Marriage equality: Losing forward

Even if every antigay statewide ballot initiative wins approval on Election Day, argues the country’s leading same-sex marriage activist, the discussion surrounding them will have moved us closer to equality in the long run. After all, we have the truth on our side.

BY Advocate.com Editors

October 27 2004 11:00 PM ET

Generational momentumLesson number 4: Remember, we have a secret weapon: death.Or to put it more positively, we on the side of justice have generational momentum. Younger people overwhelmingly support ending this discrimination.Americans are seeing more and more families like the Cheneys and realizing, with increasing comfort, that we are part of the American family. The power of the marriage debate moves the center toward us, and as young people come into ascendancy, even the voting will change.This is our opponents’ last-ditch chance to pile up as many barricades as possible, but again, as long as we build that critical mass for equality and move the middle, we win.The stakesWhy is it so important that we now all redouble our outreach, our voices, our conversations in the vocabulary of marriage equality?

  • In part, because victory is within reach
  • In part, because we can and must move that
    middle now to make room for that generational
    momentum and rise to fairness
  • In part, because America is listening and
    allies are increasing
  • In part, because this is our moment of greatest
    peril
  • And, in part, because the stakes are so great.

What is at stake in this civil rights and human rights moment?If this struggle for same-sex couples’ freedom to marry were “just” about gay people, it would be important—for gay men and lesbians, like bisexuals, transgendered people, and our nongay brothers and sisters—are human beings, who share the aspirations for love, companionship, participation, equality, mutual caring and responsibility, protections for loved ones, and choice.Yes, if this struggle were “just” about gay people, it would be important, but it is not “just” about gay people.If this struggle were “just” about marriage, it would be important, for marriage is the gateway to a vast and otherwise largely inaccessible array of tangible and intangible protections and responsibilities, the vocabulary in which nongay people talk about love, clarity, security, respect, family, intimacy, dedication, self-sacrifice, and equality. And the debate over marriage is the engine of other advances and the inescapable context in which we will be addressing all LGBT needs, the inescapable context in which we will be claiming our birthright of equality and enlarging possibilities for ourselves and others.Yes, if this struggle were “just” about marriage, it would be important, but it is not “just” about marriage.What is at stake in this struggle is what kind of country we are going to be.

  • Is America indeed to be a nation where we all,
    minorities as well as majorities, popular as
    well as unpopular, get to make important choices
    in our lives, not the government, or a land of liberty
    and justice only for some?
  • Is America indeed to be a nation that respects
    the separation of church and state, where
    government does not take sides on religious
    differences, but rather respects religious freedom while
    assuring equality under the law, or a land
    governed by one religious ideology imposed on
    all?
  • Is America to be a nation where two women who
    build a life together, maybe raise kids or tend
    to elderly parents, pay taxes, contribute to the
    community, care for one another, and even fight over who
    takes out the garbage are free and equal, or a
    land where they can be told by their government
    that they are somehow lesser or incomplete or not
    whole because they do not have a man in their lives?

All of us, gay and nongay, who share the vision of America as a nation that believes that all people have the right to be both different and equal, and that without real and sufficient justification, government may not compel people to give up their difference in order to be treated equally—all of us committed to holding America to that promise have a stake in this civil rights/human rights struggle for the freedom to marry.And if we see every state, every methodology, every battle, every victory, and even every defeat as part of a campaign—and if we continue to enlist nongay allies and voices in this campaign, transforming it into a truly organic movement for equality in the grand American tradition,

  • we will move the middle,
  • we will lose forward where necessary,
  • we will empower the supportive,
  • and we will win.

We are winning.There is no marriage without engagement.

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