Monday, November 17, 2008
In California, Florida, and Arizona, same sex marriage (SSM) lost again. That this occurred in liberal California is especially significant. Dale Carpenter notes that SSM is now 0 for 30 in ballot fights. It has also never been enacted by a legislature.
What this says, quite obviously, is that voters and elected representatives simply do not approve of SSM today. It can only exist through the actions of courts. Of course, SSM might come to prevail in the future, perhaps the near future, but for now, it is simply a minority position.
I am not a supporter of SSM today. Perhaps one day, but not today. I believe that the country should experiment with civil unions and see what the results are. But if I were a supporter of SSM, I would not recommend the current course of action of SSM advocates of trying to impose it through court decisions. That way just confirms that the nation is against SSM.
It is easy to forget how much progress gay rights and SSM have made in the last decade or so. It was only in April 1997 that Ellen DeGeneres' sitcom character came out on television, and what a shock it seemed to many people. Now, we live in a world where gay characters are common and almost cliched.
It is primarily through cultural changes that gay rights have been achieved. Legal actions are not the primary way to go.
So how to promote SSM culturally? Well, gay couples in California and other states where there are civil unions should describe their relationships as marriages. There will certainly be a period of time when the person hearing the description will ask, "but I thought same sex marriages were not legal in California." The gay couple should respond, "oh, we have the same rights as married couples, we think of ourselves as married, and we don't think the state should tell us what words we should use to describe our relationship." If gay people behaved as married couples, and straight people got accustomed to seeing gays as married, then straight people might be more inclined to recognize SSM legally.
Advocates of SSM and gay rights should recognize what has worked for their cause, what has not, and go with the former. Unfortunately, for advocates of SSM and for the nation, the SSM movement seems to be dominated by a legal rights view of how to make progress.