I find it saddening that we're here in 2010 and people still find ways to attach importance to sexual preference. It should, in an ideal world, be no big deal...
Last summer, I took my kids to an outdoor mall. As we're walking up to a store I note a couple of teenage boys holding hands and laughing. I point them out to my kids to say "that wouldn't have happened when I was a teenager, how awesome!" and they looked at me like I was nuts. They didn't see anything but two people who enjoyed each others' company on a date to a mall. I was filled with pride and hope for the future of the country when they told me that... but this dissipated rapidly as they tell me stories of other kids in school who still throw racism, sexism, and homophobia around. Still, it's better than it was 20 years ago. Those kids would likely have been harassed at the least, maybe kicked out of the mall, and very likely assaulted by other kids.
The atheist movement can learn a lot from the GLBT movement and James Randi's example. We need to be OUT. We need to be very clear that we're here and growing in numbers. We need to let people know that the people in their neighborhoods are atheists - the lawyers, the construction workers, the bankers, the stay-at-home-moms and dads, the teachers, the police. The GLBT movement has been effective through their OUT campaign in removing much of the stigma of sexual preference and culture. Hopefully the atheist movement can do the same. Letting people know that they KNOW us will help. Taking the time to let people know that not only do we not sacrifice babies (mmm tasty.... NO WAIT) and that we are, in fact, moral and good people will have the same effect. We still might not be able to get an avowed atheist elected president anytime soon, but we can at least get started on that path.
So thank you, James Randi, for being an inspirational figure. I hope we all can learn from your example.