Next Tuesday, Texas is likely to become the eighteenth state to pass a constitutional amendment barring the state from recognizing same-sex marriages. The proposed amendment, appearing on next Tuesday’s ballot, would also prevent the Lone Star State from recognizing domestic partnerships as well. Last year, voters in thirteen states (eleven in November, Missouri and Louisiana earlier in the year) approved ballot initiatives defining marriage the union of one man and one woman. Since then, voters in Kansas followed suit.
Although every such referendum that appears on state ballots has passed, usually by a comfortable margin, advocates of same-sex marriage continue to offer the same strategy to defeat these measures. And they continue to lose. Given their repeated defeats, one would expect gay rights’ leaders to assess the damage and develop a new strategy. Perhaps a few leaders should take responsibility for their failure (to defeat a single one of these initiatives) and step down as did British Foreign Minister Lord Carrington when, a week after he refused to grant the Royal Navy permission to send a fleet to defend the Falkland Islands, Argentina invaded that British territory.
Lord Carrington acknowledged his mistakes. Those spearheading the opposition to the Texas Amendment are repeating those made by gay marriage advocates in other states. Under the leadership of a liberal former state representative, Austin’s Glen Maxey, opponents have put together “No Nonsense In November,” a coalition of left-wing groups. Law professor Dale Carpenter, one of the few who understands what’s at stake in the marriage debate, calls this “a losing coalition” in “a conservative Republican state.”
It’s not just the coalition that’s the problem, it’s the message as well. On the No Nonsense website, Dale finds that:
the very first argument against the marriage amendment is one that practically cribs from press releases of the state Democratic party. No Nonsense argues that instead of passing a marriage amendment, the Republican-dominated state legislature should have concentrated on “real solutions” like child healthcare and equalization of public-school financing.
Seems these activists are more interested in attacking Republicans than in defeating this pernicious proposal. Not a good idea in a state that voted to re-elect the president with 61% of the vote.
If advocates of gay marriage are serious about their case, then they need to do, as Dale and Jonathan Rauch have done, and make the case for gay marriage. They can’t base opposition to such initiatives on animosity toward Republicans or attacks on the motives of the authors of such proposals. They need to talk about why “gay marriage itself is a good idea” and why these proposals are bad ones. As I have said frequently in my posts on gay marriage, we need to talk about gay marriage just as straight Americans talk about traditional marriage.
Indeed, it seems that one of the most leftist gay groups in doing just that. According to Dale, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) is running seven ads on Houston-area television stations which defend the idea of gay marriage “on essentially conservative grounds.” In one ad, a woman says that “when she proposed, she intended a ‘long-term commitment.’” In another, a mother begins by saying, “My children want the same thing their father and I wanted,” and ends with these words, “I hope they’re together forever.”
As Dale puts it:
The NGLTF ads are simple and powerful. They don’t talk about abstract “rights.” They don’t list all the legal benefits of marriage, as if this were a struggle over the tax code. There is nothing post-modern about them. There’s not a single sexual liberationist in sight.
Instead, the ads emphasize the needs of real gay families, including the children they’re raising. They highlight long-term commitment by gay couples. They use religious faith, spoken by religious people, as an argument against the amendment. And they focus on the similaritiesï¿½not the differences between gay and straight Americans.
Most significantly, they begin to make the positive case for gay marriage. They are not shy or apologetic about it. . . . They are not in the least politically partisan.
Sounds like a good strategy to me. Indeed, sounds like the one I have suggested.
Given NGLTF’s predilection for the tired slogans of failed left-wing “liberation” movements, I was as surprised as Dale to see this group come up with a fresh approach to the gay marriage debate. Maybe they’ve been reading this blog.
Even if these ads don’t succeed in changing enough minds to defeat the referendum, they do at least help plant the idea of what gay marriage should be. If people are serious about gay marriage, they will start talking about the meaning of this sacred institution. They will not dwell so much on rights, fairness and equality as they will on commitment, responsibility, mutual respect and monogamy.
Because even if we don’t succeed in gaining state recognition for our unions, we will at least succeed in promoting relationships which are good for gay people — and furthering their acceptance in society at large.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
ADDENDUM: Shortly after I read the first of Dale’s pieces on the Texas Initiative, I had planned on doing a post wondering if advocates of gay marriage seriously supported the institution. While I remain skeptical about some advocates, I am convinced that Dale takes the marriage debate seriously. The pieces I have cited in this post make that abundantly care as does his thoughtful post to one of the leading libertarian-conservative blogs.
UPDATE: Make that thoughtful posts. I just learned that the Volokh Conspiracy invited Dale to guest-blog on same sex marriage. Click here to get all his (Volokh) posts on one page. I haven’t read them all yet, but, given Dale’s intelligence and his past writings, I expect he makes some pretty sound arguments.