Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Two Cheers for Gay Marriage

For me, the new New Yorker cover of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie cuddling before a TV image of the Supreme Court is the last straw. There is a difference between approving of gay marriage and celebrating it.

At advanced age, I can’t cheer whole-heartedly the head-swiveling social change from 2008 when both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton championed gay rights but not marriage to President Obama’s abrupt change last year and the Supreme Court’s sudden conversion now.

When the New Yorker appeared in 1925, Harold Ross said it would not be edited for “the little old lady in Dubuque,” but even with the effetely self-mocking Eustace Tilley on the first issue that kept reappearing every year, neither was it aiming at couples of married little old ladies anywhere.

During the glory days of William Shawn from 1951 to 1987, the magazine relentlessly respected freedom of all kinds and was open-minded on every issue including homosexuality. In 1957, when Truman Capote seduced (physically he always claimed, though few believed it) Marlon Brando into an all-night boozy self-revelation for a piece titled “The Duke in His Domain,” Shawn called it “a masterpiece” and gave almost an entire issue to it, as Ross had to John Hersey’s Hiroshima report.

But neither Ross nor Shawn went in for advocacy, as the current editors do with their retrospective of pro-gay marriage covers over the past 15 years.

Call it old-fogeyism of advanced age, but such sudden lurches in what Americans believe make me queasy about a future when all of them may not be as benign as giving legal equality to an oppressed minority.

You don’t have to be a religious bigot not to join in the general applause or to be unhappy about enlisting Sesame Street in the celebration of what was once deemed deviant because it sanctioned behavior that runs counter to the biological process that brought the children who are watching into this world.

Can’t Bert and Ernie just be good friends without being dragged out of somebody’s closet?

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