Jerame Davis

Let's move beyond "marriage" in '09

Filed By Jerame Davis | January 02, 2009 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: California, LGBT, marriage, priorities, Prop 8

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?

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Naturally, I am going to agree that making marriage the priority for the movement is a mistake. I'm not a fan of hate crimes laws as I don't much like the prison-industrial complex. A federal hate crimes law is likely to be the first "gay rights" bill out of the next Congress/administration because it's easy to vote to lock people up. So I wouldn't pick that as the alternative to marriage to focus on. ENDA and state non-discrimination laws -- THAT I totally support. I am sure you are right that the money spent on Prop 8 in California could have done much good in other states on other issues. Not to mention the fact that contributions to fight Prop 8 drew money away from LGBT organizations, resulting in layoffs. And as for the need of LGBT couples, there are some concrete changes that would make a big difference that could be enacted in many states; I write about them in my book, BEYOND (STRAIGHT AND GAY) MARRIAGE, which has just come out in paperback. Of course, same-sex couples should be able to marry, but that won't meet the needs of all LGBT (or straight) relationships. And, as you say, it's about priorities. I'm hoping a trans-inclusive ENDA is high on Obama's list. That's change -- and equality -- I would really believe in.

You may or may not be aware of what the federal hate crimes law will really do. For those Bilerico readers who are not aware, I hope I can explain it well enough to understand. First and foremost, the federal hate crimes bill, the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA,) also known as the "Matthew Shepard Bill," will NO enhance penalties. Only state level hate crime laws will do that.

The primary purpose for the LLEEA is to allow federal funding for local law enforcement agencies who may not have enough to investigate a hate crime. If labeled a "hate crime," then the small, cash-strapped" agencies can at least have extra money to work the crime.

The other purpose is to allow the FBI to start collecting statistics on these crimes based on the category they are in. Right now, the FBI doesn't give us very accurate info on LGBT hate crimes, because they are not mandated by law to keep track of them. LLEEA will not only allow the FBI to track crimes against LBGT people, but T people will be their own category.

The third reason for a federal hate crimes bill is for the federal government to make a bold statement that even though you may hate LGBT people, we do not want you to harm or kill them. It is a way to show Americans that we are a legitimate minority group.

"The other purpose is to allow the FBI to start collecting statistics on these crimes based on the category they are in."

Monica, this is a great point. I was slow to coming around to supporting hate-crime laws until I realized how important it was to quantify the harm being done to the LGBT community.

And, Jerame, great post. Thanks.

Nancy, thanks for making that point. I agree with you to an extent that hate crimes prop up the prison-industrial complex. I wasn't passing judgement on hate crimes so much as pointing out it's some of the "low-hanging fruit" that we could be claiming as victories.

I have always been torn on hate crimes because I also see the merit of having them in some parts of the country, but I'll leave that discussion for another time.

Hate Crimes, ENDA, and possibly DADT are shoe-in's in 2009; there's NO FIGHT. Congress will pass it; it has the votes and popular support.

Tell us, what's left after that? Uniting Families Act and marriage.

I doubt those three will happen in 2009. It'd be nice, but I just don't think this Congress is going to be pushing all that hard.

And there are lots of other pieces of legislation that would help the community that might not specifically mention queer people, like universal health care, increased HIV/AIDS funding (domestically), and comprehensive sex ed.

Then there's DOMA. And adoption in several states. It's a big agenda and it's not going to happen all at once, especially considering how loathe the Democrats are to seem gay-friendly.

I agree, of course, that gay marriage should not be the priority. And Nancy Polikoff's book offers perspectives on how to construct a society alternatives to a state-sanctioned form of a relationship that only privileges the few over the many that suffer from economic inequality - and who may have no desire to marry in order to escape the same.

But hate crimes legislation (HCL) is a terrible idea. It makes no sense to argue that crimes against some are somehow worse than the crimes against others - we have (plenty of) punishment for crimes, how does it make sense to even try to deduce motivation? And why? Enhancing penalties for motive has a)is not proven to be a deterrent b)only ensures that the poorest among us get put in jail for ever (because they can't afford the slick lawyers who could argue on their behalf). For an example of what can happen to those who're given no option but to cop to a hate crimes charge, see a piece I once wrote on a Ohio case:

I could go on about HCL, and I will later on. But for now, I'm glad, Jerame, that you pointed out the issues we should be focusing on: how we form our kinship networks, the right to contest discrimination, ENDA.

Please read what I wrote in response to Nancy on the LLEEA.

I'm not giving up on any cause I care about just because another seems easier. But hey if you don't have the strength, then you can go ahead and cross one or more causes off your little list of shit you care about.

Though I think you're the one who's backwards. You're saying we should go for the "low-hanging fruit" based on - what? Public opinion? Activism is about changing public opinion, not using current opinion to dictate your activism. Ur doing it wrong.

Besides, a lot of the money in California probably was wasted. No on 8 probably lost because it wasted those millions of dollars it raised on wishy-washy apologetics instead of hard-hitting, fact-based counterattacks.

Activism is also about having some wins under your belt to bolster moral and build community. But more importantly, building a foundation of rights, through ENDA, statewide non-discrimination laws, visitation rights, etc. WILL get us to a point of changing minds and moving toward marriage.

It's putting the cart before the horse. We have to win the fight to be seen as worthy before we can win the fight to truly equal. We're still not seen as worthy in many parts of this country and THAT battle matters more to the "average" LGBT person than marriage.

Although some wins are a good thing, you must realize that is what was expected in California, a victory. It wasn't until the Mormon Church started raising millions of dollars near the end of the campaign that everything went downhill. Even up to a few weeks before the election polls were putting a vote of 52% voting no. And if no had won, then that would have been a HUGE booster to the campaign.

And I must agree with Eshto. You can't just give up on one portion of the fight because it is 'hard.' Fight everything from every angle because we deserve it. Believe in yourself and all will become available!

Then we must agree because I never said give up on marriage.

Seriously, I've said this multiple times - we must fight the marriage fight, but we are ignoring these other fights way too much.

This is not a black and white issue, but far too many are reading this as a black and white post.

It's shades of gray. I think too much emphasis is on marriage. Not that it's "too hard". "Hard" has nothing to do with it.

It's "ignoring the easy" that I'm talking about. It's not seeing the forest for the trees (or the one big tree that's choking out the rest of the forest if you want to really kill that metaphor.)

Read what the positive comments have said. Not a single person has advocated for ditching marriage completely - just re-prioritizing the issues and reallocating the resources.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 3, 2009 10:25 AM

In Chicago community organizing we were always happy to show any "win" even a small one, because it got more people interested and involved. You are right on point Jeremy. Still, my heart goes out to those who married in California, but it is the relationship that is legitimate that is important. It now devolves into rights of children of Gay parents.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jerame for writing what many of us have been saying for years. I hope they will listen to you.

I could not agree more with this post. The point is to keep the eye on the prize while working on goals that are achieve able. People always point to Brown VS Board of education as an achievement but forget all of the smaller suits that lead up to that. It didn't just happen one day, there was hard work along the way.
It does not mean that you forget about marriage but focus on what will do the most good for the most people. I firmly believe that it was bourgeoisie leaders who pushed the marriage issue forgetting about things like employment equity and hate crimes. How poor do you have to be to live in the Castro again (snark) It needs to remember that the community is built upon people from all different backgrounds.

I presume your are addressing the LGBT's in Indiana. LGBT's in the progressive states will not agree with you, especially the 18,000 legally married couples in California that may have their rights taken away.

No, Charles. I'm addressing all LGBT people. There are far more states without basic rights than there are with marriage. Job, housing, and public accommodation protections are lacking to far, far more LGBT people than marriage IS available.

Indiana was an example - a place where there are several battles to be won. There are plenty of other states I could have used as examples OTHER than Indiana.

