As a majority of the American people celebrate the Supreme Court decision legalizing Gay marriage nationwide, I'd like to relate an experience of mine regarding Gay rights.
In October of 2014, headlines ran in some of the media stating that I was "anti-Gay" and "homophobic."
Eye-catching to be sure. But not true. All the opposite, in fact.
As near as I can tell, Salon.com first got certain outlets and individuals fired-up with their headline saying: "Reagan aide: South should secede and create a new anti-Gay country."
That headline came about because I did an interview with a small Christian radio station in Dallas to promote a small book I had coming out back then titled: "The Secessionist States of America."
It was a thought experiment meant to create dialog about traditional values. The academic "secession" in the book was not only legal and peaceful, but the "secession" itself, would only involve voluntary migration. That said, it was still an academic thought experiment which went wrong. Way wrong.
To be clear, I am a "Conservative Christian." Very conservative on most issues. But I am -- and always have been -- a conservative Christian who strongly believes in Gay rights as I consider them to be a Human Right. Period. I happen to believe we are all God's children born with the exact same rights. No more. No less.
A few years ago, I wrote a column for The Huffington Post strongly defending Chaz Bono against some very bigoted attacks. After that piece ran, quite a large number of people from the LGBT community were kind enough to thank me in the comment section. Conversely, when that piece came out, I also took a great deal of heat from many "conservatives" and "Christians." A common theme of those comments being "Burn in Hell."
When you are a columnist and author and venture into certain political or sensitive arenas, someone is going to vilify you and your reputation is going to take a hit. It's just the nature of the business. That said, sometimes the vilification or attack is just plain wrong.
With that reputation in mind, for well over a decade now, I have been the strongest support-system for my niece, Chrissy. A niece who is like a daughter to me and came out as a Lesbian well over ten years ago. She and her partner - as well as a number of their Gay and Lesbian friends who know me -- were upset and saddened by the attacks upon me in certain media outlets.
As she has always known, if my niece Chrissy told me tomorrow she wanted to get married, I would be the first one by her side and more proud than anyone. It is something I have told her for years as her happiness in a very tough world is all that truly matters.
I grew up homeless many times as a child and literally lived in cars. No one has to tell me how hard and cruel life can be. Because of the pain I endured and witnessed as a child, the discrimination suffered by the LGBT community has always disgusted and offended me. I do believe we are all equal in God's eyes and also hard-wired at birth with regard to our sexuality. When Chaz Bono came under attack for simply trying to find happiness in his life, I felt, as a "conservative Christian," that it was my place to speak up.
So, going back to October of last year. Based only on that one radio interview - no one read the book at the time -- came the headlines and the false and honestly hurtful charges.
What I was attempting to say was that tolerance also had to be a two way street and that I did not think it fair or right that if you happen to write a $1,000 check in support of "traditional marriage," you should be forced from your job. That if you are a former NFL coach and say that purely for reasons of not wanting the distraction, you would not have drafted Michael Sam, you should not be condemned by some and almost forced out of your job. And that if you choose not to bake a cake for a Gay couple, you should not be forced out of business. Much better I thought, to just use the power of positive and civil persuasion as the battle (and war) was already won.
At the time these headlines came out, I was also writing a column for a newspaper in Florida. No matter who you are, if you are a columnist, sooner or later you are going to write something you regret or wish you could take back. Such was the case last August when I wrote a column about Disney and its (rightful) support of the Gay community. Ironically, I wrote it right after my niece and I had just come back from Disney World and were discussing the issue in general.
Regardless of my motivation - which was to say there was a time and place to push politics or support causes but that young children's programing may not be one of them - it was a column I wish I had not written and the morning it was coming out, I called the editor to say that I would like to run a follow-up right away clearing the air regarding my tone-deafness on the issue. He felt it best to let the issue fade away and ride out the rising storm. I strongly disagreed and felt it important to go on the record immediately with my true feelings, clarify my intent, and admit I was wrong to use certain words. I was over-ruled.
Two months later, came the Salon.com headline and the "Anti-Gay" headlines -- which were irresistible click-bate for many in the media - multiplied. I suddenly got a phone call from the head of human resources at the paper saying "Off the record, because of severe push-back from the Gay community, you and your column are terminated as of today."
Others clearly disagree, but the question my niece now asks is: "Does the Gay community want to be feared or respected?" She and I have talked about this for years and do feel reasoned and respectful dialog is the answer.
Do I have some disagreements with the LBGT community? Sure. And I would be thrilled to have a civil debate about those issues.
I can rightfully be criticized for things I have written and said in the past. However, saying I am "Anti-Gay" and "Homophobic" is just flat-out wrong.
"Gay Rights" are a Human Right. Period.
*** Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and author of the memoir Rolling Pennies in the Dark. (Simon & Schuster)