November 24, 2009

Is a New Marriage Strategy Needed?

LGBT leaders are still disecting the most recent loss for marriage equality at the ballot box in Maine. Long-time activist Leland Traiman shares his belief for a new strategy in Bay Area Reporter. Here's an excerpt:

Same-sex marriage has never won an election. Maine was our 33rd loss. On the other hand, domestic partnership has never, on its own, lost an election. Washington state continued that winning streak, barely. The attempt to repeal comprehensive domestic partnerships was too close for liberal Washington State, 47 percent. This means trouble for us. Our enemies, undoubtedly, are already planning domestic partnership repeals in more conservative areas. Even in California, instead of fighting for the rites of marriage, we may be forced to defend the rights of marriage we have already won through domestic partnerships. (California law says that all laws, regulations, and court decisions that apply to spouses in a marriage equally applies to registered domestic partners.) Even if California's domestic partnership law is not in jeopardy, certainly other states with domestic partnerships or other forms of recognition are at risk.

Our original long term strategy for achieving marital rights was to create a parallel and legally equal category, domestic partnerships. Eventually people would say, "It is stupid having two categories doing the same thing. Let's combine them." No tears, just a housekeeping measure. Much less flashy than the current marriage-only strategy but it was working. More important, comparing the trajectory domestic partnerships was on when the strategy was halted with the continuous defeats and heartache the marriage-only strategy has given us, it is clear that the domestic partnership strategy would have brought us to one, unified category of marital rights for both heterosexuals and LGBT folk much, much sooner. Unfortunately, like the previous presidential administration, which left the country in a mess, our current marriage-only strategy has left our community in an electoral mess. Our community's unquestioning devotion to the marriage-only strategy, which is only a strategy, not a cause or an ideal, has given our enemies the opportunity to undo our progress. Our enemies attacked Washington's domestic partnership law as if it was marriage, which it is not, but it almost worked. We must have a new strategy.

All civil rights struggles have had a series of steps and compromises along the way. Our struggle is no different. But, what if I am wrong and separate is not equal? What if comprehensive domestic partnerships are only "almost" equal? At this point in time, I would still love to be "almost" equal because, as of today, we are nowhere near equal! Let us get to equality (or almost equality) first. Once we have achieved that, we can start to worry about possible inequalities. We may not find any. Until then, it is just academic ruminations. (Commissions in New Jersey and Vermont "proving" that civil unions were not equal to marriage were cleverly stacked with marriage-only advocates whose conclusions had been decided upon before each commission met.)

Click here to read the rest of Traiman's essay and let us know what you think.

No comments:

Post a Comment