We need to bring everyone into the 21st century with basic human rights before we start eyeing the big prize.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 20, 2009 7:02 PM

Sorry, Jerame, it just doesn't work that way. Different states are at different stages and need different things. And marriage in California is winnable. We lost by a small percentage there and gained so much more just by fighting the fight. Right now we have a viable case awaiting Supreme Court decision in Iowa that we have reasonable chance of sustaining a court win of at the legislative level. You're suggesting backing off of that, which means losing? You're just not making sense.

Marla, not you too. Why is it that those who support marriage as "the issue to rule them all" take an extremist position on my words?

I'm not saying "give up on marriage" and I've corrected every person who says I did. I'm saying, "marriage" is NOT the penultimate of the gay rights struggle. I'm saying it's NOT important to a large swath of LGBT people. I'm saying we're throwing an unbelievable amount of resources at marriage for what amounts to little real progress for a very few number of actual people, which generates real backlash for those of us in the "less progressive" parts of the nation.

And I still believe we could win marriage nationwide and still not be as close to true equality as if we had laws protecting LGBT people from harm.

Yes, I get the argument that we'll finally be "seen as equal" when we're allowed to marry. But that doesn't mean we'll be treated as equal.

"we're throwing an unbelievable amount of resources at marriage for what amounts to little real progress for a very few number of actual people"


besides, CA movement leaders just admitted it's not even about rights but acceptance.

Jerame, I agree with you, too. Down here in Texas, what was happening in California might as well have been happening on Mars (and I say that as a former San Diegan). There's a lot of achievable gains to be made, all over this country.

Thanks for this post. I agree that a laser focus on marriage leaves out huge portions of the country where marriage isn't even an approachable issue and there are many other important fights we have to wage to achieve LGBT rights. That said, it would be interesting to see where the community is in terms of its energy and where people think the priorities should be. Some people think that the outpouring of activism in the wake of our Prop 8 loss only happened because the issue was marriage. I don't know. I'm agnostic on the issue, but it's worth discussing.

My own sense of issue priorities leads me to the situation of the many out of home and out of school queer youth who get little attention from our community and for whom very few funds are raised. Let's start dealing with these kids. They are our kids.


Here is another argument for state level hate crimes laws. Whenever hate crimes are brought, most everyone go right to the top. "Murder is murder."

The response, "Murder is indeed murder. But, murder is not the only crime that can be a hate crime. Here in Georgia, because we don't have ANY hate crime law, then when a person burns a cross on an African American's lawn, it is nothing more than starting a fire without a permit. Painting a swastika on a synagogue is nothing more than vandalism. Scratching 'faggot" in the paint of someone's car and that too is vandalism."

Arguing hate crimes at the top end of the scale is never going to fly. Change the direction to the low end of the scale and they can't come back with any credible argument.

Seems there are two ways to go on this. Call the people you described terrorists and ship them off to Guantánamo Bay. On the other hand, does it cost any more to have a door with faggot scratched into it repainted than one that say's wash me?

I fear that we're creating a class of thought crimes.

Well, if that's what you "think." Thoughts are one thing. Acting upon them is another.

Gay marriage has become a flash point for civil rights in general. And the passage of Prop. 8 has galvanized the gay community in a way not seen since the height of the AIDS crisis. What other issue can you suggest ? Your crazy gay Christian billboards in Indiannopolis that says Jesus married gay men, or that Ruth loved Naomi. No wonder there are so many gay murders in Indiana. Get real with the rest of the world.

I'd argue you're wrong that marriage has galvanized the community to the degree some people wish it has. I think, in certain areas where gay marriage is more likely to happen, more people have gotten worked up about it. But you need only look a few comments above to see that someone from Texas compared the CA Prop 8 fight to a battle on Mars.

But I'm really concerned that you seem to indicate that it's OK to kill gays in Indiana because one of our churches sponsored some billboards from a national campaign against religious bigotry. That is the height of bitter and jaded rhetoric.

It's unfathomable to me to think someone who has a caring bone in their body could say that those billboards would lead to more queer deaths and that's somehow deserving.

You should be ashamed.

How exactly do you see ENDA and hate crimes to be more popular - more easy to achieve (how ever you want to spin this) when they have been in the hands of Congress and various state for decades with only partial enactment at state level?

I think the Bilerico editorial staff draws straws to see whose turn it is to post a column like this on a weekly basis.

What I'm not sure of is what actually defines the winner of the drawing - the writer who has to post or the others that get the week off.

This argument is always made here and it really doesn't make any sense but it keeps coming up. It doesn't make sense because the marriage battles - for the most part - are coming up in the courts and ENDA/Matthew Shepard bills are legislative pieces. They are all happening at the same time. There is no organized (obviously...right?) movement in an underground bunker that is constantly pressing on the marriage peddle while pumping the break on ENDA.

Couples that want to be married are going to court to fight for their rights. The courts are the place that these matter must be resolved and it is not reasonable to ask anyone to pretend it is ok to allow themselves to be denied equal protections and due process because it MIGHT be easier to pass ENDA - 30 years after it was first introduced.

Politicians are dodging bullets by shelving hate crimes or watering ENDA down. There is no fund raising effort to pass ENDA. Hate crimes legislation is not appearing on any state ballot that i know of.

I have a better idea, Jerame, let's stop doing the work of the right wing religionists and the complicit left wing pseudo democrats by playing a shell game with our rights and instead push an agenda for justice on ALL of our issues.

If you want to perpetually refer to the marriage equality debacle as a matter of us imposing on the hegemonic tradition like our opponents do, then you are participating in creating the failures. The 30 amendments are an enormous affront to our citizenship and our democracy (separation of power and church/state). No matter how much money was raised or could be raised in CA there will be no impact on the state of ENDA.

The fight for our constitutional citizenship will not stop. We don't deserve the attacks on our rights. We should fight for ourselves. Whether you choose to see it or not, there is momentum happening. Don't chicken out now.

I think the Bilerico editorial staff draws straws to see whose turn it is to post a column like this on a weekly basis.

What I'm not sure of is what actually defines the winner of the drawing - the writer who has to post or the others that get the week off.

Naw, Patrick. Jerame just doesn't want to marry me. He has the rest of the staff in on a conspiracy to silence my dreams of a white picket fence. *grins*

Come to think of it, while I can see Michael and possibly Waymon defending marriage as (maybe) a #1 issue, I know Father Tony has actually performed mariages! *gasp!* Alex and I would back Jerame on this one, but what the hell - we're the 3 from a midwestern state wasting money fighting off a marriage amendment when we'd rather use that cash to gain employment non-discrimination. Instead, our fight is being foisted upon us thanks to actions in other coastal states.

Bil -

Jerame will not marry you because you keep giving the milk away for free.

My mother always warned me about that.

Keep your knees together, darling.



This is why I like you, Patrick. You'll tell it like it is. *grins*

I'd marry him if I could, but I'd also like to be able to eat, have a home, and be safe in the meantime.

I am fighting for what's important to me, which I think should be important to us all - making life better for all LGBT people.

you can marry Bil Jerame it just won't be recognized in Indiana.....
There's Massachusetts where you no longer have to declare residency intentions, just a quick weekender would do. You could go to Canada too.... the only drawback with Canada is the divorce deal. But if you really mean til death then no worries...

Why am I being dragged into this?

To me, the answer is obvious. What Jerame apparently doesn't understand, or doesn't want to understand, is that marriage is the foundation for all other rights. Well, marriage and serving in the military.

When we have those two things, everything else will fall in place. You can't make a law banning discrimination. You can't pass a law that makes people suddenly stop wanting to commit hate crimes. The government has no right playing thought police in either arena - if you lose your job because you're gay, start up your own firm. It's gumption like that that makes America both great and unquestionable.

But back to my main point, ENDA and hate crimes leg will do nothing. What we need to develop is a culture in which gay and lesbian people can live in dignity, not shame. Marriage equality does that. Someone who's about to beat up a gay couple in the street is going to ask himself: "What if they're a married couple, like me? What if he's a husband, with a family, like my own? What if they served openly in the military, like I did?" And, as such, assimilation ends hate crimes. The same thing works when it comes to job discrimination.

