My Turn: Final inning hasn't been played

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 13, 2012

By Curtis Treece
Twenty-five innings. It began as a typical evening of baseball in May 1984, with Chicago’s hometown White Sox taking on the visiting Milwaukee Brewers, and ended as the longest completed game in Major League Baseball history. A 3-3 tie at the end of the regulation nine inning contest sent the game into extra innings. The game’s outcome appeared certain in the 21st inning when the Brewers jumped ahead, 6-3. But the White Sox eked out three tying runs in their half of the inning, further extending the game. Victory finally came to the Sox on a homer by all-star, Harold Baines, in the bottom of the 25th inning.
What does a baseball game played almost three decades ago have to do with the recent Amendment One vote and the efforts of homosexuals to acquire rights equal to those of other citizens? There are a few parallels and lessons in it that voters and interested parties on both sides should keep in mind.
Like that epic baseball game, civil rights struggles are exceedingly long and they proceed with maddening slowness. Very little happens from year to year, but on occasion there is real action, action that may appear to result in an insurmountable advantage for one side. Like the Brewers half of that 21st inning, the passage of Amendment One can certainly be counted as a “big inning” for the “yes” voters.
There are those who deny that gay marriage is a civil rights issue at all. I suppose that kind of thinking is dependent on the belief that homosexuals are not truly a citizens group that can be defined by inherent characteristics. That is not a great stretch of logic if one believes homosexuality to be a lifestyle choice that should be lumped with prostitution, thievery and drunkenness.
When I was growing up around the Gold Hill flatwoods during the 1960s, I considered gayness to be absolutely wrong, revolting even. My thinking changed early in my career as a fifth-grade teacher, when it became obvious that some students were quite different from their same-sex classmates. Time proved the difference to be one of sexual orientation for many of those students (and, no, those differences are not apparent in all children later recognized as being gay). These were not adults or teenagers giving in to carnal desires or seeking a rebelliously sinful lifestyle. They were affable, innocent 10-year-olds. At that age, all kids want to be liked and accepted. They aspire to a life in which they will be admired. No one that young chooses a life that promises great difficulties, derision and abuse.
None of that seems to resonate with the folks who quote the Bible, verse after verse, to denounce homosexuality. Yet, these same people inexplicably ignore other verses that apply to . . . well, people like them. Unfortunately, many of us Christians display great skill at picking verses we agree with to live by, and verses to use as Louisville Sluggers for smacking others.
I’m sure the Milwaukee Brewers rejoiced mightily in their dugout after taking a commanding 6-3 lead in the 21st inning of that longest game ever. However, the White Sox and Harold Baines would not accept defeat. Amendment One’s “yes” voters can rightfully celebrate the results of the May 8 vote. But they should remember that the bottom half of the final inning is yet to be played.
Jackie Robinson’s entry into Major League Baseball opened the pro sports door for other black athletes. In a similar way, perhaps another all-star pro athlete will publicly announce, “I’m gay and I’m proud,” in a courageous act that leads other pros to make similar declarations. Perhaps the acknowledgment of gays as a true “from birth” group of citizens will come from totally unexpected political or religious sources.
Only time can reveal exactly how things will play out. What we do know and have seen time and again in our nation’s history is, when it comes to civil rights issues, the citizens whose rights are being denied will press on until boundaries are broken and attitudes change. They always get the last at bat.