Sorry Jon Stewart, The South Isn’t As Gay Tolerant As You Think

south-flagThe other night, ‘The Daily Show’ featured a rather silly video in which they sent a fake gay couple to Alabama and Mississippi in a skit about Nate Silver’s prediction that those two states would be the last to legalize gay marriage. While it was an amusing skit designed to get some laughs (and Nate Silver seemed to be in on the joke as well), we shouldn’t take this as proof that the residents of two of the most conservative states in the United States are going to sign off on marriage equality any time soon.

Go ahead, watch the video. In it, almost everyone seems to be either supportive or completely indifferent to the fact that the couple in front of them isn’t heterosexual. If you were to take it and/or the three paragraph “article” by The Huffington Post seriously, you’d come away with the idea that the South is surprisingly tolerant and just waiting to extend equality to all via the ballot box.

Let’s make one thing clear — indifference (grudgingly or otherwise) does not equal acceptance or support. There are many people here in Louisiana and throughout the country who think the whole LGBT thing is unnatural and even sinful, but they’ll mind their own business for the most part. There are others who aren’t open to taking a “Walk On The Wild Side” or having a gay pride flag flown on a city-owned flag pole, but they aren’t actively trying to shut down gay nightclubs or businesses, either.

Attitudes towards individuals they actually know or identify with (in this case, two stereotypical rednecks who just happen to be holding hands) are also different than their attitudes towards the LGBT demographic as a whole. If ‘The Daily Show’ had used a flamboyantly gay couple that looked like their wardrobe came from Banana Republic instead of last summer’s clearance aisle at Bass Pro Shops, I’d wager a guess that some of the responses (especially without a camera present) would have been quite a bit different.

As for the marriage proposal in a Waffle House, as someone who has worked in one and eats there on a regular basis, a gay marriage proposal ranks very low on the scale of unusual things to happen while you’re hungover and waiting for your order of hashbrowns scattered, covered, chunked with scrambled eggs and toast. No, we’re not all backasswards homophobic rednecks down here in the Deep South — there are some very open-minded and liberal people here. But let’s not pretend just one comedy clip proves indifference equals support, which translates to marriage equality propositions on the ballots in the near future.

Nate Silver is right, and without a landmark Supreme Court case or the ruling of a very brave judge, gay marriage will not be legal in Louisiana, Alabama or Mississippi any time soon.


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