December 23, 2009

Is the LGBT Community Becoming Complacent About Marriage Equality?

That's the thought put out there in an essay on Pam's House Blend, one that could undermine the whole equality movement.  Here's an excerpt:

Why is it that we don't do more to fight for marriage equality? We both have very strong feelings about the issue, but aside from the occasional rally (like the march on D.C. earlier this year) or writing an occasional check (to support the fight against Prop 8), we never take any action to support the cause. We rarely even make it a point to talk to our straight friends and family about the issue. We never tell them how important marriage equality is to us. Why don't we get out there and fight for our rights?

Through our discussion, we realized that we don't fight because, deep down, we don't feel it is necessary for us to do so. We feel a sense of inevitability, a sense that history is on our side. After all, polls consistently show a generational gap in the support of marriage equality. A recent New York Times poll showed that 57 percent of people under the age of 40 support marriage equality, while only 35 percent of people over that age support it. If we're patient, it seems, marriage equality will come. Public opinion will eventually be on our side. When our generation is in control, we will be granted equal rights. We can wait.

This view is pervasive in the gay community, especially among the younger generation. A Forbes Magazine article earlier this year by Bernard Whitman entitled "Marriage Equality is Inevitable" articulates the generational argument. He points to the generational divide regarding marriage equality as evidence that opposition, in both political parties, will begin to erode as younger - and progressively more accepting - generations come of age. He asserts: "Marriage equality is going to happen in this country. It's only a matter of time." Other gay rights leaders, such as Joe Solomonese, the President of the Human Rights Campaign, and David Mixner, a veteran gay rights activist, have also espoused this view.

While it's possible that this view is prescient, I believe that it is dangerous, and one of the greatest threats to the marriage equality movement. It is this sense of inevitability that is keeping individuals in the gay community from getting outraged and from taking action in their own lives to advance the cause. This movement needs more than activists. There are many well-organized LGBT organizations that are leading the battle for marriage equality in the legislatures and courts around the country. But, although necessary, those battles have never been sufficient to create a successful civil rights movement. The success of the marriage equality movement - like all past civil rights movements - depends on individuals. Think of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, or the Million Man March. It is the collective sum of individual action that eventually forces change in our laws. If the larger gay community passively waits to be granted equal rights, we should expect to wait well beyond this generation or the next.
Click here to read the rest of the essay.

1 comment:

  1. True! So True... ultimate success does depend on individuals!