Friday, November 05, 2004
by Wayne Besen
Conservative leaders have earned the right to rejoice after voters approved Constitutional amendments banning the freedom to marry in 11 states. But after the party ends, conservatives may find these to be hollow victories that accomplish little and serve as a catalyst for the advancement of gay rights in America.
On Election Day, Amendments were passed in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah.
Presumably, the two goals of conservative groups who pushed these amendments were to shove gay people back in the closet and take a stand for traditional marriage. I don't believe they succeeded on either count.
Certainly, gay and lesbian Americans went to bed Tuesday night somewhat depressed over the rout at the polls. By morning, however, the political dust settled and many of these citizens kissed their life partners and went to work, just as they always have.
The defeat did not magically turn gay people into heterosexuals, nor did any same-sex couples break-up because of these referendums. And surely the gay bars and restaurants will be as crowded as ever.
So, nothing really changed; the 1950's didn't suddenly reappear. Gay people are here to stay and no Amendment or conservative political posturing is going to return gay people to the closet.
Instead of rolling back the gay rights movement, these bigoted belches will energize the thousands who voted against these Amendments and offer gay rights organizations an unprecedented platform to discuss same-sex marriage.
With grueling Amendment battles behind them, gay activists can now transition from political fights to the kinder terrain of public education, turning America into a giant classroom on same-sex families. The educational process may take ten or even fifteen years, but demographically time is on our side.
Let's be honest, record numbers of people are coming out at younger ages. Polls show that people under 30 are much more likely to support same-sex marriage. Following the passing of these amendments, our relationships are going to become more visible - not less.
And once the discussion over same-sex relationships truly begins, it is inevitable that most Americans will eventually come to favor same-sex marriage. As people meet more gay couples, the current system of relationship apartheid will unravel.
People will not want to see their friends suffer discrimination and be denied equal benefits such as pensions, inheritance and hospital visitation rights. Americans will recoil when the children of same-sex couples are left vulnerable because the one parent with legal custody dies unexpectedly.
Americans have yet to hear from the many adults who grew up in same-sex households who will demand an explanation as to why their first-rate parents are being treated like second-class citizens. And as more gay people come out, an exponentially high number of families will start demanding equal marriage rights for their gay sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.
As for the conservatives' other goal of saving traditional marriage, even less was accomplished. I'm not sure how many heterosexual women woke up the day after these votes and said, "Gee, now that marriage has been saved from homosexuals, maybe I shouldn't ask my third husband for a divorce after all?"
Or how many guys said, "Now that gays can't get married, I can finally respect the institution, marry my girlfriend and take care of our four out of wedlock kids."
Instead of helping to rehabilitate the institution of marriage, the polarizing debate over these Amendments served as distractions. Bashing a minority is a lot easier and more lucrative for "pro-family" groups than facing true threats to the family like divorce, abuse, addiction, unemployment and infidelity.
Now that the Amendments have passed and gay people can no longer be scapegoated, do these pro-family groups plan to offer any substantive plans to fix the real problems that end marriages? If not, it reveals that they are not pro-family, but simply anti-gay.
America has changed for the better, with gay families no longer invisible. There is no hateful Amendment that can amend this reality.
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