The French National Assembly passed marriage equality and legal same-sex adoption yesterday, amidst mass anti-gay protests and a significant increase in anti-gay violence and violent rhetoric. The American anti-equality group National Organization for Marriage, which was extremely active in organizing anti-marriage forces within France, only called for a cessation of violence after the Assembly passed marriage equality despite all their work to the contrary.
This should be cause for alarm.
The movement to expand the rights of LGBT people at home and around the world, including marriage equality, has gained astonishing momentum. In this month alone, two other nations besides France have legalized marriage equality (New Zealand and Uruguay), the US state of Montana finally repealed its illegal ban on homosexual sex, the states of Delaware and Rhode Island are also close on marriage equality, and a trans*-inclusive ENDA is taking another run at the United States legislature.
But opponents of equality know how to play a long game too; one only has to look at how social conservatives have doggedly pursued limiting access to abortion in America to see that. Indeed, GOP Senator Rand Paul has said publicly that he believes conservatives can keep the debate around marriage equality in particular, around for a "couple of decades," much as it has been with abortion.
So yes, we've had a string of victories in the marriage equality battle, but there are plenty of other issues facing our community, particularly for trans* people. Moreover, in the United States we're rapidly running out of "easy" states to win over. The southern and central parts of the US could easily become our Somme or Passchendaele, struggles that soak up energies and burn out activists on both sides for very little movement one way or another.
And if NOM, the standard bearers of opposition to equality are any indication, as the fight against full social and legal equality for LGBT people continues, we would do well to expect a willingness to overlook violence in word and deed against members of our community.
Of course, none of this even begins to touch the horrific injustices faced by our siblings in places such as Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, whom Western LGBT people arguably have a moral imperative to stand up for as well.
I'm not trying to be gloomy, but at the same time, the gods know that we're tired. The fight for LGBT equality in the West has been roiling along for around five decades, and it's understandable that many of us want to take the victories we've got, move to New England or the Pacific Northwest, and call the fight won. And there's not a damned thing wrong with that. No one should have to fight forever.
But there's no shortage of work to be done out there in the fight for equality. It is important to celebrate our victories, but as long as our opponents not only aren't ceding the field, but show every indication of looking the other way when lies, character attacks, and outright violence are used in pursuit of their cause, we can't afford to grow complacent in our wins.
(Image source: Cheshire Regiment trench Somme 1916.jpg, is in the public domain)