WHEN GAYNESS WASN’T
No legal expert that I know, this “out-lawyer”* included, was at all surprised by the California Supreme Court’s decision yesterday upholding the decisive ballot box rejection of the court’s earlier attempt to decree gay marriage into being here in the Golden State.
Gay and Lesbian Activists in California ask:
This is the Answer
The law is the law.
I tend to agree with the views of the San Francisco Chronicle’s conservative columnist, Debra Saunders, who had earlier disclosed that she personally favored gay marriage but thought that the campaign for it was doomed from the outset – not because of anti-gay bigotry – but because gay activists botched their case to the voters. Here’s a link to her latest column in today’s Chronicle at http://www.sfgate.com/columnists/saunders/ .
As California Chief Justice George pointed out in yesterday’s opinion, the California legislature has recently afforded gay and lesbian couples all of the functional incidents of ‘couple-equality’ that are within the power of state government to afford. What remains is the title, legally married, with all its symbolic validation. As I’ve previously pointed out, the California dispute boils down a brand name appropriation issue in which the long-standing brand ‘owners’ are so far unwilling to share.
Why did the campaign fail in the last election? There are three main reasons:
(1) Mr. Obama’s black supporters, who came out in droves for this once-in-a-lifetime election, were much more socially conservative than California’s white democrats and republicans; they voted down Proposition Eight by almost three to one.
(2) Social change of this magnitude, the reversal of a well embedded several thousand-year-old tradition, comes much more slowly than gay advocates expected.
(3) The pro-gay marriage campaign was very badly managed. I detail my take on that below, offering some suggestions for the next attempt.
Most of us city-dwelling straights have gay and lesbian relatives, acquaintances, colleagues, friends, neighbors. We and know from day-in, day-out personal observation and experience that our homosexual brothers and sisters are every bit as decent, human and worthy as the rest of us. The first huge mistake in the failed campaign was the underlying tone that its opponents were driven by bigotry. That is not the social reality in which the overwhelming majority of California’s voters live.
The second mistake was the Pro-8 Campaign’s misguided attempt to echo the riotous campaigns for black education, employment and ballot-box equality. Any pro-gay campaign, based on overstated parallels with the civil right’s struggles of the 60’s, was bound to be rejected. Why? The two situations are not sufficiently comparable. The campaign’s implication that the circumstances of closeted gay males and lesbians, otherwise high-functioning, not-brutally-oppressed members of the social order, were essentially equivalent to the trial of the descendants of oppressed and physically brutalized slaves who had no closets at all was unintentional self-parody. The despicable Matthew Shepard murder of 1998 stands out for its exceptionalism when compared with the stark images of thousands of terrorized black families. When the voting public thinks of “gay rights” they tend not to think of the cross burnings, lynchings and fire hoses.
All too often, the underlying tone of the “gay-rights” movement has been one of social narcissism. To allow that tone to creep into the Pro 8 Campaign was politically toxic. Going forward, the emphasis needs to be on gay acceptance and gay contribution instead.
Here are my suggestions for the long haul.
Recognize that it is a long haul.
Don’t repeat the mistakes that doomed the 2008 effort.
Don’t ignore the political diversity within the gay/lesbian subpopulation.*
* Transcend your stereotypes, please. Dick Cheney actually supports local pro-gay marriage option on a state-by-state basis. That an arch-conservative can be tolerant of homosexuality should not be a surprise, Mr. Cheney’s lesbian daughter notwithstanding. There are large number of pro-law & order, pro-military lesbians, a very large set of fiscal conservatives among gay males, and a huge sub-contingent of libertarians among all homosexuals, male and female.
Reframe the entire effort as outlined below:
Focus on Family
The gay marriage issue should be about monogamy and family affirmation. If some gay advocates have a radically different agenda, you can put them in the closet for the duration of the campaign. And note: The campaign is really a long haul because, if you are serious, it must be about affirming universal values, changing attitudes, hearts and minds.
You can’t just ramp up that sort of undertaking a year before an election and expect to affect more than turnout. What needs to be changed is the basic human understanding.
In other words, the gay agenda will always be a boutique issue set-until it breaks out of its cultural narcissism to become a powerful pan-human issue. To paraphrase, JFK:
“Ask not what the country can do for gays ask what the gays can do for the country.”
This is the ‘give us the tools and we will help’ set of arguments. The American family is in trouble. The single most powerful pro-gay image is that of an intact gay family with children, which in the case of gay/lesbian families means adopted children.
That image needs to be the poster child, if you will, of any pro-gay marriage movement. The underlying goal needs to be authentic and heartfelt and it must transcend the merely gay concerns. The core concern of a successful gay marriage movement should be the promotion of family stability and health.
Once the gay movement becomes authentically and existentially pro-family, nothing can stop it.