Outside Lockport, Louisiana—As you've probably heard, a federal court in California just overturned the state's ban on gay marriage. It's a pretty big win for progressives and human decency (read MoJo's Celia Perry's personal take here), but how is the news being received in the more conservative parts of the country? I spent an hour today outside a grocery store in Lockport, an hour southwest of New Orleans on Bayou Lafourche, talking to everyone who came in and out to get their take on Prop 8 and gay marriage: Do they know any gay people? How do they feel about gay marriage? Is it really the government's role to ban marriage?
"They need to make up their minds and leave people to live their lives," says Darlene Verdin of Lockport. "If it's alright with your religion and everything—this is America! Leave 'em alone. It's not something I would choose, but it's a choice."
Darlene's is a common refrain. "I think if gay people want to get married, they should get married," says Sandra Moore of Lockport. "The world's changed a lot, and I think you should change with the world. I've had a gay friend since I was in high school. I have nothing against gay people. They're normal people like anyone." And here's Kissie Landry of nearby Gaines: "I guess it should be allowed. It doesn't really matter to me. People can do what they wanna do."
Gary Benoit of Lockport (he's moving to Thibodaux, though) pays the bills by capturing live reptiles and amphibians—snakes, alligators, you name it—and sells them to zoos and pet stores. "It's not as exotic as it sounds," he says. "I don't think the government should be involved," he says of gay marriage. He knows a few gay people, a lesbian couple—"and they're extremely dysfunctional. This pair is very dysfunctional." But then again, he notes, aren't a lot of couples? "I've stayed pretty open-minded."
Only one man I speak with, in a "United We Stand" t-shirt and a "Speak the Language" straw hat (the language in question is Cajun French, I think), seems adamantly opposed, but even then there's some nuance. I ask him if he's been following the case, and he says "No, I ain't been paying to attention anything." His friend Earl seconds this: "He doesn't even know if he's alive or dead!" "I'm just like you, Earl. Just like you." Here's how he explains his position: "I just can't see that. There are too many women on the street, bro! Any man can get a woman; it ain't that hard."
Clearly, he's never listened to any country music. But does he know any gays? "My brother-in-law is gay." So do you think he should be able to get married? "I don't care what he does. Like I said, I don't deal with him, he don't deal with me, man. Alright, I gotta go now."
And so he does. He's the exception, though, although nearly everyone else I talk to seems to think they're nonetheless in the minority ("There are a lot of old-timers here," as one woman, herself something of an old-timer, explains to me). Either way, it's encouraging to drop into a rural, conservative town on the bayou and find a tacit endorsement of San Francisco values.