March 16, 2009

Some Things Just Can't Be Compromised

That's the gist of this post by Jenna Lowenstein on 365gay:

We live in a country founded on the tenet that all men are equal. Period. If we decide that we should push for civil unions, if we decide that’s the responsible battle to fight because it might be easier or faster or might not ruffle as many feathers, than we need to be willing to decide that we’re ok with compromising that founding ideal.

I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly not there yet.

The idea that there is a trade-off for any rights movement– between principle and compromise, revolution and assimilation, absolutism or gradualism, belief and strategy– is what forces this debate, but I think the answer is easy.

During the debate on ENDA last summer, Congressman Rush Holt gave a floor speech in which he quoted Congressman John Lewis quoting Martin Luther King:

“Mr. Speaker, our distinguished colleague John Lewis often reminds us of the words of Dr. King, “The time is always right to do the right thing.” Dr. King warned us against the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. I am concerned that when we break apart legislation, some pieces fall on the floor to get swept into the dustbin of history or to be considered only years later. We should not do this to members of our society who need and deserve the same protections as all other Americans.”

I think Holt’s and Lewis’ and King’s point is spot on. We can compromise on taxes and on infrastructure funding and on health care costs. But we cannot– we must not– sell out the fundamental right to equality.

Emma Ruby-Sachs takes a more pragmatic approach in this essay, also on 365gay:

In the debate about gay marriage, a lot of attention is paid to civil unions vs. marriage and, while I agree with Jenna that creating inequalities in law – even if the two terms fundamentally stand for the same thing – creates untenable violations of the rights of LGBT people, I am a pragmatist at heart.

What this history tells us is that these little battles that have been playing out in states across the country are important. And the battles we fight everyday to have employers recognize our relationships without a government mandate are also essential.

But no government, not even Obama, will leap into equality without being forced to do so. And while I believe in activism by the courts, maybe we all have to settle for a piecemeal struggle for the rights in the marriage basket. That is what the new DOMA challenge is about.
I am infuriated by calls for separate but equal and am frustrated by the inaction of the current administration. But that part of me that understands politics and history recognizes that rights may have to be won one by one before real equality can be achieved.

Should our society settle for gathering up crumbs a little at a time to eventually have enough to make a cake, or should their be a principled, uncomromising push for the entire cake of full equality.

We all need to look at what is in our hearts and answer one simple question--what is the right thing to do--and proceed accordingly.

In my heart, compromise is NOT the right thing to do.


  1. Don't look at it as a compromise. Look at it as progress. If you make it negative, it'll be negative. But as we see it, we have NOTHING in most states. I wanna get married to my love just as much as the rest of you, but I could use some of the benefits in my life a lot more than not.

    I guess you'd rather not see marriage for another 10-20 years eh? Well some of us aren't willing to wait that long. Progress is movement, and if the movement would rather sit idle and spin its tires in the mud of beauracracy and be willing to make concessions KNOWING that we all know it will all eventually lead to full equal marriage for all... then SO BE IT.

  2. Progress and full equality does not happen over night. African Americans were freed from slavery in the 1850's, but did not see Civil Rights legislation until over 100 years later. Sure full equal rights with Marriage is the ultimate goal, but let us not stop progress over a word.

  3. I think marriage, as a government institution, should be abolished for EVERYONE.

    Everyone who wants government sanctioned partner benefits should be required to get a Civil Union license.

    Leave marriage to churches, but even churches and their members must first procure a governmental Civil Union before they can request marriage... unless they don't want the government sanctioned partner benefits. In that case, they can simply be married, but not be considered a legally recognized couple by the government.

    This would add another separation of church and state.