For as long as I’ve been blogging, I have faulted gay marriage advocates for demanding the benefits of marriage while not not talking about the meaning of this ancient and honorable institution (e.g., this post)
That is one reason I was eager to attend a meeting last night at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center announcing a new initiative, LetCaliforniaRing, to promote same-sex marriage in the Golden State. Present at this event were the heads of the major national gay & lesbian organizations, including Matt Foreman of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, Jody Huckaby of PFLAG, Geoff Kors of Equality California, Patrick Sammon of Log Cabin and Joe Solomnese of the Human Rights Campaign. (Another reason I was eager to attend is that I wanted to meet some of these men).
It was the first time I met Solomnese and may comment on our brief conversation at a later date (not to worry it was cordial).
Echoing a point I’ve been making for over three years, Kors observed that the messaging of the movement for what he calls “marriage equality” wasn’t working. He and others who spoke tonight were spot on when they acknowledged the need of a new strategy designed to change minds. Indeed, the organization defines its mission:
Let California Ring is a public education campaign to open hearts and minds about the freedom to marry and the respect, support, protections, and responsibilities that come with marriage.Â
It’s a good sign that they recognize “responsibilities” as one of the aspects of marriage.
Unfortunately, the video they showed last night, will do little to change minds. It does not show that they see marriage as do most Americans. Instead it includes too many brief soundbytes from a broad array of people, seemingly designed to appeal more to the producers of the film than those skeptical or opposed to gay marriage. Politically correct gay audiences and others in our nation’s blue enclaves will love this film. But, it won’t have much effect on more socially conservative Americans who need to be convinced that advocates of gay people are serious about marriage.
To be sure, it represents a step in the right direction. As Kors noted, when they take about love as the key aspect of marriage, people start to “move” toward gay marriage. But, love is only one aspect of marriage.
In they want to change people’s minds on marriage, they need do more than talk about love, they need also talk about those aforementioned responsibilities and address the meaning of marriage, particularly its transformative power.
For one moment while watching the video, I thought they were going to do just that. A lesbian talked about her ceremony as “a ritual of transformation.” I wanted to hear more about what she meant by that. But, instead of letting that woman expand on this remark, the film moved onto another person offering another soundbyte.
As a result, the film becomes little more than a series of such soundbytes. To make a more effective presentation, the filmmakers should have focused on two or three couples, including the woman mentioned above, to offer a more in-depth discussion of their relationships, about the transformative aspect of their ceremonies and the responsibilities of their relationships.
They would thus show how marriage changed them, perhaps from carefree individuals to committed spouses. In so doing, they would show that they did not undertake their obligation lightly and recognize the significance of their union.
In short, they would show that they understand marriage to be more than two individuals shacking up. In acknowledging those obligations, those individuals would demonstrate how they had earned the benefits the state confers upon married couples.
One of the great ironies of the evening was the person who best articulated the meaning of marriage wasn’t even there. At the outset of the event, they showed a video of Al Gore outlining his support for gay marriage. While his remarks were brief, he did hit most of the major points, doing a better job than any of the heads of the gay organizations who attended the event in person. (Okay, okay, I agree he looked kind of odd and weirdly combative; here, I’m talking about the substance of his remarks.)
By the contrast, the group’s own video seemed more designed to make gay activists feel good than to change minds of more socially conservative Californians. There were images of rallies, one showing a poster of a raised fist, even a clip of Rosie O’Donnell and her partner walking down the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall. That’ll change the minds of Californians opposed to gay marriage.
Advice to the filmmakers: remove any imagery of that mean-spirited leftist. I would dare say that those who like Rosie are already on your side.
Perhaps, I shouldn’t be so harsh in faulting the heads of gay organizations for not getting beyond their tired talking points. After all, last night, they were trying to make their case to a skeptical audience, but to persuade those already on their side to contribute (financially) to a new initiative.
And while I’m heartened that advocates of gay marriage are doing something I have advocated for at least as long as I have been blogging, trying to change minds by changing the terms of the conversation on gay marriage, they are only making a small step in the right direction.
They need build on the conversation about love and demonstrate that they understand the meaning of marriage. And to do that, they need scrap this video and make a new less diffuse film. We don’t need countless voices telling us why they want the “right” to marry.
Instead, we need a few couples telling us how they’ve earned the privileges the state grants to married couples. And then, perhaps at the end (of the video), reminding us that their experiences parallel those of numerous other same-sex couples as well as straight couples whose marriages governments have recognized for millennia.
To do that, all they need do is ask that one woman already in the video to tell us what she means about that “ritual of transformation.” How marriage has transformed her life — and that of her partner. And how it could transform and improve our lives as well if only we find that special someone and agree to share with him (or her) the burdens and the benefits of marriage, forsaking all others to build a lasting relationship together with him.
– B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)