Why we should not just wait to go back to the ballot, but get out of the marriage fight altogether
In Maine, we have lost another heartbreaking ballot initiative and we will soon hear the “re-activists” from countless marriage equality organizations saying they are out to “change hearts and minds.” They want your money and support to repeal Prop 8 in 2010. What they are really doing is cultivating “marriage madness,” and now is the time for it to stop. In fact, not only should we not go back to the ballot in 2010, but the LGBT community should get out of the marriage fight completely.
Our focus should be on earning equality rather than a title for our relationships.
Almost daily, you can find a blog, Facebook notice, or editorial comment where these re-activists spout out their anger and zeal; and with yesterday’s loss in Maine, expect them to ramp up their rhetoric even more. Delusional but well-intentioned, they claim to have enough “grassroots support” to win, which is another way of saying “we have no money and no experience, but we know a lot of really passionate people.”
They are actually “coffee-cup organizations” of pissed-off nobodies who met at a Starbucks and gave themselves a cute name, all in reaction to Prop 8.
Let’s rewind a bit and take a breath.
Why are we so enamored with becoming a part of such a miserable societal failure in the first place? The National Center for Health Statistics reports 60% of marriages for couples between the ages of 20 and 25 end in divorce. (When the bride is over 25, the rate drops to 50 percent.) What entrances us so about the opportunity to participate in a religious tradition that only boasts a 40 percent success rate? Your relationship exists regardless of what you name it. You get to define it, not the government and not the electorate. When it comes to marriage, let the religious right have it.
Need something a little more pragmatic? Fine. The marriage fight is a fundraising one, and these re-activists are going to embarrass our entire community again. We spent close to $40 million fighting the passage of Prop 8. The economy has not improved and fundraising is going to be even more difficult now. The annual budgets of organizations who oppose us crush ours by hundreds of millions of dollars, so we already begin any political race crippled. Furthermore, zero major donors have promised anything for Prop 8, Part II. I don’t care how impassioned you are, without the certainty of millions of dollars on the way, you are going to lose – period.
Both sides (those who support a 2010 initiative and those who support a 2012 one) could use a healthy dose of “wake-the-hell-up” here. At the end of the day, as long as we have the same rights (like not being forced to testify against our partners in court, equal inheritance rights, and hospital visitation rights); and we pay the same taxes as our married straight friends, the difference between a marriage and a civil union is much smaller than the anguish of another $40-million losing campaign.
Voters from every coast are demonstrating a willingness to choose equal rights under any other name than “marriage.” We won by exactly opposite margins in Washington last night when the issue was one of domestic partnership. It’s time to shut our mouths, stop the phone banks, and start hearing that message coming from the hearts we say we are trying to change.
It should be clear by now that across the country, we must let go of our obsessive and hopeless attachment to winning these ridiculous state-by-state ballot initiatives. Instead, we should pool our resources, and work to pass the Respect for Marriage Act introduced in Congress in September. This alone will start a trend to true nationwide relationship equality, and stop the marriage madness.
Arlon Jay Staggs received his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Mississippi College in 2000 and practiced law in San Diego for as long as he could stand it. Even though Arlon is pretty much always spot-on (we’d guess about 98.6% of the time), the views expressed in his column are not necessarily the views of SDGLN.com, the Baby Jesus, or God. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org