Posted: April 9, 2013
THE GAY DIVIDE
By Celia Cohen
Upstate in Newark, gay marriage was having its say. Downstate in Georgetown, gay marriage was getting roughed up.
It was Monday evening, during the first soft spring twilight of the year, when politics really had no place intruding on a mood meant for nothing harsher than flower petals, but there it was.
Upstate there was a rally staged by Equality Delaware, the citizen advocates leading the drive to legalize gay marriage here. It was held at the University of Delaware, where the straight students among 230 people in attendance seemed kind of a little wistful they were not gay, too.
They were like civilians thanking the gay people for their service in the war for gay pride.
Downstate there was a meeting of the Sussex County Republicans, who were in their own war with John Sigler, the party's state chair, because they were against gay marriage but he had an executive director who was for it, and outspokenly so.
John Fluharty, the executive director, had gone to an Equality Delaware fund-raiser last month and been interviewed there by the Washington Blade, which calls itself America's leading gay news source. A gay blade, as it were.
"I'm here this evening because I support marriage equality. It's an issue of personal importance for me as a gay man," Fluharty was quoted as saying.
The Sussex Republicans were provoked and wanted heads to roll. This is nothing new. The Sussex Republicans cry "off with their heads" as if they were the offspring of the loins of the Red Queen and the French Revolution.
They once censured Gary Simpson, the Senate minority leader who is one of their own, for his vote on an obscure bill on drainage. They went after Tom Ross, the Republican state chair before Sigler, for telling them the reason he said Christine O'Donnell could not get elected dog catcher was "because it was true."
Sigler was uncowed. In an interview Tuesday, he stood up to the Sussex Republicans like a stone wall. "Stonewall" as in Jackson, the Civil War general, that is, and not "Stonewall" as in the gay rioters in New York, where the modern gay rights movement was said to start.
"I am opposed to gay marriage. I totally support the Republican 2012 platform, which I helped to write. Marriage is historically and legally between one man and one woman," Sigler said.
"That's where I am, and that's where the party is. Having said that, there are those who obviously disagree. This is a personnel matter that has been handled internally. I will not discuss it."
As certain as Sigler was that history was on his side, the people at the Equality Delaware rally were convinced history was on theirs, or would be, because they intended to make it that way.
"We need to make our voices heard, because we are young and we are strong, and we won't be ignored," said Mary Crowley, who spoke on behalf of the College Democrats.
The crowd heard from Jack Markell, the Democratic governor, and Matt Denn, the Democratic lieutenant governor. Chris Coons, the Democratic senator, and Beau Biden, the Democratic attorney general, sent videos.
Markell warned that passage of a gay marriage bill, which is about to be introduced, was "not a done deal" in the General Assembly, but he threw the power of his office behind it by making the strongest commitment a governor can make, if everyone worked to get the bill to his desk.
"I make a promise to you. I will sign it," Markell said.
As upbeat as the rally was, the students did not look like they were really getting it. The reason was they already got it.
They could no more conceive of the state not letting gay people marry than they could conceive of the state not letting black students and white students attend the same school. Imagine that.