Alex Blaze

The third way to same-sex marriage

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 12, 2011 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: gay marriage, lesbian, LGBT, marriage, politics, rights, same-sex marriage, straight

A conservative organization, the Third Way, has a column up in The Advocate telling the gays what they need to do to get marriage. third_way.jpgThey claim to have identified the "middle" on the issue (whatever that means) and to have studied them closely with psychologists instead of doing any sort of broader study of how to change people's opinions on the matter, plus the organization's goal is to advance a specific, conservative agenda, so take the advice with a grain of salt.

First, those in the middle feel like they are literally losing control of the definition of marriage because others are trying to change it. They think gay couples are trying to change marriage by making it into an individual contract that is primarily about rights and benefits -- rather than a bedrock institution that upholds our communities and society. So we need to show members of the middle that they are not losing control, because gay couples don't want to change the definition of marriage -- they want to join it. We can convey this sentiment by emphasizing that gay couples respect the institution of marriage and want to take on the responsibilities and obligations that go along with it. We need to reassure the middle that they won't have to change, by demonstrating that gay couples will have to conform to the current rules, including monogamy and fidelity, in order to participate in the tradition of marriage.

I personally wouldn't say that anyone who thinks that marriage is what's holding society up is "the middle," but let's just go with that for the sake of argument. What is the implication when we have to make gay couples "conform to the current rules, including monogamy and fidelity"? Since it's impossible to make the millions of LGB people out there actually monogamous with a spiffy ad campaign, are they simply implying that we lie?

The Third Way says, "This shift in tone would be controversial in many parts of the LGBT movement," which is the new way of saying "I lump all arguments about how this is stupid together and say I'm smarter than everyone." I'm not particularly controversed, especially since this is pretty much the argument that's already been made ad nauseum by the pro-marriage folks.

What I do take issue with is the idea that people are so dumb that if we put out ads talking about monogamy that people are going to be all, "Yeah, I guess the gays really do want to keep sex within the holy bounds of matrimony, just as they should be doing. Now come over here and get some lovin' before I have to go home to my wife." As gay men will continue to go to bathhouses while married to other men and open relationships will continue to happen, it seems like nothing other than buying into the same white-washing of human sexuality that straight people often do to themselves.

I'm generally opposed to any tactic not firmly rooted in truth since that should be the end point of any movement, and it seems like it would be counterproductive to just go out there and say that we're any more monogamous than straight people are. If something has to be lied for, do we really want it in the first place? I mean, I guess there are people out there who are that easily manipulated, but are we doing much for ourselves if we just exploit that stupidity? And how many people really are that stupid? (Is that really the "middle"? How were participants for this study found?)

The columnist has two more suggestions, the second that we have to explain why we want to get married (don't ask me for advice there; I don't want to get married) and the third is to ask for rights, not demand. I actually agree that there needs to be a change in tone, that in order to gain more converts we need to engage the other side as if they're decent adults who have real reasons for disagreeing instead of flaming, hateful bigots who want to kill all of us (some of them do, most of them don't) who must be marginalized instead of answered. While it's important to remind people that there are actual bigots out there, it's also important that that designation remains on those people who do something more than just show up and vote against same-sex marriage.

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" ask for rights, not demand" Yeah, because that strategy has always worked so well for oppressed peoples. We absolutely do need to demand, we just need to organize it better. Protest is supposed to be built like a union strike, not like a collective of beggers. Do you honestly think queer people will be given their rights if they just ask nicely?

"You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth." -MLK letter from Birmingham jail

My issue with that is that both that Advocate column and the people who say "It's time to stop ASKING and time to start DEMANDING" don't really define the difference between the two. They're nice bumper stickers and little more.

There are ways to "demand" while still remaining open to conversation and respecting other people. MLK wasn't just a proponent of respecting one's opponents as adult human beings, but practiced it every day.

Kathy Padilla | January 12, 2011 10:37 AM

"Since it's impossible to make the millions of LGB people out there actually monogamous with a spiffy ad campaign, are they simply implying that we lie?"

It's impossible to make the billions of straight people conform to that standard. If one includes divorce rates and not just infidelity - you have a majority of straight people not being asked to conform to this standard prior to their receiving rights.

It might be better for them to ask others...why do you make people ask for or even (clutch the pearls) act so above their station as to demand to be considered of equal legal value as those writing the article?

I do have a suggestion for them - if they're seeking a different way to improve lgbt peoples lives while not frightening the delicate people who will be despondent over losing their superior station in this sphere - commit to working on full employment and public accommodation civil rights for lgbt people and use their considerable influence to make this happen in several states while working for a national bill.

Do something positive to show you have actual good faith. Or - is your real agenda something different then improving the quality of all peoples lives?

The Third Way is opposed to full employment; they devote a whole section of their site to deficit reduction.

"Since it's impossible to make the millions of LGB people out there actually monogamous with a spiffy ad campaign, are they simply implying that we lie?"

I think the only thing that would ever satisfy social conservatives in terms of proving that cisgender gays can be "normal" and "respectable" is for them to loudly and visibly support mainstream bigotry against genderqueer, transgender, and polyamorous people. Sadly, all too many gays do try to do just that. That's the entire point of the neo-Mattachine movement and its attempts to dump trans people.

This is the same group that put out an immediate press release after Obama announced his new chief of staff that praised the guy for being "moderate" and "sensible" as versus those damned Democrats, I suppose.

Extremism does tend to move the middle ground, and is useful in political struggles. Be scary, but don't hog the stage.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | January 12, 2011 2:44 PM

"The Third Way says, 'This shift in tone would be controversial in many parts of the LGBT movement', which is the new way of saying 'I lump all arguments about how this is stupid together and say I'm smarter than everyone.' "

Not sure I get that leap in what's otherwise a pretty well reasoned and explained commentary.

Casey Willits | January 12, 2011 8:32 PM


So things have to be based in truth for you Alex? The truth is that "homosexuals" received far less support in opinion polls than "gay and lesbian" service members in regards to DADT repeal. Ya..the truth is that they are homosexual, but gay and lesbian is true to right? Using language that works well and allays fears should not be shunned just because a conservative organization did the research.

If research says waiting until 2012 rather than 2010 for CA marriage fight, do we wait? Or is the reality of a different electorate not based in truth enough for you?

I am glad you tied in the bigot language idea because I think J. Rauch was right: "We need to give our opponents the time and space they need to let us win."

If the middle (I believe the author was referring to the "winnable middle" referring to those in the anti-equality majority most likely to change their minds or those in the equality minority most likely to sit out the election if not motivated) feels most comfortable with having control while they grant us marriage equality, then by all means let's make them think it was their idea in the first place!

1. That gay & lesbian vs. homosexual thing has little proof backing it:

2. Well, we can't "wait" until 2010 because it's already the past.

3. I don't know that's what she was referring to. It's fine if she were just writing loosely about political culture, but she was talking about a specific study that found specific people to study. They had to have had a better definition of "the middle" if they studied them that closely.

"Since it's impossible to make the millions of LGB people out there actually monogamous with a spiffy ad campaign, are they simply implying that we lie?"

So have we deleted Trans and queer folk from the equation. SMH..

In your argument, please don't ignore or render invisible the gay couples who are monogamous, Mr. Blaze. I am not saying that my relationship is morally better than others, but we do exist. I may not have marriage rights yet, but my partner and I are monogamous because we choose to be, and enjoy it. We also find it sexy.