So don't go pretending like we really can put marriage on the back-burner. It's the ultimate expression of human dignity, and, because of that, it should come first.

Oh, er, um, excuse me. Sometimes I accidentally channel Andrew Sullivan for no reason.

I just don't agree, Patrick. Marriage is important in the few places where it is possible. Elsewhere, we've already lost. 30 states. We lost those battles, but the fight continues. In the more-than-a-majority of places we have amendments, we're not going to turn them around without laying the groundwork for basic rights.

To do that, we need to pass laws where there is agreement. Polling shows very clearly that in most parts of the country, Americans believe in LGBT people's right to a job, yet we don't have ENDA, we don't have state-level laws in many places, and we're spending all our time, resources and energy fighting for marriage - which, by the way, loses by 66/33 in Indiana.

Yet just as many people agree that LGBT people have a right to exist, a right to a job, a right to a home, and a right to be safe.

Marriage has little to no meaning in Indiana, Kentucky, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Utah, etc. because people are still fighting to for the right to work, live, and not be killed.

I said in my piece, the marriage battles have to be fought...But I lament the fact that we aren't fighting just as hard for the pieces of the puzzle that are easily obtained.

It'll be 10 years or more before we see marriage in Indiana - much longer in other areas - barring federal intervention, which we know isn't going to happen.

Like I said, give me a fraction of the millions spent in California and I can win battles in places like Indiana that would have substantive meaning for a hell of a lot more people than marriage will.

And that's the point. Let's chalk up some wins and focus on the attainable goals this year. The right wing knows marriage isn't a winner for them anymore, but it's not a winner for us either. So let's let that pot simmer while we cook up something new (that's really something old, but the marriage battles distracted us from them.)

But Jerame, let's say you were given $40 million (yeah, I'm being ridiculous) HOW would you be able to turn that money into an ENDA victory in your state?

What role does money play in a legislative battle?

I guess my main point here is not one of ideological difference, but of apples and oranges.

How would employment/hate crime protections in Indiana be achieved by raising money?

Also - explain to me HOW it is that your state comes to have to fight an amendment to the state constitution.

Is an amendment being proposed as punishment for citizens that don't want hate crimes protections or aren't worried about job security? I would be willing to bet that same sex couples (with or without children) would also like job security and the illusion of protection from hate crime legislation. I assume an amendment is being pushed by right wing interests because they see an opportunity.

You can't pretend we are being offered a multiple choice question that has only one right answer when the situation really is a matter of the right wing pressuring the government to give us as little as possible - and then repeal what is granted.

Finally, what would it take to get you stop speaking of the 30 amendments as a marriage issue?

Why can't you see how this is not about preventing marriage - it is about marginalizing us any way possible. The amendments are just an opening. They establish a pattern of majority rule that won't stop with preventing us from being married. By amending state after state there is a pattern that can be established to say - "hey, we managed to limit their right to 14th amendment protections...what more can we do to establish our supremacy?"

If Indiana doesn't have an ENDA or hate crime protections it is NOT because there are some citizens that insist upon their right to equal protections and due process.

This is just a version of blaming the victim and it is an enormous waste of's fine for a classroom debate...but the reality of it is preposterous.

Using your preposterous numbers, I could achieve just about any goal I wanted in Indiana, so let's not go there. Our Dem. Gubernatorial candidate didn't raise that much this year, so you can imagine how absurd $40 mil sounds.

Since you asked about Indiana, though, I will tell you what MORE money here would do.

1. Buy us more than a part-time lobbyist in the statehouse. We have exactly one person, who has 9 other clients, lobbying for us in state government. That's absurd, but we can barely afford that.

2. Pay for organizers/staff in different parts of the state. Our statewide LGBT organization (there is only 1) has zero offices. It's run out of a church meeting room and, as I said before, can barely pay for the lobbyist it has hired to lobby on our behalf. There are no paid employees - just that contracted lobbyist.

3. Pay for education of the public. We have exactly zero pro-LGBT education projects in Indiana. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone saying good things about us instead of the multitude of organizations that do attack us daily?

You just don't get it...We have little to nothing here in terms of infrastructure, support, services, you-name-it. We have a part-time lobbyist who has more conflicts of interest than you can shake a stick at.

I happen to know we're not alone in being challenged in the ways I've mentioned. We are farther ahead than some other states, but way behind many others. Is it really so hard to understand that parity across the nation bolsters our argument for full equal rights, including marriage?

I'm not so stupid as to be unaware of what the amendments are really about...That's why getting laws protecting the most vulnerable LGBT people IS SO DAMNED IMPORTANT. If they're willing to punishing us with something that's "popular" we need to have some stop-gap measures in place (like employment protection).

5 cities in Indiana have an inclusive Human Rights Ordinance. Two years ago, someone tried to introduce a bill to nullify those ordinances. With a statewide law, they couldn't do that so easily.

These things affect EVERY LGBT person in the state. Marriage, by nature, only affects a certain percentage of LGBT people. Protecting everyone is far more important to me and should be to everyone.

It's easy to say marriage is important when you already have employment protections, hate crimes protections, and decent statewide advocacy organizations. But when you have none of that and you're constantly under attack, under funded, and over worked, it's not.

Like I said in my post, Indiana has never seen $100,000 in total money for LGBT causes in a single year. Most years have been half that or less.

I don't want preposterous money in Indiana...I want a better distribution of money nationally to work on effecting real change for real people. A single million in Indiana would go farther than $5 million in California...So give CA $4 million and shoot the other million elsewhere.

I want a focus on winning and taking the fight forward, not defending and letting ourselves fall backward. We'll get closer to overturning those 30 amendments when we win these basic protections in those same states. We HAVE to build the foundation for success in these states. And the cornerstone of that is basic protections, not marriage.

What role does money play in a legislative battle?

Well, Jerame already answered this, but as someone who's done a lot of legislative work, money can make a huge difference. While it's the logical arguments and constituents speaking up that will shift votes, it's lobbyists and organizers that get logic to the legislators and mobilize their constituents.

Ever tried running a legislative campaign without funding? Without staff people? Without lobbyists? Without cars to transport people? Without phones to call people? Not to mention without the perks that can come with a polling, advertising, or mailing budget. Unless you have some major connections, it's just about impossible.

I have a better idea, Jerame, let's... instead push an agenda for justice on ALL of our issues.

I'd agree that doing it ALL would be best, but that is not what has been happening. Where do you think that $40 million came from? A big chunk came from LGBT orgs across the country, or from donors who made their annual check out to No on 8 instead of their local LGBT org. Now the organizations that do state and local work are being forced to do layoffs and cut back on their goals and workplans (granted the economy has something to do with that too). And that's just one example.

I've also seen marriage take up so much emotional energy that leaders and organizers can hardly think about other issues. Personally, I do try to do it all, and marriage is a part of that. But I've had my share of watching other issues I care about -- issues that I'd prioritize if it were up to me -- being drained of resources and support.

Non-discrimination and hate crimes are constantly polling better than marriage, and have passed in several states in the past decade. The places where they've stalled, I'd imagine has much to do with that resource drain.

How you love to twist words. I never indicated that it was OK to kill gays, I am gay. Just saying I didn't hear much about Indy gay murders until the billboards went up. It evidently got the Christian homophobes in an uproar and that influenced the extremists. Most LGBT blogs were not surprised when the billboards were defaced.

Those billboards weren't paid for with a single Indiana dime. All of that money came from the Faith in America group, founded by Mitchell Gold and based in North Carolina. There was more to it than the billboards.

I still think your comment was a bit insensitive considering we just reported on LGBT murders in Indiana in the past 10 days regardless if you didn't mean what it appears you wrote. You started hearing about LGBT murders in Indiana because this blog started making a fuss about it, not because those billboards generated more hostility.

