Here's one guy who can open a dialogue on gay marriage

December 22, 2004|By GREGORY KANE

NINE DAYS before his 37th birthday, Anthony McCarthy decided it was time to celebrate.

So the celebrants gathered at the Baltimore Urban League's Orchard Street building Friday night to pay homage to the man who, since he arrived in Baltimore, has been a publisher of one city newspaper, an associate publisher at another, editor of a third and the host of two radio shows. He has also worked for a City Council president.

The last time I talked to McCarthy - for column purposes, at least - was in his capacity as the publisher of The Gay Life newspaper. We discussed the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, when six of the Nine Mullahs ruled that the Lone Star state's anti-sodomy law was an unconstitutional violation of the 14th Amendment.

"The most significant civil rights case handed down in my lifetime," McCarthy said of the Lawrence decision when we spoke in July 2003. Right for the wrong reason, I said then, as now. The court should have said that the Texas law had to conform with the laws - equally as stupid and unenforceable as the one in Lone Star land - in nine other states, which said sodomy was illegal whether done by gays or straights.

So McCarthy and I met again Friday, when I went to the Urban League building in response to his invitation. In one of those curious ironies, I had another invitation that same night: to appear on a radio show to talk about why gay marriage shouldn't be allowed in Maryland. I weighed my options and decided that I'd celebrate with McCarthy, our differences on the issue notwithstanding.

Or did I go because we have differences on the issue?

I'm still not sure. What I am sure of is what I like about McCarthy. As a black man who is also openly gay, he has plenty of opportunity to play the victim card. I've never known him to do it. I've also never known him to play the "bigotry" card when it comes to those who have strong feelings against gays.

You know the bigotry card I'm talking about. If you don't genuflect when the terms "gay rights" and "gay marriage" are mentioned, proponents of both label you - and everyone within a two-mile radius of you - a bigot. This appellation comes from many of those who believe in blatantly anti-white and anti-Asian discrimination in college admissions and call it "affirmative action." The irony is totally lost on them.

McCarthy engages in no such demagogy. He doesn't have to. McCarthy figures if he's going to change your mind, he'll do it by actually talking to you: persuading, gently cajoling and giving cogent counter-arguments to yours. For those who offer religious objections to homosexuality, McCarthy counters with the witness of his own religious experience.

"I was lying in bed with cancer," McCarthy told those gathered Friday, of that day in 1989 after he had been diagnosed with colon cancer. "I was down to 110 pounds. The doctors told my mother to start making my funeral arrangements."

Rather than make such arrangements for her then-21-year-old son, McCarthy's mother did something quite different. She went to her dying son and quietly hummed the song "Amazing Grace."

McCarthy, today a solid 250 pounds, survived that bout with cancer, as well as another one in 1995 and a melanoma in 2000. He attributes it all to his faith in God, in his version of Christianity that embraces all, regardless of race, color, creed and, yes, sexual orientation.

For a guy who was raised Catholic and who still believes matrimony is one of the seven sacraments - for one man and one woman only - I found McCarthy's tale of how he survived cancer fascinating, if not downright inspiring. Of course, honesty requires me to acknowledge that McCarthy is a much better Christian than I am. Honesty also requires me to acknowledge that that doesn't take much.

But I'm willing to bet McCarthy is also as good a Christian - if not better - than many of the Christians who oppose gay marriage. That doesn't make either McCarthy or gay marriage opponents right or wrong on the issue. It does mean that maybe some dialogue can now take place on the issue, instead of name-calling.

On a visit last month to Cambridge, Mass., I heard one Christian minister call for such a dialogue. He said that once gays heard some Christians opposed to gay marriage say they would have been just as opposed had another radical change in marriage been proposed - polygyny, polyandry or lowering the age requirement - the way to dialogue was open. I get the feeling such dialogues are the exception, not the rule.

But if gay marriage is legalized in Maryland, it will be because opponents have that dialogue with people like McCarthy, not the ones who love playing the "bigotry" card.

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