Why matchbox twenty's Rob Thomas is my new hero
I have a confession to make: I love Rob Thomas.
There are many reasons: he's an extremely talented songwriter and singer and he's a very nice guy who loves his wife and is kind to animals, but the reason du jour is this: The matchbox twenty lead singer wrote a blog on Huffington Post about the California Supreme Court's decision on Tuesday to uphold the legality of Prop 8, which bans same sex marriages.
The opening line is classic: "I am a straight man, with a big gay chip on my shoulder." Thomas goes on to very eloquently, intelligently and thoughtfully discuss the flak he caught after he tweeted that he felt two people of the same sex should be able to marry. That surprised him so he felt the need to explain his case further, as he does in the Huff Post piece. He lays out, point by point, his beliefs and how he comes to the conclusion that to deny people of the same sex the right to marry is simply unamerican. I love him for the fact that when he's taking on the religious right, he brings up a point that very few people seem to know when discussing the separation of church and state: that "One nation under God" was not even added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954-almost 200 years after this country was founded on the premise of freedom of religion and equality for all.
Thomas writes further: "I believe that to deny this [marriage] right to the gay population is to say to them, 'this god is not your god and he doesn't love you.'There isn't one person who is against gay marriage that can give me a reason why it shouldn't be legal without bringing God or their religion into it. Still, I'm amazed at the audacity of a small, misdirected group of the ultra-conservative Christian right wing, to spend millions of dollars, in a recession, on advertisements to stop two men or women who love each other from being able to be married, but when you present any opposition to them, they accuse you of attacking their religion. Isn't it funny that the people who are the quickest to take someone's basic rights to happiness are always the loudest to scream when someone attacks their right to do so?
"But this isn't a paper about religion. How could it be? Since we clearly have a separation of church and state, how could a conversation about laws have anything to do with religion at all? I'm writing about basic civil rights. We've been here before, fighting for the rights of African Americans or women to vote, or the rights of Jewish Americans to worship as they see fit. And, just as whites fought for African Americans or Christians for Jewish Americans, straight people must stand up and be a voice for gay people."
In that last sentence, he states the heart of the matter: You can't only support the issues that directly affect your life because what it ultimately comes down to is that any time any one's freedoms are eclipsed, everyone's rights are in danger. There will always be someone who is threatened by "the other": i.e., someone who is not the same as them. And yet they don't seem to intuitively understand that one day, someone else who has the power will see them as "the other" and will come for their freedoms.
As strange as it sounds, it took Thomas a lot of courage to write what he did. The same people that originally criticized him for his Tweet (to further explain, he tweeted if there were a devil, it just might be Pat Robertson) will certainly vilify him for this post. Matchbox twenty by its unedgy, unhip nature is a very popular-- and populist -band with lots and lots of fans in red states, some of whom will undoubtedly strongly disagree with Thomas's piece-which is their right. Yet, to his credit, he never qualifies his opinion (other than in one line when he says, "The support of legalizing gay marriage is in no way meant to change the ideals of the section of Christians who believe that homosexuality is a sin.") But he's right to say that-he's granting people the right to their own beliefs-even to those who would seek to deny the rights of others to their beliefs.
Thomas has a new solo album coming out on June 30 and it took guts to write a piece this close to the promotion cycle for the project. Now, he'll have to answer questions about his blog post over and over instead of getting to talk about his new album. And here's the thing: he'll do it happily. I've known Thomas for more than 12 years. I covered matchbox twenty and Thomas as a solo act while I was at Billboard. We got to know each other fairly well (so much so that his label hired me to write the bio for his upcoming solo album). He is a straight shooter with a wicked sense of humor about the world and himself. He's tremendously respectful of other people and their opinions and yet he does not shy away from stating his own beliefs even when it could come at a cost to his career.
His Huff Post piece will also give the far right reason to dredge back up the hilarious rumors from 2005 that he and Tom Cruise had an affair. In a way that only a man very secure in his sexuality could joke, he commented that Brad Pitt was much more his type. Thomas talked to a Time Out New York reporter about the rumor last year and noted how flattered he was: "I mean, come on, it's Tom Cruise! He's top gun. It could have been me and Screech or me and some guy from The Hills, but it was me and a top movie star. That means I'm big."
And, as his Tuesday blog reveals, that he also has a big heart.