Unintended consequences

After the 2003 Goodridge ruling in Massachusetts, certain self-designated “conservatives” had a brilliant political idea: Why not leverage the ignorance and fear of a populace not very well acquainted with the reality of LGBT people to win elections? We’ll scare them to the polls! We’ll tell them that if they don’t amend their state constitutions, all hell will break loose! Civilization as we know it will be destroyed! And people credulous enough to fall for that idea will also vote for our candidates!

It worked, sort of, in some places. (The particular confluence of events didn’t turn out well for them in Virginia; propaganda by Marshall-Newman proponents in predominantly African American churches resulted in defeat for George “Macaca” Allen, when assuring victory in that race was the original reason the amendment was created in the first place.)

Now there is social science that shows the short-sighted strategy has backfired, as many of us said it would at the time. The stunningly rapid shift in public opinion on marriage equality didn’t just happen on its own. It is the direct result of the conversations made unavoidable by the various amendment campaigns.

Now comes a University of Kansas political scientist — working in the hotbed of opposition seven years ago to the amendment — who believes national advocacy since the 1990s for state laws and constitutional amendments against same-sex unions to have fostered public empathy for gay and lesbian partners and their families.

“If it hadn’t been for states pushing to ban same-sex marriages, people might not have been exposed to personal, often very tragic, stories of difficulties that gay couples experience without benefit of marriage,” said Don Haider-Markel. “It’s an ironic outcome.”

Indeed it is – here are the most recent polling results from California, for example:

And for the pre-modern ideologues, it was never really about marriage anyway (as the Marshall of Marshall-Newman allowed to slip out). It was about trying to make us disappear. From a post published shortly before Election Day, 2006 in Virginia:

“We’ll kick you back under your rocks.”

So says an amendment supporter who has misplaced his copy of the approved talking points. What he was supposed to say is “none of us wishes to see the gay community returned ‘to the closet.'” Bullshit.

If you want to destroy a people, you keep them from having a family. –Candy Cox, NGLTF, soon to be former Virginia resident

One of the most important aspects of marriage is the social recognition of the partnership, the expectation that these two people will take care of each other no matter what, the understanding that they have loyalty to each other above everything else. That function is only possible with the public declaration of that partnership – to stand before family and community and the universe and have them all witness and give blessing to that commitment.

Gay couples have that. Not from everyone, certainly, but from a significant segment of society and within our own strong communities. It’s not something that has to be authorized by any governmental body, and it’s an incredibly powerful affirmation of reality: This is who I am, and this is my family.

Therefore, it appalls and terrifies the anti-gay crowd. The claim that they don’t intend, with this amendment, to force us back into the closet, is a lie. They very much want to discourage the open declarations of loving commitment between same sex couples, the “intent to approximate” marriage.

Opposition to marriage equality is dropping like a stone, and it’s because people can see us. The anti-gay crowd needs for people not to see us. It’s not that hard to understand, from their perspective, but it’s hard for them to be honest about.

For us, the knowledge that this fundamental truth will not be changed by either a positive or negative outcome on November 7th, is tremendously powerful. That knowledge will be powerful if the amendment passes, but we can and should use it to bring about a different outcome.

Use your power. Tell your story.

The amendments may have passed, but their objective has failed miserably. There are (or will be, assuming a pace similar to previous years) a record number of LGBT candidates endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory fund in 2012 races. Maryland has just become the eighth state to approve marriage equality. (Congratulations, Maryland!) And for those who call themselves conservatives – especially younger ones – the marriage equality issue is now a dud. A straw poll taken at last month’s CPAC gathering revealed that “stopping gay marriage” [sic] is the priority of only 1% of the attendees.

So why are these sad characters still fighting an increasingly losing battle? We could see that they were on the wrong side of history even when the majority still agreed with them, but surely now even they can see it.

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5 Responses to Unintended consequences

  1. David says:

    I forgot to include the example of Louis Martinelli, who personifies the unintended consequence of anti-marriage advocacy. Martinelli was the organizer of the National Organization for Marriage 2010 bus tour, during which pro-equality counterprotesters often vastly outnumbered the anti-gay audiences:

    It was on that bus tour that I actually met the people whose rights I had spent so many years trying to take away for the first time. In doing so, I came to see that everyone was deserving of the freedom and dignity to marry the person they love. A Change of Heart is the story of that bus tour and the events and circumstances that changed me from an opponent to advocate for full civil marriage equality.

    Martinelli has now written a book about his experience, “Change of Heart: How Working for the National Organization for Marriage Led Me to Support Marriage Equality.”

  2. Jonathan says:

    The uglies are still fighting.

  3. David says:

    Oh my. That is a pretty funny article. Can we assume that they have formed a unique understanding of the terms “research” and “measure”? And if they understand that the stuff they basically invented about marriage and abortion isn’t as “captivating” as content that is actually in the Bible, why don’t they prayerfully consider focusing on matters that are in fact biblical? Like finding ways to show love for other people? Maybe they could try being the church rather than a political organization.

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