Young: Gay rights are like Dad’s sideburns |

Young: Gay rights are like Dad’s sideburns

Anyone who experienced the ’60s will know this: that there actually were two ’60s.

The first is routinely illustrated in film – flower power, long hair, Age of Aquarius, protests, all that.

The second Sixties – what most of us experienced – wasn’t any of that.

Protest was as foreign as borscht. Long hair, too. Bell bottoms? Nope. Most everyone, including the average teen, was straight-legged and short-cropped.

If you want to see how people dressed and comported themselves in “the ’60s,” look at what was happening in the ’70s, principally with Dad’s sideburns. They were growing long.

Don’t believe me? Haul a few snapshots out of the shoe box.

The ’70s were when so many of us came around to the ’60s, the styles, the sensibilities, the rightness of key causes – antiwar, civil rights, environmentalism.

The ’70s was when bigotry became marginalized, for instance. It didn’t happen in the ’60s with bloodied heads on a bridge in Selma or the slaying of Dr. King in Memphis. It took time, like those sideburns.

So it is with the latest marginalization of bigotry, the surge behind gay rights.

Speaking of decades: In snow-boarding terms, America has done a 180 on this matter in 10 years.

In 2003 only 37 percent of Americans supported gay marriage, with 55 percent opposed. Now? Fifty-five percent support it, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, while 36 percent say it should be illegal.

So, while praising the Colorado Legislature in its bold affirmation of civil unions, it actually is whimping out in stopping short of legalizing gay marriage.

Then again, that will come, like Dad’s sideburns, as have equal treatment in the military and the elevation of high-profile gay and lesbian policy makers like Minnesota Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino.

President Obama put it rightly, that this is simply the Constitution speaking – the document that tea party types say they so venerate. Ah, but they were absolutely slobberknockered by the announcement of Republican leading light, Sen. Rob Portman, that he now sees the 14th Amendment as supporting his gay son’s right to marry whom he pleases.

Hillary Clinton said it, that homosexuals deserve the “rights of citizenship … personally and as a matter of law.”

The Boy Scouts pledge duty to country. What about the basic tenet of equality that underpins it? Interestingly, the effort to overturn the Scouts’ ban on homosexual members was sparked by gay Eagle Scouts who’ve had to live a lie about who they are.

The Scouts’ resistance to this basic principle of fairness and inclusiveness will fall, as have so many other barriers in our nation’s existence.

It’s true; not everyone’s dad grew his sideburns out and wore flared slacks in the ’70s as the social contributions of the ’60s became a part of us. Some people would never give an inch below the ear.

Enough dads eventually did, however, to be a follicular referendum that became a rout one decade later. The same thing is happening today on rights for gays and lesbians. Simply, more and more people are realizing it is right.

Welcome to this side of history.

Longtime newspaper editor John Young lives in Fort Collins. Email:

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