I can't believe I've been sitting on this one for a week. This is from Evan Wolfson in an interview he did with David Mixner on the Democratic frontrunners' position on same-sex marriage:
Marriage is the tug, and when gay people undercut that tug, it doesn't help our cause, or the candidates either. Those who are giving early support to particular candidates may have good reasons for doing so, but when we too quickly say "it's okay" for them not to support full equality (and even fudge what full equality is), it's not helpful. You can't get people to care if you begin by saying "I don't care," as in "I don't care what we call it," etc. And if we drop down, if we fail to do the heavy lifting (particularly at this very early stage of an unusually long presidential cycle), we do the candidates, our cause, couples, kids, and the country the disservice of not creating the space in which America (and its politicians) can rise to fairness.
There ya go folks! Don't support a candidate right now who you might like on other issues (what other issues?), because you're doing a disservice to the gays.
What is actually doing our movement harm, though, is the idea that there's only one issue and it's front and center and everything else that could benefit our community is on the back-burner until that one gets decided. Some queer people don't think that same-sex marriage is the number one priority, that there are LGBTQ issues like universal health care, elder care, queer homelessness, employment discrimination, and others that need to be worked on now. Maybe Edwards doesn't support marriage, but a queer might like his health care plan and the fact that he spoke passionately about LGBT homeless youth, and how is that hurting the community to think that? If Hillary suddenly supported same-sex marriage, would a random queer be hurting us all if he or she still supported Edwards?
I wouldn't mind this sort of top-down queer identity politics if it weren't for the fact that I know that when it comes to other policies that could improve the lives of queers, these sorts of activists would never support such a lock-step mentality. Please, prove me wrong on that one.
Of course, some would argue that the marriage movement, started in large part by Wolfson himself in Hawaii, already has drained funding and resources away from other activist issues, not to mention thrown anti-marriage or non-marriage-centric queers in the same heap with the Religious Right and helped support a narrative that divides gays into two categories: the "good" ones in long-term, monogamous conjugal relationships and the "bad" ones who hook-up, who enjoy semi-public sex venues (ie bathhouses), or who don't see the birth-school-work-marriage-children-death life arc as something they want to participate in. Groups that take on the mantle of LGBTQ advocacy, that speak from a position of power because they claim to represent our interests, bypass debate on these issues because they don't need community-wide support anymore, just money (which may come from broad support, but that support is definitely not absolute or intrinsic and it doesn't render the process democratic).
In that context, it reeks of entitlement to say that anyone who disagrees with that system of power is somehow "doing a disservice" to queers in general.