Has the "gay marriage" debate been positive or negative for gays?

It is literally impossible to pick up a newspaper or magazine without seeing an article for, against, or neutrally commenting upon gay marriage. While I certainly would like to see gay unions recognized and given the same rights and privileges and protections as other civil unions, it seems as if it has become a disproportionately huge debate that has eclipsed more pressing and arguably more important issues such as the fact that openly gay men and women are still not protected from orientation based discrimination in employment, housing, etc., and still cannot serve in the U.S. military. Meanwhile, polls indicate a backlash against gay rights since the issue of marriage has become such a political hot potato.

Do you think that gay rights advocates and activists need to refocus on fronts other than marriage or that they should continue to pursue marriage with as much diligence? Do you think that the media’s incredible emphasis on the issue has been a positive or negative thing for gays? On a variant topic, do you think that if a Democrat (most probably Kerry) is elected in November that they will do anything to aid in anti-discrimination legislation?

I think it will end up being a positive for gays, even with short-term losses, in that eventually, support of gay marriage simply has to happen. I see this as one of the biggest civil rights issues facing the country today, and I think supporters of a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage will look as ridiculous 30 years from now as George Wallace does to me when he said, “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” I shudder to think that one day, I’ll have to explain to my son why the government doesn’t want two women or two men who love each other deeply to have the same rights as a married man and woman.

I don’t know that any Democratic candidates will pursue legislation promoting gay marriage, but I feel confident they’ll fight against the above-mentioned Constitutional amendment.

Superficially, I think this is a negative, as I don’t expect to see gay marriage enacted into law anytime in the near future. Realistically, it’s a positive as I think we’ll see civil unions offered as a compromise in most states. And the “compromise” will give gays everything they need from a legal standpoint with the only drawback being that they won’t technically be able to say “we’re married”.

I’ve always thought that one of the great stumbling blocks to gay marriage was that there’s nothing in it for straight folk. As Heinlein’s Lazarus Long observed

I think it’ll be taken more seriously when gay advocates come up with a plan that offers up something to umarried cohabiting straight couples or to people who aren’t married but would like to share their benefits with a close relative (much as umarried enlistees are allowed to do with family allotments in the military).

Doin’ okay up here. There have been a few bigots come out of the woodwork; happily, they tend to do it so, ah, vigorously that they turn everyone else away. Larry Spencer, for example.

This is probably the ultimate outcome.

For now, I think gays pushed this one to the fore a little soon, as public sentiment still seems to be against gay “marriage” (why the support seems to go up when you change the terminology), even though societal acceptance of homosexuality is pretty widespread.

Why too soon? If Massachusetts goes for legal gay marriage (and the court seemed to have left no alternative for a parallel civil union plan), then gay couples will marry there and go to other states to launch court challenges against the DOMA, trying to get their marriage recognized in those other states. This is going to drive the opposition batshit insane, and as of right now they still have the numbers to grind this to a halt.

BTW, side issue on the benefit package thing…to what extent would companies be bound by this? The government would make its own decision, for purely political reasons, whether or not to extend those benefits with the expansion of “marriage” or to scale them back. But private companies, as far as I can tell, would still be free to limit those to whom their employees benefits extend. If they feared a deluge of sham lesbian marriages arranged solely to soak the companies, they could probably limit their benefit plans to heterosexual marriages because sexual orientation is not a “suspect classification”. Or they might decide not to extend benefits to spouses at all in reaction to this, depending on what they estimate the added expense to be.

Speaking of Canada, two Australian men who got married under Canadian law will approach the Family Court for recognition of their union here at home. It’ll be an interesting case, for sure.

As to the OP, I agree with the consensus: the short-term losses caused by some straight knee-jerk reactionaries will be offset by longer-term gains to the gay rights movement. When the alternative is everyone forgetting about the issue of gay marriage and the status quo remaining, it can only be a good thing that we have a public discourse on the issue. Flagging the issue and discussion of it in the media and community–pro or con–will only work towards liberalism; it brings an air of normality and feasibility (and dare I say it, inevitability) towards the prospect of legally-recognised gay civil unions.

A GQ, based on the second sentence of the OP: aren’t there any US states that have enshrined anti-discrimination legislation aimed at protecting gay men and women?

I don’t know if there is a state that has, but there are a few municipalities (like SF) that have. It’s the states which control marriage, not municipalities.

I do believe that if gays insist on obtaining marriage (as opposed to civil unions), that it will backfire. I can see some states adopting constitutional language limitting marriage to hetero couples, thus forcing the issue to the SCotUS, which I do not believe will uphold gay marriage as a right.

Probably no more than blacks were hurt by pushing for the end of Jim Crow laws, or than women were hurt by pushing for the right to vote. They correctly saw the demands for patience by whites and men as being simply obstinacy, too.

