Walter Dellinger, May 2021. Photo by Richard J. Rosendall

Members of the resistance

Dealing with a far-right takeover

Sitting here sipping my hot chocolate on a Sunday morning, I’m having a hard time thinking of a good reason why the Treason Party will not try to take away all the rights LGBTQ folk have won in a string of Supreme Court rulings, if they get a chance.

Oh, wait. They already have a chance, since they hold a 6 to 3 majority on the Supreme Court.

My libertarian friends assure me that, however bad things may get for women, Muslims, and black folks, we won’t lose marriage equality or be recriminalized for doing “the thing that makes Jesus puke,” as Sister Mary Ignatius so elegantly put it.

The reasoning goes something like this: gay marriage does not involve killing babies; it affects a lot of white men who otherwise are no threat to the Patriarchy; and after all, it would be highly disruptive to invalidate so many marriages.

My answer to that reassurance is this: it would also be disruptive for them to police millions of pregnancies, but the bullies are determined to do that, to the point of treating women who have miscarriages as murder suspects.

I grant you that racism, sexism, and religious bigotry appear to be greater priorities for the Trumpist rabble. But they will get to us queers eventually. And do not start looking around for someone you can toss overboard to fend off the Visigoths. We are all in the same boat now, as the late Rep. John Lewis liked to say. So what to do? The short answer: elect as many Democrats as possible.

Part of the longer answer is not changing the bullies’ minds but devising ways to thwart them. First of all, we are not dealing with the sharpest knives in the drawer, considering the quality of Trump’s lawyers with their typo-ridden court filings; the press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping; and Sidney Powell’s failure to produce the Kraken. It wasn’t only Mike Pence who prevented Trump from stealing a second term. Trump supporters lost 63 times in court, including from Trump-appointed judges.

Another part is defiance. I don’t know about you, but I am not going back, regardless of what rulings our high court issues or what laws a Republican-controlled government enacts. We can never accept the infringement of our freedoms at the hands of people whose only path to electoral victory is by suppressing votes.

Speaking of defiance, I need more practice with my pea-shooter in case things take a violent turn (as if they haven’t).

But let us not get ahead of ourselves. Imagine the righteous trouble we could make, considering the smart people we have on our side. Not just more lawsuits that defy the Sinister Six to squash us, but massive protests, art installations, teach-ins, strikes, and basic work like community organizing, sharper messaging, voter registration, and electioneering.

Speaking of smart allies, I am writing this partly to amuse the ghost of my dear friend Walter Dellinger, the beloved former acting solicitor general, law professor, writer, and mentor who died last week at age 80.

One of America’s most eminent lawyers, Walter was a champion of gay equality who authored influential court briefs, hosted strategy sessions, and even officiated at a gay wedding. As a law student at Yale in the 60s, he played the role of gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny in a moot court. His professor afterward said he was the first student to embrace the task with total seriousness rather than play it for laughs.

Walter enjoyed the rough-and-tumble of politics. He loved to imitate Jesse Helms saying, “That sound you hear is the rattling of the skeletons in Walter Dellinger’s closet.”

Walter was far from the only straight person to have our backs. Just as with gay people serving in the military, we have sunk deep roots in the culture that will not easily be pulled.

It will take me a while to adjust to Walter being gone. I still catch myself reaching for the phone to text him. I know I will get past that, as the impulse to telephone my mother eventually stopped after her death three decades ago. But Wally’s warm Tar Heel drawl will remain with me, encouraging my writing and pushing me to rise to my best.

Honoring the generations of people, gay and straight, who got us to this point is a sacred responsibility demanding a creative response to the reactionary bigots who would erase our progress.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at rrosendall@me.com.

Copyright © 2022 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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