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The fight for Gay Marriage

An opinion piece in today's NY Times about the gay marriage fight annoyed me.  The author was critical of the way the legal fight for gay marriage was framed and blames that for some of the backlash over the last decade.  He believes more time should have been spent persuading people about the dignity of gay people.  He writes:

American gay activists would be wise to recalibrate their activism, shifting from a rights-based approach, with its emphasis on litigation, to one more oriented toward citizenship and dignity. They may also want to embrace a more ambitious and idealistic mind-set, aiming squarely at public persuasion.

As someone who was a gay rights activist--and in some of the toughest states of the heartland--I don't recognize this criticisms at all.  In fact I've always said that our most difficult work was changing hearts and minds, much of which we had to do before any legislative or judicial decisions.   I know I was deeply involved in such work, as were many that I know.  We weren't running the national orgs in DC or lawyers taking the cases, but we were in communities doing the difficult work of persuasion, generally by living our lives with authenticity and joy.  And doing it in public, as a public witness, and despite the hateful responses we could generate in places like Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. 

I think one reason the author misses the work he references, is that there is no mention of the role of faith communities.  Troy Perry, the founder of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches was maybe the very first gay leader to begin the work for marriage equality.  And he understood that as a religious rite and sacrament, those arguments would need to be framed in spiritual, moral, and emotional ways.  My current denomination, the United Church of Christ, was the first mainline denomination to endorse marriage equality--a decade before the Obergefell ruling.  The work in our denomination and others centered around precisely the sorts of issues, ideas, and arguments that the author thinks was missing in the US effort for marriage equality.

I was simply shocked at the ignorance the column revealed.


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