Amy called the show yesterday and said, “Wear red.”
That crimson flag, the color of passion and even anger, will fly at tonight’s rally on Courthouse Square in Scranton where who knows how many people are expected to show up to call attention to marriage equality, discrimination and civil rights violations against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Same sex couples will have priority at tonight’s historic gathering.
Please tell me if I’m wrong but I doubt that anywhere in the thick annals of Scranton history has anyone organized and held a gay rights rally.
Even gay coal miners stayed in the closet back then.
Yes, there were gay coal miners - and gay priests and nuns and elected officials and your sister and cousin and aunt and uncle and brother and you know where I’m heading here.
But you rarely heard about them. They stayed inside the bubble, scorned yet loved at the same time – kept from playing any central role in politics, business, faith or family even when they lived with a loyal, caring partner who never really got welcomed into the family.
In the old days, you simply had to go along to get along and welcomed into the family cause. Coal region tribes have always had problems with outsiders. Catholics didn’t dare think about marrying Protestants – until they did, of course. Ethnic barriers remained in full force for generations, climbing higher and higher until younger less fearful descendants decided that Irish could marry Italian and Polish could marry Irish and even English could find their way into the mix.
But gay people were insiders.
And they still got scorned and ignored and exiled into secret areas of the community until they came home for Thanksgiving, usually leaving loving, faithful partners to head into their own lonely homes where the best they could be were favorite uncles and aunts.
Of course families protected them as best they could – as long as they didn’t get too gay.
Now is the time to be as gay as you want to be. That means see you at the altar. That means equality and civil rights and getting married if you choose. That means a sweet dream, an American Dream to be sure, that rivals any hope grandma and grandpa or those who came before them brought with them from the old country.
This means you.
Gay or straight, we now have the chance – even in Scranton and throughout the hard coal country of Northeastern Pennsylvania – to stand with liberty and justice for all, supposedly unassailable cornerstones of American freedom.
That means tonight’s rally on Courthouse Square is not just a symbolic statement, but a challenge to all elected and appointed public officials who swear that they stand on the terra firma of democracy as they pick up their paychecks for upholding the public trust.
But don’t expect too many political candidates to take the microphone or even lurk in the shadows of tonight’s party. Their status quo political party will likely take precedence over their sense of right and wrong.
Political expediency still riles and rules. And election or re-election for our milquetoast “leaders” depends more on the way things are than the way things should – and must – be. Mainstream politics in Scranton and elsewhere in the coal fields and across the nation still depend on the mainstream rules of engagement - knowing your place and not doing anything to really rock the establishment.
But the meaning of engagement has changed. I’m talking rainbow-colored rings that sparkle with a sense of justice, symbols of fairness and equal opportunity, vestiges of the best of what America offers those who trust in its promise.
I’m talking love, too.
Marriage can be a rough venture. About 50 percent of heterosexual marriages fail. Maybe gay people who crave respect and acceptance will be stronger and able to do better. Maybe they’ll bring up the percentages and the sanctity of marriage crowd will take time to thank them for their trouble.
I doubt it but it’s a nice thought to believe that we in this great nation of equal protection under the law might finally get it right. American maturity and the fight for freedom – often literally - finally helped free the slaves, give women the right to vote and present us with a 21st Century plan of action.
Marriage is a contract. Marriage is a law. And America is a nation of law.
Turn your back on the right to single sex marriage and turn your back on America.
What flag-waving Yankee patriot wants that on his or her conscience?