And the murders spiked over a year after those billboards (which were up for a total of 30 days) came down.

Exactly what will happen in 2009 or 10 when the hugely stripped down and trans-exclusive ENDA goes to the floor?

All of the infighting will resume, the fires of hell will rise up to consume all of us again.

Unless the various organisationa negotiate RIGHT NOW to settle the ENDA issue, and commit to a form that everyone can at least tacitly support, we will see the community rent apart again and still have this emasculated parody of a civil rights bill.

Let's settle, once and for all, what ENDA must be.
And settle it now. And lets write it in stone and tell Congress now what ENDA must contain

In fact, let's settle this right here and right now. Do we go with any ENDA, hoping that we can get more later or do we have the tenacity to "skip" a bad ENDA. I would like to hear from the posters here their intentions before we descend into the mire again....

Wow. No takers on discussing ENDA. My fear is that it will go to the floor in it's current form, there will be "no time for amendments and we don't have the votes " again, and we will get this hugely emasculated law that protects few...

and the community will be just a riven as it was the first time....

We need to discuss this, to decide form and tactics, not leavign it to the HRC and make an early stand to get what we want.

Actually, I've been saying this for a long time: gay marriage is a largely symbolic fight; there are many better issues to fight for that would have more concrete consequences for the LGBT community. Gay marriage will become legal across this country when the majority of people wake up and accept gays as human beings, which could be decades down the road; in the meantime, putting energy into less divisive and more practical matters would bring benefits now.

Realality check just because the Dems will have a larger majority dose not mean this buch is LGBT friendly.There will be way more "Blue Dogs" in this congress than you want to admit to so it aint going to be easy to get a EDNA that includes transfolks or a end to Dont ask dont tell or even a socalled hate crimes bill passed. Just because they got the D behind there name dont mean they are a bunch of Liberals. Welcome back to the possable "Boweavle" congress of old .That means deals with the Dawgs and working with the Republicans to get what you want.

I don't mean just on a federal level. ENDA should be doable and so should DADT, but on a state level, we need much work. Indiana is one of 5 states without a hate crimes law. There are still far too many places without workplace protections for LGBT people.

The point is that marriage isn't the be-all, end-all of the gay rights movement. It's just one of the many battles to be fought and it's definitely not the battle I think gets us to equality the fastest or the easiest.

The points regarding the money spent in California are pretty unfair. We spent the massive sum of money because the other side spent the same. It's not like we, as a movement, decided to put 40 million towards obtaining marriage in California -- We already had it! The only reason there was a costly fight was because the other side waged a needless battle. What was our option, to sit on our wallets?

I've been seeing lots of these sorts of "Are we unfocused/too focused on one thing?" type of posts lately, many of them in regards to the Rick Warren. They are good for starting a debate, but I think they paint the picture too simply. In this instance -- yes, we are fighting for marriage and that fight is capturing lots of attention. This is in part due to our losses, but also due to our AMAZING wins (which, as patrick stated, are largely in the judiciary). But at the same time, we are also directing considerable energy to a whole slew of fights on both state and federal levels (legislative, largely). We, as activists, should be able to compartmentalize and handle all of the many different aspects of the push for more and greater equality.

I don't think my comments about CA are unfair. I said the battle had to be fought. What I also said was if we could raise that kind of money for a marriage battle in CA, why couldn't we raise a smaller, but still significant amount for states without basic protections for LGBT people...I think that's pretty reasonable.

I don't think money was wasted, but we did lose, so in some sense, it's hard to see it as money well spent either. It is what it is, but it's a lesson to be learned.

That lesson is multi-faceted, but the facet I think people should be paying attention to is that we CAN raise significant sums of money for LGBT causes, but that money seems to only go to high profile and already pretty progressive places.

Sure there have been wins in the marriage battle. But not all of us live in MA, CA, VT, NJ, or NY. Not all of us even have a right to a job.

As a movement, what's more important? The right to live, work, and be safe? Or the right for some of our people to marry?

Which is better? Helping everyone or making life even better for a few?

I know where I stand and I don't think that's unfair.

Hummm. Where have I heard THAT before?

The Republicans control the Indiana Senate by a nearly 2 to 1 margin. The House is almost evenly divided. Blue Dog Democrats in the US Congress seem like Pelosi liberals when compared to some of our Indiana Democrats.

And you say for two million you can get a state-wide non-discrimination bill?

Yeah, right.

Yeah, I think so. It may take more than a year, but I think a $2 million budget could get us a statewide law. If not, it'd sure get us a lot closer.

Until the marriage battle swept Indiana off its feet, we were prepared to have the bill introduced in the General Assembly. I may not be Indiana Equality's biggest fan, but the people that founded IE did so for that very purpose. That was 2 years before marriage even became an issue in Indiana.

The way the marriage amendment went down here in Indiana does change the calculus some - there are people who are bitter over it. But very few of the people who voted in favor of the amendment really believe it's necessary - they believe it wins them votes.

Marriage has never been The Issue for the big nose GLBT groups. It's been a grassroots fight because it represents a package of rights and legal arrangements that simply make sense.

We should not back off.

Allan Brauer | January 3, 2009 2:50 AM

I have a better idea. Let's make 2009 the year in which LGBT people stop telling other LGBT people what their "issue" should be, and start celebrating the actions of all LGBT people who are working their asses off on one or more of our collective "issues."

There was a time, Jerame, when I would have agreed with you. Marriage was not anywhere near the top of my list, and I too believed we should focus on the seemingly more achievable goals like ENDA and hate crimes.

When Gavin Newsom stirred the pot in SF in 2004, I even thought, as did Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, that it was terrible timing and would give the "right" a wedge issue to exploit.

But the CA Supreme Court ruled as it did this year, and my domestic partner and I rushed to wed the first day it was legal. And along the way I learned something important.

Straight people love their institution of marriage. And straight people who are generally supportive of LGBT equality LOVE seeing gay people loving marriage. It validates their feelings about marriage and they transfer all their personal warm-and-fuzzies to us.

My straight friends are now extremely militant in favor of marriage equality and furious at the results on Prop 8 and asking me what they can do to help fight this latest campaign to invalidate my marriage.

Is this the most important issue facing us? Maybe not. Should we devote all our energy toward fighting for marriage equality? Definitely not.

But we must understand and appreciate that when we find an issue that hits sympathetic straights in their hearts, we can't afford not to pursue it. We're building the coalitions that will help us win all these rights by pursuing one that matters to them as much or more as to us.

That's in California. Marriage equality is not even a discussion item here Georgia. We got our ban in 2004. We have a zero hate crime law, not even one covering religion and race. And employment protection . . . "Fer-git aboutit." We participated in the Prop 8 protest on November 15, including me, but as someone stated before, the Prop 8 fight might as well have been on Mars, or the Moon.

We know that this year, Georgia may try to mirror Arkansas on banning gay adoptions. THAT will be our fight. We have very few sympathetic straights in this state and none are in power.

I truly hope you stay married and that they reverse Prop 8, but even if it did happen, for me, it will be July 20, 1969 all over again. I sat in front of the television and heard the words "That's one small step for man . . . " spoken 270,000 miles away. I'll pray for you and your husband.

Again, I agree. If you read my post, it's very clearly a request, nay a plea, to the people on the coasts tell ME that marriage is "the issue". I don't want to be told what my issue is, but when marriage sucks all the life out of everyone in the movement and all the money out of our very limited treasuries, I feel like I have no choice but to speak out.

I still think most of the coastal folks who actually have a chance at marriage have no clue what it's like to live inland. Listening to the reasons espoused to continue pouring everything into marriage astounds me.

Do you realize that most people in Indiana have no clue who Gavin Newsom is? Do you know most Hoosiers view San Francsico as hippies, liberals and queers?

