Editors' Note: The following is a guest post by Chris Crain. Chris is former editor of the Washington Blade, Southern Voice, and gay publications in three other cities. He blogs at CitizenCrain.com and is the editor of GayNewsWatch.com. He lives with his partner as a "love exile" in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
With the click of a mouse and boots on the street, hundreds of thousands of newly minted activists across the country last weekend declared independence from the top-down, black-tie, this-cutesy-logo-brought-to-you-by movement for gay civil rights.
It took the political perfect storm: the "Yes We Can" spirit behind Barack Obama's election, running smack up against the "Oh No You Don't" passage of Proposition 8 banning gay marriage in California.
The result was Stonewall 2.0. No corporate sponsors, no tony Washington, D.C., offices, and not a single poll or focus group. Just tech-savvy young activists pulling off day after day of street protests in California, followed by a massive mobilization on Nov. 15, a National Day of Protest in big cities and small towns across these United States.
In handmade signs signed off on by no one, gay and straight alike made their case for equality, and rejected en-masse the inane "strategery" of avoiding words like "marriage," "discrimination" and "gay" because they didn't poll well.
"No More Mrs. Nice Gay"
"OMG CA, WTF?"
"Keep your church out of our state"
"Would you rather I married your daughter?"
"You get married in your church, I'll get married in mine."
"Hey California, Jim Crow called. He wants his Proposition 8 back."
These protesters weren't buying the namby-pamby "gay agenda" our so-called leaders have already agreed to behind closed doors in Washington. Those Beltway-based Democrats have collected our checks and counted our votes for a decade with promises to pass hate crime and employment non-discrimination laws. Belatedly keeping their word is a beginning, not the end.
What do we want, then? Repealing Proposition 8, of course, but that's not even an option until 2010, at the earliest, and may well be taken care of by the legal eagles already challenging the ballot measure in the courts. Even if Prop 8 is reversed, we are only back to where we were on Nov. 3, leaving the vast majority of same-sex couples across America with little or no recognition for their relationships or prospects for same.
That's why a growing number of us have our own modest marriage proposal. Call it Proposition 9, or Prop -8, if you'd like. It would instantly confer more than 1,200 rights and benefits to same-sex couples in every single city, state and small town in the U.S., and it's already supported by two-thirds of Americans.
What is it? A federal civil unions law.
What would it do? A federal civil unions law would say that all the rights and benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples under federal law would be extended to same-sex couples whose relationships are recognized under state law.
What kind of rights are we talking about? Hundreds and hundreds -- 1,269 to be exact, according to the G.A.O. -- including "real life" benefits like equal access to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, veterans and disability survivor benefits, access to health insurance, rental and other housing insurance, education grants and programs, first-time home buyer credits, property transfer rights, consumer credit protections, domestic violence protection, and a wide range of tax benefits and protections.
It also includes immigration and asylum rights, which means no more "love exiles," LGBT Americans forced to make a heartbreaking "Sophie's Choice" between remaining in the U.S. and the non-American partner they love.
Who would it include? Everybody! It doesn't matter where you live. There are no residency requirements for lesbian and gay couples to marry in Massachusetts or Connecticut, enter into civil unions in Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey, or domestic partnerships in California, Hawaii, Washington or Oregon. For the price of a round-trip ticket to any of these places, a same-sex couple can solemnize their relationship under state law and receive the same recognition under federal law as a heterosexual married couple.
What about the Defense of Marriage Act? What about it? A federal civil unions law does not run afoul of foul-smelling DOMA, and does not require its full or even half-repeal. DOMA says only that the U.S. government can't use "marriage" or "spouse" for gay relationships, and one state can't be forced to recognize another state's gay marriages. A federal civil unions law does neither.
What would the public say? A federal civil unions law does what the people say they want, since for years surveys say two-thirds favor gay couples having the rights and benefits of marriage, just not the "M-word" itself. Even a majority of delegates to the Republican National Convention this year told pollsters they support civil unions for same-sex couples.
What would Obama say? The president-elect and his running mate don't support gay marriage, but both have been on record for months supporting fair and equal treatment of gay couples under federal law.
The "Obama-Biden Plan" on Civil Rights, announced on the transition team website (change.gov) includes this promise: "Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: Barack Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to ... enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions."
Even Sarah Palin didn't object when Joe Biden in effect promised federal civil union protection in the vice presidential debate.
"Look," Biden said, "in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple."
Say it's so, Joe. The Prop 8 protesters couldn't have put it better.