[This essay is part of the ZNet Classics series. Three times a week we will re-post an article that we think is of timeless importance. This one was first published September 3, 2003.]
"Five centuries are a drop in the immense ocean of our history…"
Richard Nixon, prestigious historian, had it clear. In 1972, when he was President of the United States, gave to his closest collaborators a short lecture on the decadence of Greece and Rome:
-"You know what happened with the Greeks? Homosexuality destroyed them! Sure. Aristotle was a homo. We all know that. And also Socrates. You know what happened with the Romans? Their last six emperors were gay."
In 1513, centuries before this pompous lesson, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa had thrown fifty Indians to the mouths of wild dogs that they disemboweled them, "because to be women they only lack tits and give birth".
In Panama, as in many other places of America, homosexuality was free, until the conquerors invaded the land. That night of 1513, Balboa inaugurated in these lands the punishment for the nefarious sin of sodomy.
Those were the times of the Holy Inquisition. Times without end. The Inquisition lasted three and a half centuries in Spain. The heresy of diversity, in all its forms, was punished with torture or death in various places of Europe and America. Many homosexuals, men and women, were burned alive. The fire reduced them to ashes "so that there be not memory of them".
An epoch left behind, so we thought. But the flames of hell call.
The Holy Family
Instead of asking forgiveness from its victims, the Roman Catholic Church repeats the old curses. Recently, the Holy Inquisition, that is now called, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, launched from the Vatican a world campaign against the marriage of gay couples, "a serious immorality that contradicts the plan of God and the natural law".
Immediately, high officials of the Catholic Church in the world echoed to the voice of command. In Uruguay, archbishop Nicolas Cotugno declared homosexuality "a contagious disease", recommended the isolation of its bearers and compared same sex marriage with the union between a man and an animal.
The Catholic Church is worried, for a few centuries now, over human sexuality. From pope to pope, it has been establishing the stiff boundary between sin, that is almost everything, and the little bit that is left to us for consolation, because we must reproduce, in some way. From His Holiness to the last priest of town, there is not a priest that is not an expert in sex. Since all of them have made a vote of chastity, it is not known how can they understand so much about an activity they are prohibited to practice.
Reading this last Vatican condemnation, desires come to ask to the celestial sexologists: if gay marriage is a "natural law", why you do not marry? And if gays contradict "the plan of God", why did God make them that way?
Another specialist in Good and Evil, president George W. Bush, coincides with the Vatican in the condemnation of same-sex marriage and stands against adoption of children by couples that do not make a normal marriage, "of a man and a woman".
The president, who is not a catholic has made this papal crusade his own. It is not the first time that Bush and the Pope discover they are two of a kind. The two of them have direct communication with Heaven, by different telephones. In some instances, as in the recent war of Iraq, they receive contradictory orders. In others they form a common front. They have been, and they will continue being, united in causes as sacred as the promotion of youth sexual abstinence and the fight against all means of contraception and against abortion.
With his usual broad-mindedness, Bush has not only coincided in these topics with the Vatican theocracy, but also with Islamic fundamentalists: puritans united will never be defeated. And each time such matters have been presented in the United Nations, Bush has voted by common consent with his main enemies, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and including Iraq, before that country received the hurricane of missiles that Bush sent to Iraq in the name of God and of petroleum.
"But… It moves"
The cross and the sword are being brandished, as in old times. And with good reason: in the last months, homophobia has suffered serious attacks. Everywhere propagates what the Pope calls "devious conduct" and "legalization of Evil".
The Supreme Court of the United States issued a historic decision, six months ago. The Texas law that punishes homosexuality as a crime is unconstitutional, says the Supreme Court. That decision nullifies similar laws in other 12 states of the nation.
In the meantime, in New Hampshire, for the first time in the history of Christianity, the faithful and the clergy of the Episcopal Church have elected a bishop that is openly gay. Massachusetts is about to legalize gay marriages. In Vermont, the Civil Registry already recognizes the legitimacy of those couples. In Canada, since early this year, gays can marry in Ontario and Columbia. Now there are same-sex weddings in Belgium, as there were already in Denmark, Holland and Sweden. There are diverse varieties of legal union, more or less similar to marriage according to the country, in Norway, Finland, Iceland, France, Germany, Hungary, Croatia and in some regions of Spain. And for first time in Latin-American history, the city of Buenos Aires already celebrates the legal union among persons of the same sex.
All these "grave immoralities", acts of liberty and of mental health, are not gifts: they are conquests. They are the results of stubborn fights of gays and lesbians against discrimination and violence.
Of all the pleasures deserving hell, homosexual love is, still, the most ferociously repressed. "Machismo" and armed stupidity have disguised this atrocity of normality and have turned it into custom. In more than seventy countries, the law punishes homosexual relations. In many with jail. In some with flagellation or death. In others, where capital punishment is not legal, para-police squadrons and lovers of fanaticism do their ceremonies of purification: clean the streets torturing, mutilating and murdering those who, by the simple fact of existing, constitute a public scandal.
Gays and lesbians are damned in earth and in heaven. Five years ago, the prime minister of Malaya denounced them as a threat to national security. They also have the doors of Heaven closed. I heard the mother of a young lesbian say: "What hurts me more is to know that we will not be together in Paradise".
But they, the gay and lesbians, the rare, the despised, are generating now some of the better news that our times send to history. Armed with the flag of the rainbow, symbol of human diversity, gays and lesbians are overcoming one of the most sinister inheritances of the past. The walls of intolerance have begun to fall.
This affirmation of dignity, that dignifies us all, is born of the courage to be different and of the pride to be it.
As Milton Nascimento sings:
Any way of loving is worthwhile,
any form of love is worth to love.