You climb the stairs by taking the step that’s in front of you. It hasn’t been a mistake to do what they’re doing; it’s been necessary.

I have to agree with John Mace on this. Many people who woldn’t normally have a problem with gays have equal rights under the law as a married couple tend to change their mind when the term of marriage is forced on it. In many people’s mind, “Marriage” is resevered for Man and Woman. Either out of tradition, religion, or whatever.

Personally, I think the government should do away with the term, and call it civil union, and broaden who can get covered by it. Basically it would just be some forms to fill out.

Anything regarding a service can be handled by someone else. That way, those who simple want the legal benifits can have it, and those who want their union to be something more, can do that in their own way.

I think it’s a good thing, primarily because it’s stimulated a lot of debate.

One of the problems with fighting prejudice is that political correctness prevents people from talking about things, and those of us who have to educate people never get the chance because wierd ideas and misconceptions are never brought out into the open. The gay marriage debate has brought them out into the open, and now they can be dealt with and discussed.

I think it’s actually been helpful that it’s exposed the real bigots, too. When people hear from the bigots, sympathetic straight people realize how necessary it is to take a stand and speak up.

That being said, as a long-time gay activist, I do worry that other issues get ignored. I’m particularly worried about youth suicide and youth issues, the lack of funding anti-gay violence projects, and so on.

I’m also worried about what will happen to the funding for these things when the gay marriage fight is won in Canada. In Canada, where we already have anti-discrimination laws, people are talking like marriage is the last fight. It’s not. It may or may not be the last legal fight, but then comes the long struggle for acceptance, and fighting violence and suicide.

This morning I would have said the debate has been a good thing, but now I’m not so sure. The fact is, I fully expected the MA Supreme Court to be OK with the state legislature’s proposed civil union bill. Now gay marriage is guaranteed. We may be ready in MA for such a thing, but the nation as a whole is not. More than 60% of Americans think homosexuality is immoral. To them, gay marriage is abhorrent. I don’t think the right for gays to marry is in the same league in many Americans’ minds as the right for blacks to have equal civil rights. You can’t look in the Bible and find a passage that says it’s immoral to be black. You can find plenty in the Bible that says it’s immoral to be gay.

Up here in the Northeast, we’ve already witnessed the divisive nature of the issue of gay morality in the NH Episcopal Church. As I am friends with an Episcopal priest, I think I can say with a fair amount of confidence that this has caused way more headaches than the ordination of women. This particular priest fully expected the issue to blow over the way it did when women were brought into the clergy, but he’s not at all sure anymore, given the stridency of the reaction both within the American Episcopal Church, and the worldwide Anglican Church. Again the crux of the argument is scripture, and the undeniable fact that it states pretty clearly homosexuality is wrong. Nothing in the Bible says it’s wrong to be a woman. It’s just not an analagous situation.

I fully support equal rights for gays, and I know they’ve waited longer for these rights than they should have. I do sympathise with their impatience, though I can’t imagine it myself, being the hetero white guy I am. But I’m fearful that, in spite of the fundamental propriety of the MASC’s ruling on gay marriage, its ultimate effect may not prove beneficial at all. The likely backlash, in this election year, could have some pretty serious ramifications both short term and long term. I’m not sure the risk is worth the potential consequences at this stage. At the very least, the ruling makes it that much harder to get a Democrat in the White House. And at worst, it might lead to a referendum to amend the US Constitution. I wish we could all just take the plunge and give equal marriage rights to everyone, but I wonder if a short-term compromise, like a state civil union bill, wouldn’t have been more appropriate for the times, and not raised the stakes to such make-or-break levels.

I’m just tired of how disingenuous the “definition of marriage” people are being.

Governments are not dictionaries, and nothing but common usage “defines” words. What governments do is not define things, but give or withold legal status, protect rights, ask responsibilities, and other technical matters. It may well be that the court is overstepping its legal bounds. But irregardless of if it is, it is not “redefining” anything. If you want to define marriage as something between a man and woman, go ahead. If your church wants to refuse gay couples ceremonies or acknowledgement, that’s exactly what churches have the power to do in a free society.

The government, on the other hand, is dealing with considerations of legal rights, not cultural semantics. It can call something marriage (and my personal opinion is that it shouldn’t call anything marriage if it’s an issue, just like it shouldn’t give acts stupid names like PATRIOT Act or The Act that all the Just and Righteous Wil Vote For), and you can call it something else. That doesn’t change the basic legal principles at stake at all.

As I never tire of pointing out: it also states pretty clearly that adultery and divorce is wrong, without that having any direct bearing on whether the government should make it illegal.

