, especially if you remember the alternative in ’08 was Sarah Queen of the Idiots.
Joe Biden would be “absolutely comfortable” with anything that wasn’t normal !
This country has no moral anymore, were getting more & more garbage thanks to the politicians.
Nancy N. says
I think the true garbage from politicians is the far right trying to shove their morals down everyone else’s throat.
You’re welcome to your own beliefs. Just don’t force the rest of us to live by your god’s rules.
The Geode says
I don’t appreciate you making me look up words like “eponymous”. Dumb it down a little. …however, I DID learn a new word today.
The Geode says
…side note, WHY don’t they show women like THIS when there are news stories about “same-sex marriages”? People would be less intolerable if they did.
What VP Biden said was spot on in regards to the fact that homosexuals should be protected against discrimination and have the same civil liberties as everyone. Unfortunately everyone is simply looking for a “yay” or “nay” on supporting gay marriage which is not what he was saying.
We need to be honest that we do selectively discriminate in our country and that’s not right. We may not agree with their lifestyle, but they are still Americans living in a free country.
Linda H. says
Where are we discriminating against homosexuals? Is that what you call it when a state votes against gay marriage?
There are penalties against any kind of discrimination. Enforce them and leave it at that. I am tired of hearing about everybody’s sex lives and preferences.
I don’t think women should be in the workforce and if they are they should not be allowed to work certain jobs, hold authority positions, or have the rights men have in the workplace…and few rights at all for that matter…..I’m so tired of hearing about women’s sex lives and preferences, thoughts or wants…it’s never ending….
Feel discriminated yet? If you had any clue the hell women before you went through for your right to even use a computer you’d never make such a remark.
Linda H. says
Jespo, I am in my latter years and HAVE been through all this, every damned bit of it.
Life doesn’t stop progressing or evolving because you’re in your latter years….and if you’ve witnessed civil rights struggles for minorities, both race and gender throughout your years, and didn’t truly understand what those struggles were about, dare I say you missed the point of the struggle.
It wasn’t about ‘getting things’…it was about being equal in the eyes of the law to your neighbor. Whether the neighbor agrees or not due to personal, religious, or cultural bigotry will always be a matter of contention. I am no better, or worse than you…and you, ma’am, are no better than anyone else either….
And, if I may, Rosa Parks was middle aged when she decided to stand up for what was right….doing the right thing, saying the right thing, is not age specific…your latter years should be a time of imparting wisdom and experience to younger people…you’ve imparted intolerance, impatience, and apathy. That, I find sad.
Linda H. says
Believe me, I didn’t miss the point of the struggle, but there are laws now to protect. The tools are in place that weren’t there before.
You know, there’s a little something about being equal that many don’t realize. It must be earned, just like respect. Therein lies the rub. Nobody these days wants to earn it.
You misunderstood me, Jespo.
Laws to protect them….really? Gays have been fighting non stop for their rights to health care, benefits, estate rights, parenting rights, and so forth for decades, and their legal battles always bring out the ugliest side of humanity. This is just one more step that must be taken, one doggedly opposed by religious conservatives and cultural fanatics. The funny thing is, it’s those same religious institutions and cultural groups that have long been the most detrimental and abusive to women and minorities here and abroad. I say again, the lesson is not being learned. There are teenagers and young people killing themselves because they cannot handle the emotional toll of a world that tells them they are to be hated, abhored, beaten and pushed away lik outcasts. I believe we’re a better society than that, or should be.
As far as earning the right to be equal, that do you call military service that protects our freedom? Thy are soilders, doctors, nurses and teachers. Business owners large and small. Bankers, fire fighters, law officers and politicians. Tax paying citizens and home owners. They are your co workers, neighbors, friends and relatives. They are Americans, just like you and me. They are people, just like you and me.
They have earned it…are earning it…and will continue to earn it. And yes, marriage isn’t for the feint of heart, but they’ll learn that too…and earn it one day like we did. Why?……because a heart is a heart…
The land of the free, the home of the brave! What a crock of shit this country has become. It’s funny, referring to Vidal, how much the American populace focuses on masculinity and machismo but has a long history of being afraid to offer equal rights and open consideration to citizens born here and just as equal as anyone.
Oooh, look at me, I’m a man! But I’m SCARED of gays!!! They give me the WILLIES!!! Ewwww!!! Grow a damned pair and let the people born in this “land of the free, home of the brave” be who they ARE.
America: a big namby-pamby mess of selfish losers and bigots. Hallelujah, amen!
John Boy says
Was Jesus Christ gay, prove it one way or the other?
i think whats important here is that we see the rest of the pictures from the ceremony at the top, including the after party.
oh, and let people marry whoever they want. does it really effect anybody as a person if two gays marry? seriously people, let them live their life, you live your life, everybody is happy. you dont have to agree with everything to move forward.