Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Still Engaged

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Still Engaged

Article excerpt

The danger of the losses in Hawii and Alaska is not that they present insurmountable barriers but that they may be preceived that way.

On the morning after the Alaska and Hawaii elections, despair seemed like the only appropriate response. Voters had overwhelmingly amended state constitutions to prevent same-sex marriage, and it seemed like a historic setback. In a way, it was. But in a more important way, the results present enormous opportunities in the march to same-sex marriage, provided they spur us to greater action.

A lot of morning-after hand-wringing resulted from the fact that there were always two schools of thought on how to win same-sex marriage. One camp argued that marriage could be won quickly--if five or ten years can be considered quick--through the courts. We could sidestep public opposition by appealing to the constitutions of fair-minded states like Hawaii and triumph on constitutional grounds.

The other camp worried that most Americans were so opposed to same-sex marriage that even if we won in state courts, those states would figure out a way to thwart us, and we'd be worse off than before. Since that's exactly what happened, it's fair to ask whether the go-slow camp was right. Are we worse off?

Well, if the goal was to win same-sex marriage immediately, the court strategy clearly failed. But those who favored the go-slow approach always conceded that marriage was years away anyway. Is it any further now?

Hardly. The backlash--which includes not only the constitutional amendments in Alaska and Hawaii but also laws in 29 states banning recognition of same-sex marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act, banning federal recognition--attempts to take away something we never had, so gay couples are not exactly worse off. And all of those noxious laws were passed by and can be repealed by simple majorities, so they're hardly insurmountable barriers.

On the plus side and as a direct result of the Hawaii case, Hawaii now has the strongest domestic-partnership law in the nation and is poised to enact an even stronger one that would give gay people marriage in almost everything but name. In addition, there is now a national movement and infrastructure supporting marriage rights and a slew of nongay organizations, religious groups, unions, and publications behind us. …

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