That’s the sentiment I heard from friends in Maryland and Maine, states where The People got to approve or disapprove equal marriage rights for all couples. That shouldn’t have happened. No one’s basic civil rights should be subject to popular vote. But that’s how things played out, and now those who oppose marriage equality have played their final card:
Courts finding a fundamental constitutional right to marry the person of your choice? Judicial activism! Usurping the role of the legislature! Elected representatives enacting marriage equality legislation? They can’t decide that! Let the people vote!
I will confess, I never even entertained the thought that we would go four for four on the states with measures on the ballot to decide our status as citizens in this country. I expected to win Maine and possibly Washington, and was guardedly hopeful about Maryland, but expected Minnesota (the only one of the four with a negative constitutional amendment rather than a positive measure enacting equal marriage), to be another for the defeat column.
But we won all four. By popular vote. The “but the will of The People..” argument from the anti-gay right was ended Tuesday night.
They will have others, of course, but they will have no resonance outside the shrinking echo chamber that produces things like this: On a “Family Research Council” conference call Wednesday (no longer online, it seems), pastor/anti-gay activist Jim Garlow stated that America now has “stage four cancer.”
This kind of language simply cannot be spun away with statements better tailored for public view about how opposing marriage equality “doesn’t mean we’re anti-gay.” If America “has stage four cancer,” if the cancer has “spread” because people voted to allow more people like me to marry the person we love, then what is the cancer? Comparing loving families to cancer cells that must be aggressively treated and eradicated isn’t just hyperbole. It shocks the conscience.
And in fact, the relatively “tolerant” public relations posture used as cover for such sentiment is now being attacked as the root cause of the massive defeat the anti-gay right experienced on Tuesday. Peter LaBarbera’s post-election meltdown insists that “reframing the debate to ‘defending marriage’ – a ‘positive’ approach once seen as the salvation of the pro-family movement” is exactly what led to across the board defeat for their agenda. Proclaiming that “many timid, guilt-ridden Christians make rotten Culture Warriors,” he recommends pivoting back to directly attacking the existence of LGBT people: “This titanic fight has always been about homosexuality, not just ‘defending marriage.’” LaBarbera singles out for special criticism the anti-equality group Protect Marriage Maine, because they timidly allowed in their ads that “same-sex couples are entitled to respect.”
Yes, this should really help. The anti-equality movement should definitely make the centerpiece of any future campaigns their view that an entire category of people are not even entitled to respect. In fact, they should make sure to say that we are just like cancer cells that must be eliminated.
That approach might be effective at separating fearful and misinformed people from their money, but I don’t see it winning many elections going into the future.
All those who did the work in Maine, Maryland, Washington and Minnesota to secure these historic victories deserve our congratulations and gratitude. They worked hard, and they worked smart.
I don’t mean to make light of the despair that some people, specifically those people who take seriously communications from Peter LaBarbera, for example, are feeling. There will be those who never come to grips with reality, but we can’t predict which ones they will be. Recall the story of Louis Marinelli, whose transformation from anti-gay operative for NOM to supporter of civil marriage equality was driven by his own observation of the hateful behavior of his fellow anti-gay activists and the humanity of the LGBT people he began listening to.
If we treat those like Mr. Marinelli with compassion and grace, the contrast will speak for itself.