When it comes to gay issues, I don’t always agree with my friend David Benkof.W hile sometimes I think his ideas are off-the-wall, more often than not, even when I disagree with him, I think he raises an important point which, all too frequently, others have ignored. In his latest Op-ed, he puts forward some sensible ideas for ensuring that more states protect same-sex relationships:
A strong case can be made that more same-sex couples would be protected if the gay and lesbian community . . . would jettison the whole marriage campaign and focus on a new, national strategy of “mutual commitments” to protect same-sex couples not only in states like New Jersey and Massachusetts, but also in places less welcoming to gays such as Georgia, Nebraska and Texas.
The 30 constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, including Proposition 8 in California, are a direct result of the lawsuits-for-marriage strategy practiced by gays and lesbians since the mid-Nineties, including successful suits in Massachusetts, California and Connecticut. So achieving marriage in three gay-friendly states (two now that Proposition 8 has passed in California) came at the expense of barring marriage in 10 times as many states, many much less hospitable to same-sex couples.
In short, he believes, that if gay activists weren’t so hung up on the word, “marriage,” and focused instead on promoting state-recognition of same-sex unions, they might have great success in finding voters — and state legislators — more response to their pleas. This may not be ideal, particularly for those obsessed with “achieving full equality” (whatever that means), but it will improve upon the current situation.
I agree with David that litigation to force gay marriage through the courts has led to a backlash at the ballot box. And I’m not the the only one. Even Jonathan Rauch, the most thoughtful and articulate defender of same-sex marriage, has observed that gay marriage has lost in each of the thirty states where it has been on the ballot.
With social attitudes towards gays changing, we should focus on something that wasn’t achievable as recently as ten years ago, promoting civil unions, what David calls “mutual commitments,” through state legislatures.
You may not agree with David on this point, but at least he has put forward a different strategy than the failed policy of the gay organizations.Â So, just read the whole thing!