Air asked a fair question on a previous post, and I want to take a shot at addressing it.
What sort of equality are looking for us to push for? Because it seems that HRC, the organization that you imply we should be pushing, wants a particular kind of equality: “To me, the work of moving the American people toward marriage equality is about moving people toward a greater understanding and respect of same-sex relationships.”
Same-sex relationships rather than same-sex sexual activity, same-sex desire, or same-sex identity (as examples). I, to be honest, am wary about using any current organization whether it be the Democratic Party or HRC to push for “equality,” because I don’t think that the type of equality they want will effectively change anything substantial. In particular, the disruption of “the normal” as a positive value. Right now, that realm is represented by monogamous coupling. If we achieve that, something will take its place.
Like I said, it’s a fair question because marriage equality isn’t a priority for everyone or even for every LGBT community. For people in areas where marriage equality is unlikely, anytime soon employment discrimination might be a more pressing issue. And for people who have no desire to pursue marriage or other legal recognition, there’s a host of other issues that want addressing, up to an including as esoteric a goal as “the disruption of the normal.”
So, why marriage? And what about other issues?
Well, the “why marriage?” part is fairly easy to answer. It started over 10 years ago, when several same-sex couples around the country (Hawaii was the most high profile case) sued for the right to marry and get the rights and protections afforded that status. The major gay organizations wanted no part of it at the time, with the exception of LAMBDA Legal, where the leadership seemed to recognize that the fight was unavoidable and that it was something many in the community were passionate about wanting.
On the other issues, according to the same Chicago Tribune article, HRC is “quietly addressing” those issues along with other organizations. But, you’re right. They’re probably doing so as a means of advancing some kind of social/legal recognition of same-sex relationships that’s similar to the social status and rewards granted monogamous heterosexual coupling. I think I understand what you mean by “disruption of the normal,” but I don’t know what an effective model to achieve it —socially, legally, or legislatively — would look like.
One approach I’ve heard suggested pretty often is getting the government out of the marriage business, or the business of legally recognizing any relationships, altogether.
As I see it, the root of the family crisis is that all day long, people work in corporations that teach them that their own worth is dependent on their ability to contribute to a bottom line of maximizing money and power, looking at others in terms of how they can be of use for our own needs. It is this corrosive way of seeing one another that undermines loving families.
That’s why the Network of Spiritual Progressives, a group I helped to establish, aims to counter the me-firstism that has increasingly become the yardstick of common sense in societies like ours. We think it’s time for a new bottom line: Let institutions and social programs be judged efficient and rational to the extent that they help develop our capacities to be kind and generous and treat others as embodiments of the sacred.
… Let people be wed in the private realm with no official legal sanction. Then, religious communities that oppose gay marriage will not sanction them, and those like mine that sanction the practice will conduct it. Rather than issuing marriage certificates or divorces, the state would simply enforce civil unions as contracts between consenting adults and enforce laws imposing obligations on people who bring children into the world.
There’s a lot to be said for this strategy. I’ve considered it myself. But there’s one problem with it. It’s unrealistic for the simple reason that it means asking the majority of people to give up something they already have, which I think is a lot harder than convincing people to expand access to those rights and protections.
The proposal of tearing down marriage as an institution and replacing it with civil unions for all is likely to incite stronger opposition from the heterosexual majority because it’s actually taking something away from them that they currently have. How is that supposed to be a winning strategy? Think about it. Many people today are married by a justice of the peace not in a church. They are married. Eliminate marriage and replace it with civil union, and what are they now? Civil unioned? You’ve just pulled the legitimacy of their union right out from under them. This proposal is dead on arrival. The right would go ballistic and most liberals would honestly prefer to have the marriage umbrella extended to include gays, so it’s a compromise that all are equally sure to hate.
Of course, it’s also likely that I’m not quite understanding the type of equality the commenter is advocating. I have to admit that in this debate I’m guilty of thinking primarily about the rights and protections marriage equality would afford my family. And my relationship sticks pretty close to the marriage model, right down to the rings and the vows. I’m probably not the only marriage equality advocate who thinks this way. So, I probably need some help with shifting my thinking beyond the context of marriage in this debate.
However, it occurred to me while I was at YearlyKos that another way to talk about the marriage issue (without specifically talking about marriage) would be to address all of the issues that fall under that heading because they pretty much run the gamut of issues. Our community is part of every aspect of American life and is affected by all of it, from economics (let’s talk Social Security) to defense (let’s talk Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) to jobs (let’s talk job discrimination) to healthcare (let’s talk about everything from HIV/AIDS to transgender issues), etc., etc.
Breaking those issues out from the marriage issue might also open up the possibility of discussing them beyond the context of a marriage relationship or the model of monogamous coupling. At least it would be a place to start. Or, rather, it’s the best I can come up with. I’m open to other suggestions, but in order to get my brain around it I need a concrete example of what we’re trying to achieve.