With issues like Iraq, global warming and poverty, it’s easy to forget that anything else matters in this day and age. There is no question that our participation in the destruction of a nation and the ongoing loss of American and Iraqi lives is all consuming. The idea that Manhattan’s 14th Street could be ocean front property as the globe warms is certainly important to those that live in Tribeca! And we should all be concerned about children going hungry in Appalachia.
We are morally obligated to fight hard to solve these and other major problems no matter how overwhelming they may seem. However, these issues cannot be an excuse to disregard the wholesale violation of LGBT civil rights. The fight for marriage equality must go on.
Clearly, as our nation wrestles with very serious issues, the temptation is to put marriage on a back burner. Some call it a loser issue and say that we should move on. Others believe that we should promote alternatives such as domestic partnerships and not focus on full marriage equality. The reality, however, is that marriage equality is one of the great civil rights struggles of our time.
Marriage rights do matter for citizens who pay more taxes because they can’t get married, for would-be parents who can’t adopt and give a child a loving home, for partners who can’t visit a dying spouse, or mixed-citizenship couples separated because they have no immigration rights.
No American that I know would willingly sit on the sidelines and give up any of these rights, never mind the more than 1,000 other rights, benefits and privileges accorded to any straight American. It is simply a matter of justice and equality.
A Michigan court ruled last week that the state government cannot provide same sex benefits for its employees, because of a severe anti-marriage amendment approved by voters in 2004. The Associated Press reported:
Michigan's ban on gay marriage also blocks public universities and state and local governments from providing health insurance benefits to the partners of gay workers, the state Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
A three-judge panel cited the language of a 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment making the union between a man and woman the only agreement recognized as a marriage "or similar union for any purpose."
Interestingly, the case will likely end up before a higher court, where it may cast a long shadow over the constitutionality of other state amendments that deny LGBT Americans their freedom.
The struggle for marriage rights has been harsh and nasty. While I’ve heard a few say they feel uncomfortable soldiering on, some of our straight political allies wish that we would just drop it.
Like other great civil rights campaigns, this fight will require fortitude. We won’t win this one without some nasty fights, anxiety that we may lose friends and even wholesale set backs. In the 1960s, as the battle against racial inequality raged, many state and local governments passed oppressive laws to stop justice from winning out. Even California passed an initiative rolling back fair housing legislation. This push back should be expected in a time of great social and legal change.
In 1986, when polling was done on marriage equality during the “No on 64” campaign (the LaRouche Initiative against people with HIV/AIDS), less than 10 percent of Californians supported marriage. Today more than 40 percent of Californians support marriage equality, including and a vast majority of young citizens. Clearly, we have made tremendous progress in this effort and now is not the time to back down.
Look, for example, at the support we have built for LGBT citizens to serve openly in the military. A majority of all citizens opposed it in 1993. Now over 60 percent of our own TROOPS would support gays and lesbians serving in active duty combat. We still must work to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but we are winning the hearts and minds of the American people.
Marriage equality is the same kind of struggle. By pushing hard, we force more and more people to confront the issue and to meet members of the LGBT community who want to get married. Similarly, our community will continue to gain self esteem and legitimacy as it battles on. And if we take the long view, we are winning this fight.
Almost all the Democratic candidates for president are for some form of civil unions. Since Senator Feingold dropped out of the race, none support marriage. While there is not a whole lot of difference between the contenders this year on this issue, just the fact that they all support civil unions is somewhat of a victory. It wasn’t that long ago that we couldn’t get candidates to even say the words domestic partnership, never mind embrace former Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s brave position.
So to have the candidates support civil unions at this stage is amazing progress. But now is not the time to fold our cards and give up the fight. We should press every candidate from both parties for marriage equality, and we should praise them for the progress they have helped create over the years.