It is true, that every vote that falls toward discrimination and exclusion of gays feels like a punch in the gut and serves as a clear reminder of where we sit in the cultural pecking order. I myself have crafted at least one pessimistic and overly dramatic post after New York failed to approve their marriage legislation. And who could blame us for being so pessimistic? Finding the negative in this situation is as easy as turning on the news. Especially when I read about our allies in marriage equality distancing themselves further from us with every ballot defeat. Fair weather Friends aren't really our friends anyway.
Even Maggie Gallagher has been crowing lately that marriage for gays is not inevitable....but hold on Mags....Just because you succeeded in pushing homophobia and intolerance in a few states, that does NOT mean the death nell for marriage equality. All it means is that the road is longer than we thought and the way ahead is not a straight line. We are the march of the tides...not the sudden rush of a flood.
Jay and I have had the misfortune of encountering push back on the topic of gay marriage first hand. The reasons for lack of support range from a disinterest in the institution of marriage itself, to the feeling that there are much more pressing issues to attend to..like an ENDA. So, I have been giving it some thought....is it fair to push ahead with marriage equality when so many people are having a hard time meeting everyday needs? Who's got marriage equality on their mind when they are struggling to find a new job and rebuild their decimated retirement fund, or pay off their maxed credit cards?
Unemployment is up, so is the cost of nearly everything we need to live on. Add to this the pressures of the holiday season and you have a prescription for a meltdown, emotionally and financially. In addition, we have had a hard time getting legislation passed that provides BASIC workplace protections for GLBT people...shouldn't we start there first? Is asking for support for marriage equality a bit like Marie Antoinette telling the citizens of France to eat cake?
In short...NO, I don't believe so.
An inclusive ENDA and a stable economy are both important goals but I don't think they are a good reason to put a push for marriage equality on the shelf. I think these goals occupy a kind of equall importance to us as a community. I don't think we should put any equality movement on the self. Once that flame is lit, once that freedom is tasted, you can never go back. The door once opened can be opened again...even if we have to jimmy it with our overextended VISA gold cards.
So why do we have to chose one?.....I know I am capable of holding more than one thought in my head at a time. How about you?...Just don't ask me to walk and chew gum at the same time...its could get ugly.
In California, we were afforded such an extraordinary opportunity...and we took it. I never thought I would see that day in my lifetime...maybe my children's, but certainly not mine. Should we not have fought for that? Were we to turn it down because the economy was bad? Were we to say, "No thank you, I'll pass up on a dream chance to get married because more than half my state doesn't support it or because they have other priorities"?.....Hell no!
I do not believe fighting for marriage equality is asking for special treatment in the face of others suffering. On the contrary, if this country was ever to grant GLBTQ people the full and equal status enjoyed by everyone else, they may just find that the country becomes a healthier place overall. Instead we waste tons of energy and money trying to keep people OUT rather than taking the simpler, common sense actions of inclusivity.
I don't think anyone should back off of fighting for marriage equality who cares about it. Nor should we blame recent setbacks on anything other than the fear tactics used by NOM, and the religious groups who backed them, using lies and fear tactics to activate latent homophobia, raising the specter of fear in otherwise decent people. I also believe that its time to stop believing that, "It can't happen to us". It can and it did. lets just learn that lesson and not repeat it.
While we may not be where we WANT to be in terms of gay rights legislation we are still ahead of where we were at the beginning of the year. DADT didn't have a ghost of a chance of repeal under Bush and here we are discussing the possibility of its repeal. ENDA didn't pass this year but perhaps we can do the "defense bill fandango" again next year and sneak that one in as well. We will go back to California and Maine and other states again and again until one day equality is reached there as well. As was reported by good as you
...."this is a year that we began with two marriage equality states, and are ending with (at least) five. "
Posted on Pams House Blend yesterday is a quote important to her that I felt perfectly sums up this entire conversation.
"[T]he job of the gay community is not to deal with extremists who would castigate us or put us on an island and drop an H-bomb on us. The fact of the matter is that there is a small percentage of people in America who understand the true nature of the homosexual community. There is another small percentage who will never understand us. Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That's our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment."
--Bayard Rustin; From Montgomery to Stonewall (1986)
As bad as things have looked in previous months, this kind of puts in in perspective and belies Maggie Gallagher's claims. No matter how long the road ahead may look, we are so much further down it now than we were a couple of years agov. I'll take that over the NOTHING we had before. So let Maggie Gallagher be the Hare to our tortoise...slow and steady wins the race.