I just don't see how our movement benefits by a hodgepodge of marriage here, amendment there and a whole lot of discrimination and anti-gay bigotry in between.

I applaud the notion that gay marriage is possible (and real) in some parts of the country. What I don't understand is the lack of empathy for the LGBT people who are actually feeling the backlash for those rights so few of our LGBT brethren covet.

We are the ones getting pummeled with anti-gay legislation, beatings, killings, and hatred because a few places saw their golden ticket and ran for it.

We are paying the price for the rights of others. All we want is a little bit of respect and help in return. Instead, we're written off.

$40 million - We couldn't raise that kind of money for Indiana LGBT causes over 40 years! We're not even asking for that much. Just something, anything that would help us get closer to the reality that LGBT people in CA, NY, MA, and other more progressive places take for granted.

Allan Brauer | January 3, 2009 2:46 PM

Jerame, I did read your column, and here's how you opened it:

Can we all agree to a New Year's Resolution? Can we drop marriage as "the issue" for 2009?

Then, when I suggested that it was not your place to make this decision on behalf of others for whom this issue IS their personal focus, you blithely suggested that as a Californian I must be oblivious to how tough you have it in IN.

Well, this Californian grew up in small towns around Corpus Christi, TX, so you'll have to trust me when I say I get it, as do millions of other CA residents who relocated here. Further, I find your writing reveals you to be excessively binary (on/off, either/or) in YOUR thinking, and people like me who live in CA AND appreciate how bad things are elsewhere, or who fight for marriage equality AND ENDA AND hate crimes reveal the limitations of that kind of thinking.

YOU chose to frame this provocative post in that kind of perspective, even if you did modify the didacticism of your opening somewhat in the body of your post. And instead of recognizing my point that marriage equality may have more potential as a unifying issue between the LGBT community and our straight allies, you dismissed this fact as a California phenomenon.

You're not helping.

Perhaps the stress on the syllables doesn't come through online, but I think the context and content of my post clearly states anything BUT a binary position. "The issue" is in quotes, to indicate my point that is sucks the life out of all the other issues, which was indeed the point of my post. I stand by it.

The binary, actually unary, position you seem to be espousing is that marriage is the ultimate goal.

Well, for me, marriage isn't the ultimate goal. It's one of many and it's certainly not THE goal. There are many goals in the LGBT movement and I think the myriad comments here prove that. Binary is not my style.

Allan Brauer | January 3, 2009 6:08 PM

Well, then, if your point was that marriage equality sucks the life out of all other issues, then you are simply and completely wrong.

Thanks for clarifying.

Except I'm also in Texas, and the gay marriage issue, particularly the passage of Prop 8 in California, certainly galvanized me.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | January 3, 2009 6:55 AM

Jerame, I note that in the title of this thread, you put the word "marriage" in quotation marks (although I don't believe you did so anywhere else in the text). Was there a reason for that?

Our opponents have long made it a practice to put quotation marks around "marriage", "gay", and a number of other terms, something that many in the LGBT community, including me, find disparaging.

It wasn't meant as a "slight", but to convey a "generic" term. I use quotes to set off words in a sentence as well. Not necessarily proper usage, but it works.

Have you become a quote-o-phobe from reading too much Veritas Rex? Be careful or soon you'll be suspicious if the nefarious single quote/apostrophe since it is such a sneaky character changing itself based on usage. LOL

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | January 3, 2009 9:51 AM

Thanks for the clarification. What in the world ever caused you to think that I ever read Veritas Rex? (:

I live in Indiana. When I learned my son was gay, my first reaction was fear for his safety. Ten years later, I still worry when I can't reach him. I know marriage is important, but as parents, we worry about our children. When I read about the murders of GLBT people here in Indiana, my blood runs cold. I agree that we need to have a Hate Crimes bill put into place. I also want to see my son (and others) have employment and housing protections. I would love to see marriage equality, but I also think the basics should be a priority now, at least here in Indiana. Thanks for bringing this up Jerame.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 3, 2009 10:41 AM

Annette, who can argue with the wisdom of a mother.

I sympathize with your obsessive concern for your child's safety, Annette. I have the same concerns when my husband walks our dog at 11pm - especially on a rowdy Saturday night.

We live in California where hate crime laws exist, as well as the death penalty, and unfortunately, neither serve as a deterrent to crime.

Most recently you may have heard of the gang rape of a lesbian in Richmond, CA (across the bay from SF). Four suspects have been arrested and may be charged with a hate crime, but the crime has already been committed.

Ask a few of the families of other hate crime victims in CA. The law is good for statistics and federal support, but it doesn't stop the violence AND to the point of this post, all of the funds raised in the world might (maybe but I don't see how) help pass legislation in Indiana and other places, but that doesn't necessarily provide security to LGBT citizens.

Extending full constitutional citizenship to LGBT citizens (via marriage in our current example) might make it more difficult for the general public to identify a class of individuals that have been targeted for disparate treatment making them prone to be victims of hate crimes and discrimination. But maybe we should buttress our lives with special legislation instead of fighting for the rights we already have. I don't pretend to have the answers. I don think it is important to take a close critical look at what these repeated arguments about shuffling priorities mean.

I don't advocate for a heirarchy of "more worthy" issues. I believe we can do what is on our plate today and we ought to be prepared to do what we can for each other at all times, not pick and choose. There should have been a much more vigorous response in 2004 to the first wave of amendments, but the LGBT leaders (and democratic party sycophants) were too busy cow towing to John Kerry to stand up for themselves.

We need to learn how to be advocates for ourselves for all of our issues - and resist the call to support politicians that will benefit by the implementation of divide and conquer strategies, the kind I fear that are promoted by blog posts like this one.

No, some crimes are desperate, other are passionate.

Is a mother, who has 3 starving children, hateful because she steals a loaf of bread? It's still a crime, but there is no hate involved.

Is drunk driving hateful? It's stupid, but I don't see malice involved in someone having one too many drinks and getting behind the wheel. Stupidity, but not hate.

I Still believe that a push to get trans-rights in Massachusetts, particularly since the Right has targeted the issue for defeat, would be the best place to start.

It is pro-active, it keeps our promises to the trans community, made years ago and so very many times, and it hands the Right a defeat on an issue that they have chosen as their next target.

We can win this. Good time, good place, and the outside groups will be leery to pouring money in after the consequences of prop 8.

We really do owe the trans community this one, and it will end the aura of invincibility that the Right is trying to portray...

MA is a smart and overdue place to have a trans victory, Maura. Is there an organization that is working on making this happen - or is that the point of your comment; that the LGBT orgs aren't taking a strong stand?

AND I also wanted to say that you make another excellent point about the upcoming ENDA fight. Barney Frank and HRCs watered down bill will be revived. It will be re-branded as progress and I would be willing to bet that if that bill is presented with trans protections, there will be a post like this from people (like Jerame, but not necessarily from him) that say we have to pass this bill now for the people that it can help and then get back to the rest of you later.

I loathe this kind of patriarchal, condescending, moderate (aka practical) compromising.

It's just a carrot...divide and conquer...follow the crumb of justice you desperate queers...

You clearly don't understand my point and obviously don't understand my politics. I've never been anything other than 100% supportive of a fully inclusive ENDA. I think Barney Frank is a troll and I lament the fact that he's one of only two out members of Congress.

Please don't ever include me in your diatribes about an inclusive ENDA again. I've been on the right side of that fight from the beginning and I find it insulting for you to insinuate otherwise.

I'm glad to hear that, Jerame.

Do you see the danger of advocating compromise? That is the point I am trying to make.

I understand your point.

Then lets take positive steps...NOW!
Get the Massachusetts bill through to set the stage....

Meanwhile, discuss the Federal ENDA bill and find out what the community demands, protest, march, and get the HRC behind us since it seems that 200 groups do not equal the weight of the HRC in Congress' eyes.

But we have to agree upon and insist upon a version, right now.
Otherwise, it will be this version, stripped down and nothing but an accomodation to the prejudices of this age.