Andrew Sullivan seems to think that this might actually be good for a Dem, in this case Kerry. And his argument is certainly reasonable:


Basically, while a majority may well oppose gay marriage, a majority ALSO oppose going as far as to make a Constitutional Amendment to make marriage be between a man and a woman.

I hope you’re right Apos. But those same Catholic bishops would tell you their parishoners can dissolve the legal marriage, but not the spiritual one, without anullment. The former is irrelevant to the Church, the latter hightly relevant. In the mind of the bishop, no bona fide spiritual union took place in a “gay marriage”, so they’d have little problem with the dissolution of the legal one. What the Catholic bishops will tell you is that God sanctified the union of Man and Woman, and no other, for a reason. For the state to give other unions its blessing is immoral, and threatens families.

By the way, adultry can have some pretty serious legal ramifications. Ask any divorce attourney. Why should it? Well, it’s “immoral”.

You are missing an extremely important point. This is not just a question of a dicitonary definition, but thousands of years of legal precedent. The special status of a married couple in our legal system has evolved over hundreds (thousands?) of years on the assumption that a married couple was one man and one woman. The courts are essentially saying “let’s ignore all that”. It’s entirely unclear if the “special status” that married couples are given would at all be what it is if marriage had been defined so losely in the past.

My own position would be for the gov’t not to grant any special status to married couples (regardless of the mixture of sexes) and this whole issue would be moot. But the fact is that we live in world of legal precedent, and to ignore that goes counter to what the role of the judicial branch should be.

The MA court has put a straight jacket on the legislature instead of recognizing that this is an entirely new area for which our constitution and laws need to catch up. The MA court gave the legislature 6 months to remedy the situation. That’s an entirely arbitrary time frame. If it was truely an issue of critical rights being deprived, the judgement should have been immeditate. If not, the court should have allowed sufficient time to work thru the constitutional process. The ramification for this spills over into the realm of silbing marriages and multiple marriages for which I don’t believe our society is ready to accept. I see no reason that we cannot move toward this goal in stages, with civil unions serving as a perfectly acceptable stop gap until the legislative process can do it’s job.

First of all, it is a question of both. My point about definition stands irregardless of the legal precedent issue, and I’ll happily discuss that issue as well, but it is a different issue.

Now, all sorts of things have precedent. Sometimes precedent is good, sometimes bad. Sometimes it’s bad, but good law, and sometimes it’s bad law, but good. Precedent, by and large, is a means to ration the powers of courts to make things up as they go along without consistency of expectation: perhaps to prevent exactly what this court did, the way they did it. But it isn’t much of an argument, even an legal theory arguement, for or against anything.

And the court here wasn’t ruling on an issue for which there was much precedent. There are very few cases wherein two unrelated people want to marry, but cannot, and sue for the right to marry. At question was equality of the state’s laws, and that particular issue had never really come up in this way before in regards to marriage.

True, but I can’t see what substantive legal difference this makes to the institution, however, especially now that consumation sex is no longer a requirement (and indeed, that STILL wouldn’t make much difference even if it remained).

It has large cultural and religious ramifications: so why not let the culture and religions work things out on their own? The legal system, meanwhile, should be consistent and just. It may not, perhaps ironically, rightly be the court’s job to see that this is so. But it is the proper role of a legal system in general.

Perhaps, but any amount of time is arbitrary: they clearly wanted to balance giving the legislature time to draft up the language without doing what Brown v. Board of Ed. did in not setting a time limit on enacting its decision. Both cases referenced critical rights, and Brown, with arguably the MORE critical right, gave far more time: with quite poorer results for it (though perhaps better in the long run than the disasters immediate on the spot integration might have caused).

That may be pragmatic, I don’t argue that. But is it just?

Take another case of critical civil rights which courts rule in favor of protecting like they had never been protected before. There are many. Slowing the enactment of those rulings may well have been pragmatic. But was it just?

Hmm… things like what happened yesterday are what makes me very leery of “advisory opinions” of courts. If that doesn’t look like legislating from the bench…

The short-term backlash potential is for one massive legal trainwreck over the next couple of years (e.g. in '06 MA *does[/] constitutionally re-establish M/F-only marriage; are any gay marriages between May '04 and whenever in '06 annulled?) Never mind the risk that some of the more hysterical states (I’m looking at you, Ohio. And I’m looking around me here in PR) may revisit not just marriage definitions but even their “equal protection” clauses and statutes, to require them to be construed restrictively.

Of course, in the long-term common sense and justice will prevail. But there’s going to be much intensified pain in the process…

I’m surprised the gay community would be so gung-ho to desire the ability to be

Remember, along with being married comes the lovely “marriage-penalty” on your federal income taxes.

They will have to suffer along with the hetero community.