How To Promote Gay Marriage (Not That I Support It)
One of the most watched elections this year was the vote deciding whether to pass Proposition 8, which would amend California’s constitution to explicitly ban gay marriage. California is one of the most liberal states in the country, and the debate over same-sex marriage is one of the most controversial social issues. The election was seen as a measure of public opposition to same-sex marriage.
The measure passed, which reassured social conservatives and angered and frustrated gay activists. Two groups were largely responsible for the passage of the amendment—Mormons, who flooded the state with anti-gay marriage ads, and blacks, who were out in force supporting Obama but opposing gay marriage.
Angry gay activists decided that the proper way to build support for gay marriage was to take their frustration out on both groups. Some California gays have announced plans to boycott Utah to protest the Mormon church’s opposition to gay marriage (although it’s hard to see exactly what they would boycott—Utah wasn’t exactly a gay mecca in the first place). Gays also took out their anger on blacks—according to some reports, gay protesters called black passerby (and some black fellow protesters) “n*ggers” and blamed them for the proposition’s passage.
(It should be noted that not all, in fact not even most, gay protesters acted in this disgraceful way. But many did, and fairly or not, they became the face of the post-Proposition 8 protests).
I don’t have a great deal of sympathy for those disappointed gay marriage advocates. A constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage may represent governmental overreach—but then, it was passed in order to prevent federal courts from subverting the will of the people from the bench. I don’t support the recognition of gay marriage, so the result (if not the means) of the California ban is in line with my ideology.
That being said, I do have a little sympathy for same-sex marriage activists. Considering that homosexuality (at least according to Roman Catholic teachings) is a relatively minor (though still mortal) sin, and that allowing gay marriage would affect such a tiny part of the population (possibly two percent, and even that’s a bit high), it’s hard to deny that homosexuals are a convenient scapegoat for the erosion of the institution of marriage over the past half century. (If you don’t think that our ideas of marriage have fundamentally altered over the latter part of the past century, consider that over half of U.S. marriages end in divorce, and over a third of U.S. children are born out of wedlock). Gay marriage would redefine marriage, and not for the better, but could hardly weaken it more than it is now.
Given that fact, I can find it within myself to feel rather sorry that the California gay community is handling their loss so badly. Granted, it must have been a real disappointment to gays—but there are at least three things gays could be doing more productive than protesting and boycotting.
1. Find What Went Wrong. The anti-Prop 8 campaign was well-funded, well organized, and media savvy. That wasn’t enough. Gay marriage advocates might want to find out why, instead of trying to threaten those who voted against it.
Anyhow, gays don’t have much influence with their targets—Mormons don’t really care to have gays buy from them anyway, and while hearing “n*gger” is undoubtedly hurtful to blacks (and offensive to whites), it does lose some of its menace factor when coming from a skinny hairdresser in tight jeans.
Anger may be understandable, but it’s counterproductive. I’ve read some screeds by angry gays responding to Prop 8. None have made me feel a bit sympathetic. In fact, after reading 600 words about how anyone who opposed this proposition is hateful and bigoted and basically racist and probably in the closet themselves, I go from mildly glad the proposition was passed to feeling relieved at what a narrow escape we had.
2. Try To Be Normal. Gays suffer from the (correct) perception that they don’t see the world the way most people do. Most people aren’t comfortable with that. So in order to win acceptance, gay activists must combat that image. That probably means that whole “interior decorator” image has to go, replaced by a more wholesome “couple next door” vibe.
An example: when TV comedy Will and Grace was casting, the part of gay character Will Truman came down to actors John Barrowman and Eric McCormack. McCormack got the part—Barrowman was “too straight.” If gays want to see gay marriages recognized, they will have to change that popular image. (Ironically, McCormack is straight, while Barrowman is gay).
3. Establish Relationship With Social Conservatives. It’s a stretch to expect evangelicals, Mormons, or conservative Catholics to support gay marriage (I certainly wouldn’t), but it is conceivable to conceive of a scenario in which these groups just aren’t all that concerned. Gay activists should stress that gays can be pro-life (though come to think of it, I suppose unplanned pregnancies aren’t a big problem for homosexuals) and pro-gun, and can be friendly to religion. It would, perhaps, be productive to send pro-gay marriage preachers to evangelical churches—they probably wouldn’t change many minds, but they might lessen anti-gay marriage fervor.
I don’t know if these ideas would work, and given that I oppose gay marriage, I hope that the gay community don’t try them. But I do know that they would have to be more effective than what gay activists are doing.
(Some might wonder why, if I don’t support gay marriage, I wrote a 900 word essay giving my best ideas how to promote it. Good question—I really don’t know. It may have been a waste of time—but then, political junkies love thinking about this sort of stuff).