After Prop. 8
by Virginia Postrel • Nov 6, 2008 at 1:06 am
Judging from both overheard conversations and personal communications, gays in California are feeling punched in the stomach. As my friend David noted on his Facebook page, California voters gave farm animals new rights while eliminating rights for loving couples. Over on Volokh Conspiracy, Dale Carpenter has a smart, comprehensive, and pessimistic post on the subject. An excerpt:
I'm more optimistic than he is about the timetable, because attitudes are changing rapidly and, to be crass about it, there's a big enough generation gap that normal mortality works in our favor. But I'd still give it six to eight years, assuming we make an effort to persuade, or at least desensitize, the public rather than relying on the flim-flam of hiding the gays under the carpet while Dianne Feinstein opines that "no matter what you think about marriage" you should "vote against discrimination." No matter what you think about marriage???? Who the hell came up with that inane line? (The only voters it makes any sense for are the rare birds who think the state should stay out of the "marriage" business and only establish standard civil-union contracts. Not a bad policy--but let's apply it evenly.)
Conventional wisdom maintains that the hide-the-gays strategy was good politics, but a) it insulted voters' intelligence on an issue that was not hard to understand b) it seemed desperate c) it suggested that gay marriage is, in fact, something to be ashamed of instead of an extension of normal family life and, of course, d) it didn't work. The political and cultural reality is that either people think it's OK for gays to get married, or they don't. And if they don't, they think this kind of discrimination is good--and completely different from the bad kind of discrimination. Besides, when you say the issue is "discrimination" and equate traditional limits on marriage to (now-illegal) racist practices, traditionalists can claim, without seeming crazy, the next step will be to outlaw even private, religiously based limits on marriage. Isn't that what we do with discrimination?
Ideally, we would persuade skeptics that gay marriage is good. But, at the very least, we need to persuade them that it's not bad. A lot of people are still in the muddled middle on this issue. They just need more evidence and more experience. As hard as it may seem right now, gay families need to be more, not less, public about their lives.
UPDATE: A sore losers lawsuit is the opposite of public persuasion. How big a backlash do you want to invite? Nobody can control Gloria Allred, but Lambda should think beyond its donor base's immediate demands and concentrate on the future. (Of course, maybe my interpretation is wrong, and this is secretly just an effort to clarify the status of a future referendum that would repeal Prop. 8.)
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