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Bob Zellner on “Granddaddies and Same-Sex Marriage”

Bob Zellner, author of The Wrong Side of Murder CreekBob Zellner, civil rights activist and author of The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement, sent this missive:

I grew up in LA, lower Alabama. My Great- Granddaddy Zellner thought he could not do without slavery. Granddaddy Zellner thought he could not get along without segregation. My father’s generation thought they simply could not get along without opposite sex marriage.

I get along fine without slavery and I don’t have a personal need for segregation. As for marriage, I have tried it twice without success and hope I am done with it. For those who like it, I am happy for them to have at it any way they want it. Opposite sex, same sex, no sex, it is all the same for me.

Wait! Someone brought up bestiality. Was it Santorum? Man on dog? That might give me pause, especially if the man wants to marry his best friend. Well, it only gave me a pause, and a short one at that. If a woman wants to marry her dog and a man wants to marry his horse, who’s to say it is not the right thing for them? No skin off my teeth, no harm no foul. Right?

It reminds me of the time Chuck McDew and I visited my brother and his wife in a small town near Knoxville, Tenn. McDew, an African American born in Massillon, Ohio, was fascinated by the jobs being held down, clung to actually, by my young nephews and their wives, all white southerners, born and bred. It was in the time of the Bush vs. Gore presidential race. We were eating in a Chinese buffet near the airport surrounded by all these rural southerners so quite naturally Chuck asked whom everybody was voting for. Bush was their man, as one of my nephews proclaimed vigorously.

McDew allowed as how that did not seem right, given the bleak picture they painted of employment in Knoxville. Looking perplexed, he questioned, “Didn’t you say there no good paying jobs and you make hardly enough to pay for gas to and from work? You work at Jiffy Lube, minimum wage and you at Burger King, same wage, one wife at the dry cleaners and another at Wall Mart, and Grandma Ruth has to take care of the babies? Why on earth would you vote for Texan George Bush over Tennessean Gore?”

“Because,” my kinfolk fairly shouted in unison, “Bush is going to protect us from gay marriage!”

Chuck, completely flabbergasted by now, asked, “Do you know any gay people? Do you know any gay people who are getting married?” They all agreed that they didn’t know any gay people and didn’t know if any of them were getting married.

Later at the airport McDew said he used to worry about my poor white kinfolks and often hoped they would be able to do better. “Now,” he told me, “After what I heard today from your poor white nieces and nephews, I will never worry about poor white people again.”


Bob Zellner lives and teaches in New York state. His memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement is available in both hardcover and ebook formats from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.