Hard Candy: Paragraph 175

Hard Candy: Paragraph 175
By Cathy Salustri

 One of the funniest moments of my divorce – and trust me, my divorce had some spectacularly hate-filled moments, so I took my humor where I could grab it – was the night my parents told me they would still love me if I were gay.
 Considering that when I was 13 my mom told me kissing with your mouth open was disgusting (she denies this now) and that blue eyeshadow made me look “cheap,” I am proud of my parents. For them to tell me it was OK if I liked girls was a huge step, and not a day goes by that I don’t love them all the more for making sure I knew I looked like a hooker in a short skirt, blusher told people I worked at a strip club, and good lord, Catherine Mary, no one will buy the damn cow when you’re giving away the milk on street corners… but if I wanted to date women and thumb my nose at the Pope, that were down with that.
 The fact that I don’t find women attractive didn’t slow them down one bit. The more I told them, “Gee, that’s swell, but I really like men,” the more it sounded a wee bit like “the lady doth protest too much,” so I stopped trying to convince them.
 I like to think that a decade later they realize that my divorce had nothing to do with my ex-husband not having breasts, and we’ve all moved on. Still, their acceptance of my imagined alternative lifestyle touches me still. Not everyone gets that lucky.
 As a group, I think we forget that in Gulfport. We don’t have issues, as a community, with gay people. It is unheard of to make fun of someone for their sexuality, and I’m proud to be a part of a community where that sort of hate has no place.
 It doesn’t shock me, then, that the city’s considering a domestic partnership registry, where people who cannot or choose not to legally wed in Florida can declare their intentions for a domestic partner to assume the same rights as a spouse: medical rights, funeral arrangements, and the like are offered to all those who register. This means that gay people who want their partners to have many of the same rights as married couples can have them – inside city limits.
 And, quite honestly, it scares the hell out of me.
 Oh, not because I think gay people shouldn’t have the rights. Of course they should. Everyone deserves someone to grow old with, and who the hell are any of us to judge? No, I have concerns because the world has more jerks than Gulfportians. Outside city limits we still have a lot more hateful, scared people than we think we do, and I’m petrified to see what will happen when they get that list of gay people.
 What’s that, now, you say? A list of gay people? Why, yes. You see, many of the registries are public record. In Washington, you can search the registry by last name. Miami–Dade County makes it clear on their web site that the registry is a public record. California keeps the list confidential, but let’s face it, we’re no California. That sort of confidentiality in Florida? I think it would need Governor Rick Scott’s stamp of approval, and, well, I think I can guess how that one would go.
 If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you are a good and decent person who would never do anything wrong with such a list, or even ask to see it. But our world is filled with small-minded idiots, like Westboro Baptist, Abiding Truths Ministry, and – I swear this is a real group – Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality (they think gay men are pedophiles) who could make life hell for people who registered. They could ask the city clerk for the list, and she would have to give it to them, and they would then have the names of all the gay people.
 I know of no list of straight people, or even of married ones. I have yet to find a way to get a public record of married couples in a city or county, but a domestic partnership registry, if compiled by the city, would, by law, be available to anyone who asked.
 For a largely symbolic list – it only applies within city limits – do you want that risk? For real rights, couples need to see an attorney and have the appropriate documents drawn up – which they can do now. At what cost do we do that right thing?
 Have you ever heard of Paragraph 175? It was part of German Penal Code that allowed the following:
 In 1933, Nazi youth ransacked the Institute of Sex Research and seized a list of homosexuals. In 1934 The Gestapo started creating a list of homosexuals. Using these lists, the Third Reich targeted 100,000 people, sending 15,000 to concentration camps. They castrated some and killed others. 4,000 survived.
 No one in our city would ever abuse the registry. But how do you keep hate groups from getting the names and addresses of all the gay families in a 2.5 square mile radius? I ask the council to remember that even though tolerance is supreme law inside the city limits, we remain, as one friend said, a tiny blue dot in a big red state.
 Before we rush ahead to do the right thing, consider the repercussions. We should push for equality for all, not lists of people based on their lifestyle. Think about what has happened, historically, when government started creating lists of people.
 Oh, and Paragraph 175? German Parliament was on the brink of repealing it when the Nazis took over. Seems that people there may have thought they were about to turn a corner for human rights, too.

Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.