All You Need is Love


There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung…
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

Shortly after 5 PM on June 16, 2008, longtime lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were wedded by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome. Both women were well up into their eighties and had been together for 55 years. They were founding members of the Daughters of Bilitis which began way back in 1955 and became the nation’s first lesbian advocacy group.

Given their history, it was fitting that they were the first gay Californians to get legally hitched. They were followed by hundreds more, joining the many gays who had already married in Massachusetts where it has been legal since 2004.

Nancy Wolforth of the AFL-CIO’s Pride at Work issued this statement," We are grateful to all our brothers and sisters in the labor movement who supported our struggle for equality…In the labor movement, we believe that an injury to one is an injury to all. The California Supreme Court has helped remedy one injury today."

So dear reader, I’ll bet you didn’t know that some of the biggest unions in the USA have come out in favor of marriage equality. That’s right, teachers, government workers, communications workers, service workers, farmworkers, hotel workers and needle trades workers have all lent their voices to the right of two people to marry, whatever their sexual orientation.

Of course not every red-blooded member of our working class favors this development. A lot of people are downright uncomfortable with the idea and some are downright opposed to it and aren’t afraid to say so. Mike Gaffney, a UAW activist had this to say,

One of the gay agenda’s recent victories was demonstrated when homosexual autoworkers were successful in coercing the UAW leadership to quietly slip their gay and lesbian partners into the autoworkers benefit package…These same-sex gay and lesbian people had nothing to do with the auto industry and didn’t work for the companies or earn these benefits.

Now it is on the backs of autoworkers to pick up the tab for the health care of these freeloaders. Union leaders are being shamefully used by the gay agenda. No one is trying to take rights away from homosexuals. They just want rights they are not entitled to.

Their same-sex partners are not husbands and they are not wives, but they want to be considered married so they can tap into the benefit and pension plans others have paid for.

Brother Gaffney, I hate to break it to you, but with all due respect, you are on the wrong side of this one. Being a heterosexual is no particular qualification for building automobiles, driving trucks, teaching kids, nursing in a hospital, fighting fires, picking lettuce in the fields or any other job.

In fact being heterosexual is nothing special at all. That and a Chicago Transit Authority pass will get me on the Green Line to downtown. I’ve been a heterosexual for about as long as you have and it hasn’t made me a more moral, caring, and responsible person. It has nothing to do with my commitment to the labor movement and working class solidarity.

I have two kids and I’ve been with my spouse for more than 30 years. Being heterosexual did not make me a better marriage partner or a better father. Whatever my successes and failure as a parent and a spouse, they didn’t come from my sexual orientation, something I was born with and had absolutely no control over. I’ve certainly seen plenty of rotten heterosexual marriages and lots of heterosexual parents who I wouldn’t trust with a burnt out match, much less a living breathing child.

It’s time we faced the fact that all kinds of people fall in love and all kinds of people start families. Each and every one of the them should have the same rights to society’s benefits, pitiful as those may be in our corporate-ruled economy. If those benefits come through the workplace, then all people in spousal relationships deserve the same benefits.

We’re the labor movement– remember? We’ve had plenty of experience with what happens when workers are divided against each other. That story always ends badly. It’s Union 101, one of the most basic concepts of our movement. It’s even in our anthem Solidarity Forever. It should easy enough to remember.

Yes…some of us are pretty uncomfortable about this whole idea. Some of us don’t want to know or even admit that GBLT (Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian, or Transgender) people are there in the workforce too. Given our society’s primitive ideas about gender and sexuality that’s to be expected. But you know, even if you were raised to be uncomfortable around GBLT people, that doesn’t make you an evil person

I spent my childhood in working class Glenmont, Maryland where nasty names for gay people ran second only to racial slurs as means of insulting people. I remember asking my mom why being called a "fruit" was such a bad thing. She was visibly embarrassed and tried to explain that a "fruit" was a man who liked other men.