So, when do we start talking strategy and really get this into motion?

Christ Patrick;
Only two people are talking about this and we are both non-trans/sisgendered or whatever they call it.

No one wants to go out on a limb, they only seem to want to wait for Congress to offer crumbs in 2010 or 2011.

We have to start now, we need some wins in states to demonstrate that an inclusive ENDA is a good thing politically, and we need to bring out the worst and most vile in the Christian Right's rhetoric, which this issue does.

We know what the HRC and Congress will agree upon, the existing bill, for ease of passage and convieninece. But we as a community need to make a stand, loud and out-there, that the current bill is not acceptable and one way to do it is to cohesively get the Massachusetts bill passed with widespread and enthusiastic LGBT support.

If we cannot do this, if we cannot engender the same kind of enthusiasm for the rights of the T's in Massachusetts to housing and employment as we can for the rights of G/L's in California to marry, then we hoestly need to face our trans brothers and sisters and say "you do not count" rather than continuing to use them as bargainng chips.


There's a lot to be done, and a lot being done. To see some ways you can help directly, check out

As for seeing some wins, 2007 brought us four additional states with statewide gender identity non-discrimination (covering over a third of the US population). Repeal attempts in each case failed (I'm pretty sure, someone correct me if I'm wrong).

After talking with my rep, he's going to vote for whatever version of ENDA comes before him (even though he knows that every LGBT org in his district will be very upset with him if he votes for a broken ENDA). And that's the way a lot of reps are. Talking to our reps is still important, but getting the right version introduced is the defining step. Many of us have said that if the inclusive ENDA was brought forth in 2007, it would have passed even then.

Unfortunately, there's very little power we have around that -- it's all up to Barney Frank, and he rarely listens to anyone (except maybe his colleagues in the House). However, he has said that if the house dems pick up 15 seats, then an inclusive ENDA can pass, and at least that many seats got picked up. So I'm hopeful, but not entirely trusting. In the meantime, talking with your rep is about the best you can do. If they're not supportive, try to move them. If they are, ask them to say something to Barney Frank.

As a Lesbian activist, I find this version of ENDA unacceptable. Too many Lesbians in too many circumstances would be unprotected,

If the larger organisations were to go on the offensive concerning this now, perhaps we would not end up with this version beig passed out of convienience. And can we agree, right now, that Professor Carpenter is a conservative prat and that his interpretation of the coverage is a farce as opposed to the opinions of the attorneys of Lambda Legal who disagree with him?

I think that MassEquality is sort fo active, but they have a history of some indifference.

I want a win Patrick, and I want a win on an issue that infuriates them. This is it; but we as a larger community need to get behind this to make it happen.

Trans rights in Mass 20 years late, after the Right has targeted it, will be a huge statement that we can still muster some strength...

As for ENDA--well, that is why I want to have the discussion NOW!. If we drift into this without some discussion and without pushing the HRC and others, we will have the same bill and the same fractitious outcome, with very few people covered and far too many loopholes.
Monica's friend in Texas died from those kinds of loopholes.

I am not gay or trans, but have been an avid, fulltime lgbt civil rights activist for the past 15 years and live in Arkansas. I am most grateful to Jerame's article and for the post Cindy Rizzo wrote. I cut my teeth on activism over 30 yrs ago trying to get the ERA ratified in AR.

The lgbt youth are in dire need of us all. They suffer in silence and fear, as well they feel abandoned by the adult lgbt folks and organizations. This is what I hear from the children who either call, visit or connect with us.

Another matter is hate crime legislation, many of us (families and survivors of bias motivated violence) sought a federal bill that did not enhance penalties but sought a process that required the Justice Dept to investigate and prosecute such crimes when local law enforcement refused to do so. Assault, murder, rape and so forth are illegal nationwide but what recourse do we have when cops and or DA's do not do their job based on bias. Making funds available is important as is requiring reporting but who is going to hold local law accountable? My family has first hand experience with this problem and we are not alone.

I did not read of anyone addressing another problem we have long encountered, the bias I have heard and seen toward transgendered human beings by the some in the gay community. I have seen racism but such is rare compared to tgs bias. I was appalled when I learned that HRC was knowingly excluding gender identity from all legislation they were pushing in Congress some years back. Since then they, with pressure from others, amended the hate crime bill but ENDA remains with the original language that excludes those most impacted with loss of jobs, homes, even the most basic right to use a public restroom.

The discussions on this thread are very important and perhaps 2009 will see a cohesive community emerge with sleeves pulled up and ready to work for equality and in a fashion that leaves no one behind. Maybe it would be helpful to first assist those who are the most impacted, who are the least heard by this form of bias. I can attest that it has not always been easy for those who seek anti-lgbt legislation, to have to speak against a straight, christian grandmother & grandfather type.

Reality is that religion is at the core of this onslaught and to ignore the problem will not make it disappear. Fear is taught in most of the nation's churches. I remember when this was true in white churches in AR toward people of color and verses were quoted then too. I knew that one day, all those bible classes I was required to attend as a child may come in handy and it has. It is equally important to voice the point that religious opinion has no place in our government. It does not say "of the straight people and by the straight people."

I await to read and learn more and appreciate how most on this thread are seeking solutions so as to pursue this multi-faceted civil rights struggle. Remember to include the straight allies and supportive families.

Thank you for this. You just reinforce my point that there is far more to this fight than marriage.

I didn't touch enough on trans-issues and I wish I had, but you're right - there is a HUGE chasm between the rights LGBs enjoy vs. the Ts in our community.

So, well, I do hope y'all won't mind an A here (in addition to your LGBTQ's). I must at least agree with Allan that Prop H8 galvanized both Q's and lots of A's to support of gay marriage. Just here in my little town there were about 200-250 who showed up downtown for a No on 8 Rally... but about 1000 showed up on November 15th for the Join the Impact rally to support their friends and neighbors who were hurt by the vote. (The No on 8 rally was the first political rally I have ever attended, and I went to Berkeley in l963.)

Overall, l I believe in STONEWALL 2.0... This is the year to fight for everything, everywhere and not give up until full equal civil rights are realized.

Here we just had a rape of a lesbian woman...the perps, 4 of them, two under 17,were arrested withing days and ALL are being tried for a hate crime. That is important.

In this economy though I truly think a fully inclusive ENDA is the way to go. Almost the alter-ego of marriage, ENDA is really supported by a great majority of Americans..and could quietly make a big difference to so many..who would then have more $$ to use for other causes.

Would love to see a repeal of DADT personally. Here at our JTI Nov 15th rally was a young man with a sign relating how he was a veteran..and 'Could Risk His Life for his Country", without telling,of course, but when he came home he was unable to marry. With more open gay veterans ENDA, Hate Crime and even marriage rights will seem 'real' (pardon the ') to many more people.

Good column, and I, for one think it is worth doing weekly in 2009 as STONEWALL 2.0 needs to keep loud and forefront. Could even number them. This is First 09 Column.

Step 1, let's turn our flamethrowers on some of the straw men. If anybody out there can show me a real, live person who only wants marriage equality, I'll eat your hat.

Politics is the art of the possible. As such it's like negotiation. Starting off by demanding less than you want to end up with is smart because...? Didn't think so.

Everything else is tactics. Is it better tactics to try for ENDA first or the repeal of DADT first or try for a package deal? Ask some smart, sympathetic people, build some consensus, gather some more allies, and get working: A then B then C then D then E then F.

Marriage isn't related to many of these other rights we seek. It's not all on a continuum, some of it is necessary in and of itself. Marriage will not help LGBT people keep their job if there are no protections for that job. Gaining marriage does not enact those protections, but IF we had marriage and didn't have job protections, you can be sure it'd be a hell of a lot easier for the jerks to know you're gay when you present your same-sex husband or wife at the holiday cocktail party.

Marriage also isn't related to hate crimes either. Possibly adoption, but again, the right to marry doesn't confer the right to adopt children.

