Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Marriage War: Strategy Considerations

My wife and I got married in San Francisco, CA, in February, 2004, when Mayor Gavin Newsome first gave gays and lesbians the option. So I've got a more than a little interest in this matter. I'm not now nor have I ever been writing about it from a neutral perspective.

Of course I think GLBT people should be able to marry. I've written fairly extensively about why. In my way, I penned a somewhat contrarian analysis of why the issue matters so much to Republicans and what else it brings into their gunsights, and took a sarcastic swing at Cathi Herrod, doyenne of the Arizona Gay Haters' resurrected anti-gay proposition, Prop 102. Recently, I took up strategy, too.

We will succeed. So long as we have a Constitution, states such as Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut are reliable bellwethers. But our strategies will determine how long we have to fight, and what additional costs we'll pay. Some thoughts:

(1) It's trendy now to blame African Americans for passing Prop 8. That's really not smart. In the first place, it may well be because of young, new, first-time African American voters that the margin wasn't greater than it was. Olberman made that point last night, showing the numbers.

In the second, didn't we learn anything from the Obama/Hillary dust-up in the South Carolina primary? The LAST thing we need, as progressives, is a split in the ranks. No matter how bitter the irony of Black opposition may be to a community over-represented in the Civil Rights movement, we need to be clear about defining the real enemy. Instead of singling out African Americans when Hispanics and others are equally complicit, and instead of denigrating the African Americans who voted for Prop 8 and its ugly cousins in states like AZ and AR, we must target the racist, sexist, and heterosexist fundamentalists and evangelicals who, after all, are the real foe. Remember: African Americans who voted for Prop 8 or Prop 102, or any other anti-gay measure, didn't do so because they're African Americans. They did so only because of hateful, lying anti-gay propaganda from Far Right Christianists like Howard Ahmandson, Jr. THAT's the source of the problem. Let's keep our eyes fixed on the correct target.

(3) The energy we save by not attacking African Americans can and should be used for outreach and education in all conservative communities, including African American, Hispanic, Native, Asian American, and Anglo. Follow Obama's example: Never cede territory to the foe.

(4) I think it's stupid to picket churches. Think about it: A picture speaks a thousand words, right? The negative PR image is louder than anything we can shout. It doesn't help us to hand message validation to Christianists on a silver platter! They're saying that we're un-churched, godless, and opposed to everything holy and good. And sure enough, there we are, lined up screaming outside a church. Duh.

(5) Instead, I support targeted boycotts. Mormon leaders made the LDS church an aggressively public party to this struggle. Let's let them know, in no uncertain terms, that while we support their right to vote, the LDS decision to intervene militantly, across state lines has consequences. They are free to use the power of their institution and their money to pursue their objectives. So are we.

But I don't get limiting the boycott to Utah and Mormons. After all, Baptists and Catholics and others have been there long before the Mormons decided to put their feet on our necks.

Any group, corporation, organization, municipality, or state that waves an anti-gay flag doesn't deserve and should not receive gay dollars. In this recession, that message can have a major effect.

And this is critical: Not only the churches that actively urge hate, but also those that choose safe silence in the face of clear injustice are complicit in our oppression. Let them all feel what it means when GLBT people, our families, and our friends withdraw our support.
This can be tricky when denominations take a pro-gay stand but local member congregations choose silence or opposition. Know who's who and what's what.

(6) Similarly, anyone who supports us, we should support strongly. We must make it our business to know that PepsiCo gave PFLAG a half-million dollar grant, and buy Pepsi. As long as Coors funds the Far Right, drink Pepsi.

(7) Words matter. Use them wisely and well. Instead of using terms that affirm the lie that Christianists mean us no harm and hope only to oppose "gay marriage," we should begin now to talk simply about marriage. Not gay marriage, not straight marriage. Just marriage. From our point of view, the goal is not "gay" marriage, whatever that might mean. Our goal is equality in marriage.

And let's not talk anymore about "anti-gay marriage." From the Far Right point of view, the "marriage" angle is just a cover. This is not anti-gay marriage. It's ANTI-GAY. Period. Make no mistake about that. Let's strip the facade and take away the sophistry. This movement is only and always about oppressing gay and lesbian people, never merely about who has access to marriage rites. Let's not contribute to the confusion, OK? Call it what it is: Anti-Gay.

(8) Instead of re-inventing the wheel, it seems to me that activists across the nation would be wise to study the tactics and strategies of Evan Wolfson, often called the father of the marriage movement. When there's an expert hanging around, why not utilize his experience and knowledge? And there are strongly successful state law models out there. Washington State's is one of them. Let's go with what works, stay focused, and stay on message.


Morning Angel said...

Excellent thoughts, Pico. Thank you.