Boy was that confusing. In Unitarian Sunday school I had learned that all men are brothers and we were supposed to love one another. Of course later the older guys filled me in with their twisted versions of what homosexuality was supposed to be about… mostly with unfunny"queer" jokes. Thanks to my repressive 1950’s childhood, I’m still somewhat uncomfortable around gay people, afraid I’ll say something stupid and insulting out of ignorance. But that’s my problem. Being of the human persuasion, I have a lot of weaknesses and that happens to be one of them.

Discomfort is not a fatal condition though and with some work, you can overcome it. Hell..not only will you feel better (who enjoys discomfort?), you might even make some valuable new acquaintances, contacts and maybe even friends. We get all kinds of garbage dumped in our heads about race, gender, social class, ethnicity and god knows what all. Sometimes you just have to take out the mental garbage even it does involve some psychological heavy lifting

Some people  say that same-sex headed families are an attack on the institution of marriage and the very idea of family itself. Well if your family is so fragile that the presence of a couple of guys down the street raising their kids is a threat, then get yourself some  counseling because you are the one who has the problem.

And who told you that anyway? Was it your preacher speaking to you? If that is what your preacher told you, then you need to sit down and have a serious talk with your preacher. I mean it. Your preacher needs to learn the difference between right and wrong here. If they tell you that its God’s word, then they are following a pretty nasty god and you really need to move on. There are lots of places to find spiritual guidance that don’t depend on hate and bigotry. When we start starving those vicious hateful "religious" leaders at the collection plate, they’ll start coming around. Just watch.

The Gay Liberation Movement coined the phrase, "Come out of the closet." That meant that GBLT people should not hide their sexual orientation and that the more people who come out, the better. It strengthens the movement for equality and encourages heterosexual people to examine their own attitudes and hopefully come over to the side of gender justice. It’s a slow process, but it’s working. Young people today are the least hung up about sexual orientation and the most likely to support marriage equality.

But coming out of the closet has some less obvious advantages. It makes us smarter. With a whole variety of family relationships coming out of the closet, we  can now study how successful families work. It’s not like heterosexual marriage is the gold standard. Just check out heterosexual divorce rates, child abuse rates and spousal abuse rates. Same-sex relationships have their problems too and need all the help and support they can get. Neither heterosexual nor same-sex troubled relationships will get any better by hiding out in a closet of ignorance and shame. 

Some intriguing research done with same-sex parents suggests that they may have something to teach heterosexuals. Since rigid male-female gender roles get blurred or are  non-existent among same-sex couples, researchers report more sharing of routine family tasks and typical parenting jobs. This apparently can lead to gulp, superior parenting. OMIGOD, you mean the further you get away from rigid oppressive gender roles the better the relationship? So it appears. It’s what the women’s movement has been saying since it began. People, this isn’t news .

So come on, let’s catch up. I say let’s get all of our relationships out of the closet, evaluate what methods work best and start implementing some changes based on solid information, not uninformed prejudice or traditions that have long outlived their usefulness. We’re Americans remember? We’re supposed to be a pragmatic, practical can-do people. Well here’s a chance to live up to that stereotype and show the world we mean it.

In fact, why don’t we take on the real threats to our families, relationships and marriages: the relentless impoverishment of many of our jobs, the cruel discrimination that just adds to the stresses of all relationships, a mass media that makes us feel ugly and stupid and tries to sell us products that we don’t need and probably can’t even afford, the brutal work schedules that rob of us of much needed family time, our pathetic health care system…and so on and so forth. You get the idea.

Of course that’s where our labor movement can step up to the plate. If we seriously want to improve our families, marriages and relationships, a strong labor movement is a necessity. Pride at Work, the LGBT labor organization of the AFL-CIO, has a lot to say about that:

If you believe that the fight for social justice doesn’t just stop at the doorsteps of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, but that true social justice means an end to racial discrimination, sexism, transphobia, the right to join a union, the right to a living wage and health care, and peace above war, then you belong with Pride At Work.

About 40 years ago, four mop-headed working class lads from the hard scrabble city of Liverpool, England sang a song that made a startling claim: "Love is all you need". They had a point. With a lot more love and a lot less hate, we can build a society that works for all of us. It was just the Beatles’ way of telling us what it takes to achieve Solidarity Forever. ­

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