Victory Lap

This was also a bumper sticker, and it was on basically every minivan and SUV in my neighborhood.

“Gayness is wrong!”

This happened in my 5th period science class back in the fall of 2004. In the chaotic few minutes between the bell ringing and our teacher slouching up to the front of the class to call roll, one of my friends and I had picked a fight with a cluster of half a dozen or so girls who were very excited about Measure 36. Measure 36 was a ballot measure that sought to amend Oregon’s constitution to ban same sex marriage, and like many popular people at my high school these girls went to a local conservative church that had taken a great interest in seeing Measure 36 become law.

Honestly, it was a waste of time. My friend and I pulled arguments verbatim from The Daily Show – all men are created equal, separation of church and state, two dudes being married to each other doesn’t have any effect on you – while the girls just vomited up the talking points they’d been coached on in their youth group:

“Marriage has always been between a man and a woman! It’s important for society!”

“In Greece and Rome they had gay marriage and those societies fell apart!”

“Marriage is about having babies and two men can’t have a baby, so they shouldn’t be able to get married!”

We got cut off mid-pointless debate when our teacher called the class to order so she could take roll. By chance, one of the girls we’d been debating with was the first name on the roll sheet.

“Ashley?” Our teacher said, eyes locked on her clipboard.

And Ashley raised her hand and, instead of ‘Here’ or ‘Present’ said, “Gayness is wrong!”


The following month, with the election two weeks away, the matter came up again during free time in my algebra class. Again, I was outnumbered:

“Gay marriage has been against the law all through history! If we change it now, then why not make murder legal too?”

“It says in the Bible that it’s against God’s plan!”

“Don’t you think it’s weird for two guys to be doing that stuff?”

The debate was getting heated and my bespectacled algebra teacher rose from his desk to address the class and try and restore some order:

“Look…” he sighed. “All I’m gonna say is this: If we allow gay marriage, pretty soon we’re going to have to let people start marrying their dogs.”


On November 2nd, Measure 36 passed – 57% of Oregon voters (1,028,546 people) voted that marriages in Oregon could only be between a man and a woman.

The following morning as I took my seat in Wind Ensemble, the trombone player sitting next to me seemed to be especially chipper.

“It’s a good day today.” He smiled.

“Why?” I asked.

“Measure 36 passed last night!” And he did just the slightest hint of a fist pump.

“I don’t think that’s anything to be happy about.” I said.

He snorted and shrugged. “Well, it passed, so that’s that.”


Earlier this year, when a legal challenge to Oregon’s ban on same sex marriage came before a federal judge, Oregon’s attorney general announced that she was refusing to defend the law because it was unconstitutional. In response, the National Organization for Marriage frantically filed a last-minute motion to intervene in the case and defend Oregon’s same sex marriage ban.

NOM argued in a brief that they had been in contact with several Oregon county clerks who wanted to defend the amendment but were unwilling to come forward publicly because of “…grave concerns about possible threats, harassment, and retaliation should they do so.” The judge denied NOM's motion to intervene, and earlier today overturned the amendment. As you read this, same sex couples in Oregon are getting married

Generally speaking, it shouldn’t be a cause for joy when people are scared to express their opinions.

But given how fucking smug and self righteous that movement was, with their cherry picked Bible verses and their vague pronouncements about society and their bullshit slippery slope arguments, all wrapped up in a cavalier disregard for the rights of millions of their fellow human beings, I’ll make an exception in this case.

Y’know, openly advocating for gay marriage wasn’t exactly a popular activity at my pretty conservative high school – especially coming from the guy who a lot of people assumed was gay anyway – but that didn’t stop me from standing up for what I believed in. On the other hand, now that the tables have turned there’s a conspicuous silence from the 1,028,546 Oregonians who were so passionate about their cause that they amended the state constitution to match their personal religious beliefs.

Odd, that.  

Ten years is a long time, and over long periods of time people tend to change their minds about things. I for one said and thought a lot of really stupid shit when I was 15 that I no longer agree with. I’d wager good money that a big chunk of those million-odd voters and the kids I bickered with have evolved on the issue over the past ten years – and not just in the fake way that Democratic politicians conveniently “evolve” on gay marriage when the demographics suit them, either. I’m talking about real, painstaking personal growth over the course of years – and good for all of them. Changing your long-held position on an issue takes character.

But as for the un-evolved ones – the people who went crying to the National Organization for Marriage for help because they can’t abide gay people getting married but are too scared to say it out loud – I say let them stay in the closet for awhile and see how they like it in there. If you think that your interpretation of your religion is such hot shit that it gets to preclude thousands of people you don’t even know from having happy, loving relationships, maybe that’s something you should be ashamed of.

I guess that’s kind of a petty, vindictive thing to say. But I’ve been waiting to say it for ten years, and it feels pretty good.

Truman Capps is almost as excited for Oregon’s LGBT community as he is about having the last laugh in several decade-old arguments.