You did get one thing right - politics is all about the art of the possible. And what's possible in CA, NY, MA, and other places isn't possible in others. That's my point - we need to be working on the possible here to bring these parts of the country up to par with the rest.

We're not starting the negotiation asking for less. We defeated our marriage amendment - which is better than CA can say. That doesn't mean it won't be back...But in the meantime, we need the protections I've mentioned far too many times to repeat yet again.

And we can't do that if marriage is the only game sucking up all the talent, money and time.

JERAME - marriage does not equal the defense of equal protections and due process (and to an extent full faith and credit).

A relationship will not reverse the damage done by allowing our community to be redacted from the constitution.

Stop talking about this like you are the Rush Limbaugh of the gays. I am not fighting for the right to have a ceremony with my husband. I am fighting to stop my fellow citizens from thinking that me and my friends and the families of same sex couples are not worthy of being Americans.

Do you see the difference?

I know the difference, which is why I am advocating for paying attention to the other things we need - not just the insults. Being redacted from the constitution is insulting, infuriating and any other adjective you want to throw in there....

But enacting real protections of LGBT people in a climate WHERE WE ARE SO EASILY REDACTED FROM THE CONSTITUTION is important in the here and now. Can you not understand this?

Don't be so insulting. It's a pretty simple thing I said...You took it farther than I ever intended. No one said drop marriage. We just want to fight a battle we can win. In many places, that battle is not marriage.

I can deal with insults if my job, home and life are protected. Winning the marriage fight isn't going to get me any of that in Indiana.

Roland Winston | January 3, 2009 1:03 PM

So much argument! People that have been working for years in LGBT organization (I'm not one of them), and people late to the game ( I am one of them) all have plenty to do. I now believe that no battle at the local or state level is too insignificant to fight, and loosing is ok. I certainly would not have said that on Nov 3, but I say now, having participated in a city hall protest in Richmond VA on Nov 15. There are heterosexual supporters in unlikely places. I found this out volunteering for the Obama campaign.

Hope is not in my vocabulary, and I would like to see Obama drop it from his. Did you ever hope for your car to start or the phone to ring? How did that work out for you?
Better outcome from turning the key, or calling a tow truck, or phoning that person yourself, right.

Prop 8 has gone to the CA Supreme Court, the AG has reversed his position. Court challenges are underway where those draconian adoption laws were passed. The New York General Assembly's feet are being held to the fire 'if out of state same sex marriages are legal WTF'. New Jersey's bipartisan study committee has told the state assembly civil unions don't work. Va. Supreme Court let stand a visitation order for a same sex partner from a CT civil union.
It will not take as many years for same sex marriage to be approved by the U. S. Supreme Court as it did for interracial marriage to become national law because every bit and piece we win across the country will begin to cause havoc in the system(s)as LGBT people move with their marriages and adopted children to less tolerant states and demand recognition.


Douglas Meagher | January 3, 2009 2:08 PM

I agree Jerame. Although my partner Jeff and I were married in Massachusetts on 9-2-08, being granted marriage rights wasn't something I'd ever sought (Jeff's thoughts in that regard were quite different). My outrage was over the constitutional proscription of marriage rights; the effort to ensure that there will never be any chance for legal recognition in my lifetime or ever in the future. That is fight that must be fought; just as the battles you've described must be fought.

The one thing that the situation in CA on Prop 8 did is to make folks stand up and take notice perhaps for the first time for some that the LGBTQ community can as a grass roots initiative stand up and say something.

People stood up against the mean spirited across this country not just for CA. The nation wide backlash in protests from the LGBTQ was for everyone in this country, coast to coast midwest north near north south and near south. No one in those protests were standing just for what happened in CA it was reallyt a protest against everything we have endured as a minority in all of this country. Marriage just happened to be the match which was lit.

People are not saying that ENDA, equal rights, safe work environments, employment rights etc weren't important EVER, and the rights we stood up for was the right for everyone to at least have a choice whether we excersized that right or not. The ability to have a job not jeopardized because of sexual orientation, safe in housing, etc are things we have a right to as humans. The real thing folks are waking up to is that we have to fight, whether it is for job security, etc in Indiana, Florida, etc we all have fight. And we all have to be behind the local fights because when someone has a fight in AK, we may not be able to run there to fight be we can say yes it is our brothers fighting there. We can support them. We have to fight too in our state but we are fighting not just for Indiana but what we fight for here is important in NJ, NY, TX etc.

If we could get a rally to gather money for the fights not because just marriage couldn't pass muster in IN but pass it around and win in that state such as adoption in FL that would be optimal. I don't think marriage could win in IN either given the climate here politically speaking and the people who live here. But we need to organize.

We don't have an amendment here in IN thank god but thatis ON LY because people fight against it.

In war you gather your strengths and you fight the battles where they are to be fought. you see where the weakest chink in the opponents armour is and you aim for that to beat them. which may be marriage in one state, living rights in another and so on.

Iowa is another state where marriage has been debated but that climate is right for that. It is not just that the coastal states are more progressive as the OC in CA was founded by a group of Indiana people who moved there taking their values with them. The marriage battle in CA was only because the rights had been given and folks voted to take them away.

GA has a lot more conservatives in it though you might only hear of ATL because it is so progressive.

Once a people is awakened to fight we need to strategize and fight the battles where they are and can be won.

LGBTQ youth need help, homeless LGBTQ youth need help, those kids struggling with suicide thoughts, etc need help. We who work in states which have no protections for us keeping our jobs need help. The places where crimes are being perpetrated against us need help getting the law officers to report them and liasons too but the CA marriage vote and the anger it stirred up made people see we are serious to fight. Do you think that folks who had to report the news in Indy Star
just said well OK we will write this better and the liason for LGBTQ in Indy was established just because Bil and the Trans organization just walked up or called them on their stuff? It was that plus the fact we are are fighting for our rights protesting against stuff like Prop 8. The way we have been incensed over the murder of LGBTQ people and we are speaking up on that more now, There was of group Join the Impact folks in CA who began talking about the rape in richmond Ca of the lesbian and some began a donation for her and going out with flyers to help find the people involved. That was sparked by the propr 8 protests on Join the Impact individuals taking this up because we stood up and got out and protested as a country in all 50 states on an issue which involves the whole LGBTQ community not just CA.

The woman in Memphis needs our help too who was shot. if someone who reads this in Memphis would reach out and start something in Memphis that would be good. The article Bil wrote out Taysia and his going to the Indy Star and the Trans org going to bat for us is known in Join the Impact and people there are excited that this blog is up and that yu guys did something here to further the cause of the struggle we all share. every battle is important and it is not just regional. We are all important midwest, south, north, west east southwest, etc.

You may not want to serve in the military but I believe if someone is fired up to do that from LGBTQ they should be able to do so without fear of losing their active status because of their sexual orientation being known.

legislation takes money and voices. We may have voices and not money but we are all fighting and it should not be with each other. if we need to hammer out some clarity good.

Allan Brauer | January 3, 2009 6:17 PM

Excellent comment, James. I, for one, appreciate how you weave the multiplicity of struggles for justice together, instead of pitting one against the other as the author of this column does. You clearly appreciate that any effort for equality on any front anywhere, selected with an appreciation of how ready that particular community is to act on that issue, is something to be celebrated instead of groused about.

John Shields | January 3, 2009 3:00 PM

I couldn't agree more, it's time to lose the word "marriage" and aim for equal and civil rights for all.

My op-ed on the subject:

It's time to lead, instead of follow. It's time for ENDA, hate crimes legislation, and Civil Unions.

It's time to aim higher.

Happy New Year,


Civil Unions don't aim higher.

Other than that, I'd sign on.

Thank you, Jerame for a boisterous (if not bickersome) conversation.

