For almost as long as I’ve been blogging, I have criticized gay marriage advocates for focusing more on promoting marriage rights than in talking about the meaning of this ancient institution — and why its obligations and privileges would benefit gay people. And the more I think about this attitude toward gay marriage, the more I see how it defines the rhetoric — and agenda — of the national gay organizations, including even Log Cabin, the ostensibly Republican one. They focus more on securing “rights” — and achieving them through government action — than on changing attitudes toward gay people.
Even as we see a significant shift in attitude toward gay people in America, the activists continue to seek redress in courts and in legislatures. At the same time, families across the country are becoming more accepting of their gay children (and other relatives) while private institutions are increasingly recognizing our relationships — and acting to protect us from discrimination.
In seeing the improving social conditions for gay people in America, I see why I’m not entirely comfortable with the term “gay rights.” It’s not that I oppose certain legislation which would benefit us. For, I do support state recognition of our unions — and legislation which would repeal Clinton’s Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy addressing gays in the military. It’s just that I think that most of what needs to be done is continue what has been going on since the 1970s — to change people’s attitudes so they gain a better image of gay people in general.
And this is happening despite the focus of the gay groups on judicial and legislative action. It seems to me that these groups have defined what is essentially a social movement in political terms.
Perhaps, they have tried too hard to emulate the Civil Rights’ movement of the 1960s. I believe that we’d be better served if we continue to put forward positive images of gay people in the culture. By our culture, I don’t just mean the media, but in our everyday lives.
By making this social movement a political one, gay groups see a dismal landscape — except in certain “blue” states. Yet, if their benchmarks are not laws passed or favorable court decision, but instead shifting attitudes, they might be far more optimistic about the social conditions of gay people in America.