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Marriage Equality: Skipping a Step? June 25, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in anti-gay activists, lgbt Issues, marriage equality, politics.

In an earlier post I questioned whether LGBT rights groups should focus on obtaining rights and freedoms aside from marriage: non-discrimination laws; domestic partner benefits; hate crime laws; civil unions. I wondered whether LGBT people living in progressive areas were sidestepping the more immediate needs of their brothers and sisters living in conservative areas — people who can still be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.I am not the only one asking these questions:

With the debate raging in Georgia – and nationally – over a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, [Donna] Waddell and many others in the gay and lesbian community say they have less ambitious, and more mundane, concerns…Hate crimes, domestic partner benefits, securing hospital visitation, job protections and adoption are issues that top the agenda for many of Georgia's gay and lesbian residents. Some say the relentless focus on the polarizing topic of gay marriage has been driven by opponents of such unions, not the gay community. They say it's been a damaging distraction, especially since there's already a state law on the books that makes it clear that same-sex marriages aren't recognized in Georgia.

Bingo. I believe marriage equality is a noble and necessary goal for the LGBT movement, but America’s intense focus on the issue of marriage has created anti-gay anger that is not created when discussing non-discrimination laws or domestic partner benefits. Sure, many are opposed to such measures, but most polls show the majority of Americans are supportive of these limited rights for gay and lesbian people.

So why have we moved on to a polarizing issue like marriage when we have not protected LGBT people nationwide? Because some of us already have these protections and we tend to be the ones in national LGBT organizations, which are predominantly in urban and progressive areas. We know same-sex couples deserve to enter the institution of marriage and therefore we strive to obtain that right.

I firmly believe the LGBT movement has a right to fight for marriage equality… this should not be put on hold. But we cannot forget about LGBT Americans in less progressive areas.

Kevin Clark runs a bed and breakfast in Savannah, Georgia: 

Let's be honest… Gay marriage is not going to happen in Georgia anytime soon. We need to look at what we can get done. But instead ALL we hear about is gay marriage. It stops anything else from happening.

Chuck Bowen of Georgia Equality, the state’s LGBT group, agrees: 

(Same-sex) marriage is this scary, boogeyman to some people. It's caused us to lose a lot of support from people who might be sympathetic and supportive on other issues.

The extreme-right is now claiming opposition to non-discrimination laws and domestic partner benefits is necessary to prevent a court from “forcing” same-sex marriage on the people. If the LGBT movement does not begin to combat these claims and push for passage of these measures, we could lose support for the issues on which we already have the majority of Americans behind us. Anti-gay forces know this is inaccurate, but they also know it’s a great scare tactic.

Let national organizations know that non-discrimination laws, domestic partner benefits and hate crimes protections are still necessary and should be a priority. If they are not responsive, it may be time to support statewide organizations, which tend to consider these issues to be important.

This is not a criticism of any particular organization or national organizations in general. They are doing incredible work that will advance LGBT rights in the future. In a democratic system, you just need to remind the “higher-ups” of what you need before they can be responsive.



1. imparare - April 15, 2007

Interesting comments.. 😀

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