Can we all agree to a New Year's Resolution? Can we drop marriage as "the issue" for 2009? Let me be clear... I know we have to fight the fight against amendments in the places that don't have them yet. But we've always known this issue wasn't ripe and that it was pushed in some places before others were ready. The amendments were the backlash and they've been brutal.
But it seems to me that, as a movement, we've been putting too many of our eggs in the marriage basket. Marriage is not the be-all end-all of LGBT rights. It's not even on the radar of, what I believe to be, a pretty large swath of the LGBT community.
I'll use Indiana as a prime example of what I mean. In the Hoosier State, we are one of only 5 states in the nation without a hate crimes law. In fact, most police departments in the state ignore the hate crimes reporting law that is on the books. There are, officially, no hate crimes in Indiana because no one takes reports on them even though state law requires it.
We also don't have statewide anti-discrimination protection. It's OK to lose your job for being gay, looking gay, or just being thought of as too gay. The same goes for housing and public accommodations. In some states, it's illegal for gays to adopt children - and they've attempted that legislation here twice.
My point is that we've got a lot of work to do in a lot of places and we're expending too much talent, energy, money and emotion on marriage. Getting married, whether tomorrow or a decade hence will NOT solve all of our problems.
Do we really think that a place that doesn't care if gay people have jobs is going to allow them to be married in peace? Do we really believe that a place that doesn't want gays to adopt children is going to suddenly see the light on marital bliss for all?
I sure don't.
We put millions of dollars into California and we lost. There was outrage, gnashing of teeth, backbiting and so much more. I can't imagine what a fraction of those millions would have done for gay rights here in my state. For a million, we could have a hate crimes law. For 2 million, we could probably pull off a statewide non-discrimination law.
The way I see it, we're missing the low-hanging fruit because we're allowing the other side to set the agenda. We're fighting the wrong fight because the other side has effectively and intentionally whipped up passions over marriage.
I'm not saying California was wasted money or that we shouldn't have fought the fight. What I'm saying is that our priorities are out of whack if we can find that much money for marriage in California, but we can't find even a single million for the right to live and work in Indiana.
Our priorities are out of whack if we spend so much on marriage in California and we spent practically nothing on adoption rights being taken away in Arkansas.
We stopped the marriage amendment in Indiana through procedural moves and sharp parliamentary tactics, not because we changed minds or pulled off something magical. It was shrewd (and some would say dirty) politics. Nothing more. One committee vote made the difference and that was a hard-fought vote.
Yet every survey has shown that people in Indiana believe we should have the right to our jobs, our houses, and to visit our loved ones when they are sick. A majority also believes that bias/hate crimes against LGBT people should be punished more severely.
These are victories ripe for the taking, but we have never raised even $100,000 for LGBT causes in Indiana. You need look no further than the Obama campaign to see what happens when you drop a little cash into a place that has been summarily ignored - it pays off, big time. Indiana is a blue state after nearly 50 years and all he did was buy us some dinner and tell us we're pretty.
There have been some hopeful signs. I've been to meetings with some national leaders and have seen some others looking in our direction. But we're still talking about chump-change and token efforts at this point. I hope the conversations in other looked-over states are more progressive.
What a great year 2009 would be if we could see all 50 states with a hate crimes law that works. Even better would be all 50 states giving LGBT people the right to have a job, a home, and feel equal among their fellow citizens.
It's time to get back on track and bring the rest of the country up to par with the coasts. It's just as important to LGBT people in Alabama to have a job as it is for queers in NYC. Issues like this affect far more of our LGBT brethren than marriage ever will.
I know that's where I'm going to spend my money, time, and energy in 2009, what about you?