The slippery slope to tolerance

It’s coming.

The slippery slope to tolerance is coming to the Bible Belt. The question now is this: What are you prepared to do?

The Pensacola City Council took the first step on Nov. 14, when it approved a domestic partner registry for the city. The registry allows unmarried couples — straight or gay — a limited set of rights including the ability to make medical or funeral decisions for each other, visit each other in the hospital or prison and participate in the education of each others children.

The best part of the entire evening, apart from a packed house at the city council meeting to speak mostly in support of the measure, was the final vote — 7-1. No 50-plus-1 percent margin. 

A flat out majority. 

The measure still must pass a second reading, but the message is clear: Pensacola is a step closer to embracing the whole community with respect and dignity. It is my great hope that Escambia County Commissioners soon will follow the City Council’s good example and draft a similar registry that applies to all of the citizens of Escambia County.

And then it will be on to Santa Rosa County. That’s right, I said it. 

A domestic partner registry is not the same thing as marriage equality, but it is a small step along that path. Same sex marriage is coming here. It may not get here as quickly as it did in other places, but make no mistake, it will get here.

Time and demographics are on the side of those who want the same legal and civil rights that their straight neighbors enjoy. A gay marriage is no more of a threat to a straight marriage than the divorce of the other straight couple down the street. Since more than 50 percent of marriages end in divorce these days, if anyone has some explaining to do about the sanctity of marriage it is those straight people who put it in the state it is in.

Polling data time and again shows the Millennials and Gen-Xers favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to have the same legal and civil rights that straight couples enjoy. Those demographic cohorts are the future.

They are more interconnected, more relationship-oriented than previous generations. They don’t remember when “Will & Grace” was a big deal; these are Gleeks who embrace gay men as the new Mr. Spock and Dr. Sheldon Cooper with a “so-what” shrug. 

They are the young professionals and young families that this area must cultivate if it wants to compete -- and thrive -- in the 21st century. A century in which, by the way, it shouldn’t matter whom you love, but rather that you do love.

In the face of this are two options: fear or acceptance. Which would you prefer to live in? 

The way you answer that question may say quite a bit about the kind of karma you are creating for yourself. And the kind of community you may be building.

On Nov. 14, the Pensacola City Council stood up to be counted on the right side of history. I am proud to stand with them.