Cartoon by Jim Massara
Heatley is caught betwixt and between Clayton County and Berkeley, Calif.
JONESBORO Who would have thought that two of the biggest stories out of Clayton County this summer would have anything to do with gay marriage?
Two months ago, Clayton native and Chick-Fil-A executive Dan Cathy set off a firestorm with off-the-cuff comments about his religious beliefs on what constitutes a marriage. Although Cathy wasn’t speaking for Chick-Fil-A — it’s not as if he sent the cows out to burn down gay bars, or some such thing — his comments inevitably drew attention back to the fast-food chain and served as a convenient focus for everyone’s opinion on the matter, for or against. In the end, the controversy may have influenced the company to stop donating to conservative Christian causes that also fund anti-gay initiatives, if recent reports are any indication.
So it’s better not to have an opinion on the matter? Not necessarily.
Outgoing Clayton schools superintendent Edmond Heatley apparently tried to sidestep the matter at his previous job in Chino Valley, Calif., where he deferred to the wishes of its school board and merely asked for the board’s guidance when it insisted on resolving to back Proposition 8, a ballot measure to essentially ban gay marriage.
Before we continue, first, a disclosure: I happen to like women. Some of my best friends are women. I really, really, really like women.
But having said that, I’m mystified as to anyone would want to go out of their way to ban gay marriage.
Understand that you don’t have to like the idea of marrying someone of the same gender to at least accept the idea that someone else might. Against gay marriage? If you’re a dude and don’t like dudes, don’t marry one. Problem solved.
At the same time, I take no issue with people whose religious beliefs tell them that same-sex marriage is wrong. I spent a great deal of time defending Chick-fil-A to many of my artist and writer friends, believe it or not, because I didn’t see Dan Cathy’s personal religious beliefs as relevant to the conducting of his business.
Religion is a funny business, and one man’s logic is another man’s insanity. I was raised Catholic, and we drink blood and eat bodies, right? Go figure.
I’ve never met Dan, but I have met his brother and fellow Chick-fil-A executive Bubba Cathy, and my guess is neither of them would ever do something personally unkind to someone they think may be gay, regardless of what their religion tells them about marriage. If you walked up to Bubba and made a point of telling him you were gay, I suspect he’d respond by saying, “Good for you! Can I sell you a chicken sandwich?”
Which is as it should be.
Still, the idea of enshrining one’s opinion about gay marriage into a constitution — to go out of your way to kick a whole group of people because their lifestyle makes you uncomfortable — is beyond stupid. It’s astoundingly ugly and mean-spirited. It accomplishes nothing, proves nothing, changes nothing.
Some people would agree with me on this point — and a lot of them live in Berkeley, Calif.
And that brings us back to the matter of Heatley. When a Berkeley news website uncovered a memo on Proposition 8 he had written to the Chino board — and initially misinterpreted it, I believe, as showing that Heatley was against gay marriage — the Berkeley community went up in arms.
Berkeley, of course, is near San Francisco and home of the University of California in Berkeley. It’s one of the most liberal spots in the entire country. This is a place where MSNBC rules and Fox News drools — and where affluent and well-educated folk live their “alternative lifestyles” with pride and decency.
When the Chino board decided to back Proposition 8, Heatley — wisely, I think — dropped back and punted. Dealing with the strong personalities inevitably drawn to run a school board is work enough. You choose your battles. And when the board president told everyone they ought to back a ballot measure that may never even become law (and in point of fact, this one is still tied up in the courts), Heatley probably understood this was a battle not worth fighting. He deferred. Smart move.
Most people would agree. Except in Berkeley. Ouch.
Once it became obvious that the locals would only continue to bat him about like a human piñata if he stuck around, Heatley made another smart move: He withdrew his candidacy. This stops the controversy and leaves Heatley relatively unsullied for future possible jobs elsewhere. After all, what he did — deferring to the board on a political matter — would be seen as wisdom by just about any other community that didn’t have such a strong opinion on gay marriage.
Will that next job be back in Clayton County? I suspect not — he’s not terribly popular here, either, although for entirely different reasons — but only our school board knows for sure. We’ll be watching.
Jim Massara covers education for Clayton News Daily. He’s been known to draw cartoons on occasion, too.