I leave you with a moment of inspiration from earlier in 2008 that only discovered in the past week, Naomi Klein:

Douglas Gibson Jr | January 3, 2009 7:39 PM

Can we drop marriage as the issue for 2009?

Absolutely not. As one of the 18,000 couples who were married in California, and for the second time I might add, the first one being declared null and void, I refuse to give in to either the opposition or the "Let's do this first and then that will come later" attitude that some have in the LGBT community. My partner and I have been waiting for over 25 years and I don't intend to sit quietly by and wait for other legislation to be passed before we work on the same sex marriage issue. There are many LGBT issues out there that need to be worked on and plenty enough to go around for everyone to be involved. The problem - more people go to a bar on a Friday or Saturday night than are willing to write to their Congressperson or go to a protest. Until we are all willing to come out of the closed and do the work that needs to be done, there will continue to be states that do not have basic LGBT rights. As the TV commentator put it in the movie "Network", I am mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.

"Can we drop marriage as the issue for 2009?"

Who's this "we?" "We" pick our own issues. There will be plenty of people working on the marriage issue, but most of us "we's" will be working issues important to us. You don't see me getting angry because most LGBT people can care less about transgender veterans issues. Yet, there are far more transgender veterans in this country then married same-sex couples, and maybe more than same-sex people who want to get married. If that's the case, then by the numbers, "we" should focus on helping transgender veterans first instead of marriage. But, you won't catch me forcing my issues on the rest of "we." How about showing the rest of us a little respect in that.

Douglas Gibson Jr | January 4, 2009 12:07 PM

"We" is everyone in the LGBTIQ community. If you don't get mad that is your problem. You need to raise your voice everytime that one of your issues is discussed. I am not only involed in the same sex marriage issue but also veteran's issues as my spouse is a Veteran, Federal employees issues, as I am a Federal employee, womens issues as I had a mother who was abused. It doesn't matter what issue, just get involved. I will continue to get mad and express my opinion on all of these issues. You can't expect others to just hand it to you on a silver platter. Oh ok now I guess we will give you this.

If you do one thing, you have a better chance of doing it well, then trying to do several things at once. Being a jack of all trades is not as good as being a master of one. Focus on your one issue for the most time you spend, and raise you voice when you can on the other issues.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | January 4, 2009 12:31 AM

Jerame’s piece is a contribution of what has to end up as an organizational and political plan to end the tide of successful attacks on same sex marriage and GLBT rights. His remarks raise more questions than they answer.

Same sex marriage, by and large, is not a fight we chose but a series of defensive battles imposed on us. In the mid nineties there was a chance that Hawaii might permit same sex marriages. Bob Barr, a right wing bigot and racist wrote DOMA to prevent that. It was immediately championed by both parties. The role of Bill Clinton and the Democrat Congressional leadership was particularly repulsive and bigoted in regard to DOMA. They voted for it overwhelmingly.

Clinton, who’d angered unions and environmentalists with NAFTA faced a uncertain election. He rushed to sign it late the night it passed (when there were no reporters around) so Democrats could buy time on christist radio stations in Dixie. In those ads Clinton boasted about his love of traditional marriage to pick up the bigot vote. (This was before he didn’t have sex with Monica [Lewinski not Helms!] but after he stopped not inhaling. Presumably.)

From the 2000 election until now Republicans have pushed DOMAs, many of them constitutional laws and won virtually all those battles. In most cases the Democrats followed Bill Clinton’s advice that same sex marriage is the ‘kiss of death’ and refrained from defending us.

unnecessary . It was caused by the holy trifecta of Obama’s bigotry it’s skillful exploitation by Mormon and catholic cults leaders. They clobbered us. No on 8 ran a campaign scarred by Eurocentric disregard for minority communities, abject cowardice on the question of Obama’s bigotry and financial sabotage and across the board political and technical ineptitude. That’s because No on 8 was run by Democrats. Nevertheless we were still winning, had outspent the bigots, led in the polls and would have won if Yes on 8 hadn’t gone all out with a massive campaign quoting Obama’s bigoted, superstition driven remarks about same sex marriage.

It’s by no means assured that we’ll continue to lose on this question, but the only way to turn it around is to do it independently of careerists associated with the Democrat Party.

Our movement has to be independent and massive to win. And right now we lack such an organizaional entity; it'll have to be created as a democratically run, independent, nationwide activist group to discuss and debate not only our agenda but the strategy of building mass independent movements to achieve it. We need to have elected leaders and democratic decisions about program and strategy. Discussions like this have gone on for a long time but they won’t bear fruit until we build that kind of organization.

Sorry, Bill, but you just pushed one of my buttons. What is the name of the damn party? There is no such thing as the "Democrat Party." I know the Democratic Party can't be trusted. But I'm pretty sure the Republican party can>/em> be trusted largely to work against the interests of me and my friends and allies. Adopting their vocabulary validates that vocabulary and the motivations behind it.

If you want to make allies of Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the state where I live, go ahead. I won't turn my back on any ally or potential ally. I'll gladly ask anybody, but if the job is to got 50%+1, let's play the percentages.

That aside, what kind of equality is equality "except for"?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | January 6, 2009 4:02 PM

Sorry Rev, but you’re taking offense means you don't recognize that the Democrats are a party that promotes bigotry, war and economic looting by the rich.

You think they're a teeny weenie itsy bitsy bit better than the Republicans. But they’re not. Their judges are just as bad as Republicans, but both are susceptible to mass movements. They both permit looting by the rich and grovel for campaign contributions, they both support the war and think nothing of the lives lost and they both pander without letup to bigots.

Using the term Democrat indicates that they're antidemocrat>b>ic.

My allies are not Republicans or Democrats. It’s unprincipled to vote for or support either party because they have no substantive differences. My allies are in unions, the antiwar movement and the GLBT left. Maybe you can stomach bigots like Obama, warhawks like Clinton and craven toadies of Wall Street like Biden but huge numbers of us can’t.

But I am happy to see that even Democrats can ask “what kind of equality is equality "except for"? That kind of questioning will help break up the Democrat party, increasing the centrifugal forces that will split it.

I found reading through the posts fascinating and I think what you are seeing is the drastic differences in rights in different places in the US.

Here in NJ, we've had state level ENDA for LGB people since 1972 -- 37 years now. Protections for gender identity were added 2 years ago (maybe a little further back) with little fanfare or disagreement. Obviously we've had civil unions for some time as well. Many were amazed at how quickly the legislature acted on this. Our "split" supreme court decision on gay marriage was 4 justices argued for civil unions and 3 argued that civil unions were not acceptable and full marriage was the only answer.

My point in saying all of this was that a poster from Texas earlier pointed out that talking about marriage to him was alien considering the the basic rights that he was missing. The same goes for me but in reverse. When I hear you talking about not having basic hate crimes reporting, I'm like WTF? We won those rights here *decades* ago. I can also travel most of the northeast and while the rights aren't perfectly the same, the general level of rights are close.

I'm not saying things are perfect here in the Garden State. Homophobia still exists and there are still fights that need to be won. But that is similar to racism which still exists even though the Civil Rights Act was passed years ago. In reality, marriage and military service are the two big rights left to win here.

I'm not saying that we need to leave our brothers and sisters in other places behind but it is important to understand the dichotomy. In many places and for large swaths of our community, these battles have already been won.

Let us not forget how important marriage is to same-sex bi-national couples.


Call me when trans people are fully included.

Brilliant and brave,

Wow from all the posts, I can see there are a lot of people with a lot of time on their hands...which I hope does not mean they are out of work, ouch!!

2009 is about reality and lack of childish behaviors!!! Our tribes are needful of jobs, stability and simple order. Disputes, horror, hate and other realities are still massive I get it. Though it is the time to use every skill we have to find our roots, our backbone and gather. Become productive, well and focused tribes again.

I started activism when I was 15 yrs old and marched in Selma. I am no further than anyone else in any of the rants above, I am just going to ask for help from any Circle I can to stay focused and choose simple or chaos.