What: The ongoing debate over whether those who practice same-sex intercourse should gain equal rights under the law.

Why: I wasn’t planning to focus on this, but wickedthought (a game designer friend of mine) issued a challenge to supporters of gay rights to create a post with the words “gay rights” in the subject line today. John also asked for his original post to be re-posted here:
Why is that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?” -Ernest Gaines.
We would like to know who really believes in gay rights on livejournal. There is no bribe of a miracle or anything like that. If you truly believe in gay rights, then repost this and title the post as “Gay Rights.” If you don’t believe in gay rights, then just ignore this. Thanks.
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

For me, this is the most interesting current public debate for a couple of reasons. The first is that the two biggest equality debates of the last century are undebatable in this century. If you don’t support equal rights for minorities or women, you’re losing the argument, and rightfully so. But the second is this: It is a debate where liberals and conservatives do not break across party lines. It is perfectly plausible to be a social liberal and still believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, and it is perfectly plausible to be a social conservative and believe that equal rights means equal rights, dammit. It is the last bastion of negotiable discrimination in America, and if it falls, there will be very little ground left for the bigots to defend.

Impact: That said, the debate is not settled, and doesn’t look to be soon. Other than a declaration on abortion rights, a declaration on gay rights is the surest way to turn for a candidate to turn some of his supporters against him. It is affecting elections across the land, especially at the local level. Fear is a powerful motivator: Witness the requirement to remove your shoes in the airport, just because one idiot boarded a plane with a bomb in his shoe. If you fear gays, you will vote with your fear. If you don’t, you’ll probably vote with that too. Pink is power, for good or ill.

Personal Connection: I did not have a normal upbringing. I grew up in a communal living environment in the Seattle neighborhood of Capitol Hill, which is probably the third gayest neighborhood in America after the Village and the Castro. You cannot avoid the issue on Capitol Hill, and so I didn’t. My parents and the others I lived with raised me to be confident about this issue, viewing gay behavior not as a challenge to my heterosexuality or my religious beliefs but as a lifestyle choice that my friends made. I don’t have any interest in what my friends do behind their doors, and I have a huge amount of interest in making sure my government supports them in what they do. Fundamentally, I believe this is a debate about fundamentalism. Homosexuality is expressly outlawed in the Bible, at least by many readings. But it doesn’t matter. Rules fall. The permission to hold slaves, which is expressly given in the Bible, fell. The right to treat women as property, which is expressly given in the Bible, that fell too. This too shall fall. And that’s the straight truth.

Other Contenders: the viability of alternate power sources for cars; the validity of superstring theory, which seems to exist solely because it has to; Macs vs. PCs, a debate which I am most assuredly on the right side of despite only a 13% market share for my clearly correct position; who’s hotter, Ginger or Mary Ann?