If Hollywood decides many years from now to make an epic motion picture detailing the fight for gay marriage in Illinois, perhaps the film director will mercifully change Sen. Christine Radogno to "Sen. Christine Randolph," and Sen. James Meeks to "Sen. James Miller."
Radogno is leader of the Senate Republicans, who voted unanimously earlier this week (with three not voting) to stall and thereby kill a marriage-equality bill introduced in the lame-duck legislative session in Springfield. Meeks, a South Side pastor, is one of the few Democratic holdouts siding with conservative religious leaders clutching their collective pearls at the imagined horrors that will follow the legalization of same-sex marriage.
If they're lucky, the director will do for them and their fellow opponents the undeserved favor that Steven Spielberg did for many of the Democrats in the U.S. House in 1865 who raged against passage of the 13th Amendment during the political battle at the heart of "Lincoln," Spielberg's latest film.
In retrospect, the crux of that amendment is morally indisputable and manifestly urgent: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude ... shall exist within the United States," it says.
And the arguments advanced against the proposal strike the modern ear as thoroughly contemptible.
"We shall oppose this amendment and any legislation that so affronts natural law, insulting to God as to man!" thunders one House Democrat in the film script. "Congress must never declare equal those whom God created unequal. ... Negros casting ballots? Negro representatives? Is that natural? Intermarriage?"
"What shall follow upon that?" bleats another. "Universal enfranchisement? Votes for women?"
Even though the action depicted took place nearly 150 years ago and the Democratic Party is now supported overwhelmingly by African-Americans, the sight of Democrats huddling and scheming to preserve their racist prerogatives is enough to make anyone who's ever supported a Democrat cringe. What a disturbing legacy!
A vote against the 13th Amendment was so presumptively ignorant, even during the Civil War era, that Spielberg rewrote the public record for the dramatic roll-call scene in his movie. "If you go through the names that we call out on the vote, you're not going to find a lot of those names that conform to history," he said in an interview with CBS last year. "And that was in deference to the families."
Families that, even many generations after the fact, would be mortified to be associated in any way with the rude prejudices of their ancestors.
It was a peculiar decision on Spielberg's part given his claims to otherwise painstaking accuracy and given that he did identify certain prominent congressional opponents of the 13th Amendment by name.
But the lesson is clear. The judgment of time is harsh. And those who stand in front of the steamroller of fairness fluttering their hands and shrieking "Stop!" will be ignominiously crushed, reduced to ugly caricature and, if fortune is on their side, given false names to preserve the honor of their descendants.
At this writing, it looks as though gay-marriage opponents will succeed in blocking the bill during the lame-duck session ending next week. They still have in their ranks enough fretful old-timers like 68-year-old state Sen. William Haine, D-Alton, ("Sen. Bill Harris" in the movie version, so his grandchildren should hope), who has promoted an amendment to the Illinois Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
If so, it will be just a temporary setback. Polling data on the issue reveal a startling generational shift — two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds support gay marriage, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll; less than a third of those 65 and over support it. And as more and more states and nations legalize it, sociological studies reveal that the supposed harms of gay marriage are merely the product of the tortured imaginations of reactionaries.
This movie will have a happy ending for same-sex couples.
"If?" is no longer a serious question. "When?" is all that's on the table.
And, of course, "Who?"
Hollywood may bless some on the losing side with aliases. History, however, won't be so kind.
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