Growing up in Massachusetts, gay marriage was legalized and done with by the time I reached high school. Eight years later, I continually wonder how these debates over marriage equality persist – and how liberty and justice for all keeps losing at polling places nationwide.
Yet, in a way I find the strength of those opposing marriage equality wonderful. Their numbers signal something positive for the equality community. The intense focus on marriage rights, the millions (billions at some point?) spent on negative advertising, the persistent need of religious leaders to denounce marriage equality as often as the media permits really signals victory for LGBTQ and ally advocates.
We won acceptance.
Ten years ago, marriage equality advocates targeted homosexuality itself – it was a disease, it was a sin, it was abnormal. Catholic bishops confidently employed the language of “intrinsically disordered” as the reason against gay marriage. At varying levels in religious communities and amongst those opposing gay rights, the “gays” themselves warranted rejection generally, not necessarily just in marriage.
No doubt, these tactics still find a home in the debate over marriage equality today. No doubt, radicalized pastors call for gay concentration camps or camps to “cure” your teen. No doubt, numerous Catholic bishops and conservative factions in Christianity talk of sins a “homosexual lifestyle” brings out, without basis in Scripture or in science. Most important though, the popular salience of tactics like these wallows each day.
Now messaging from anti-equality campaigns focuses on the harm done to children with two moms or two dads rooted in junk science and the created narrative about “traditional marriage as its always been” (conveniently forgetting the polygamous, economically-driven, or otherwise varied forms marriage has taken across the world throughout history).
The hope I speak of ultimately is this: anti-equality advocates cannot attack homosexuality itself anymore.
They recognize the battle over homosexuality as sinful or disordered is lost in the American collective conscience and there will be no regression. They retreat to the smaller field of gay marriage, seeking to stem the tide of gay rights in the smaller ways they can. Precisely due to the huge defeat over acceptance of homosexuality, the stakes for them become so grandiose in the marriage equality debate.
Marriage equality opponents will continue spending massive time and treasure on anti-equality campaigns when ballot initiatives emerge as a final hope that their hateful pronouncements, already rejected once, maintain a semblance of credibility.
For those of us struggling in this new civil rights endeavor, as discouraging as the loses and continued narrow-mindedness can be on marriage equality, we must keep present the hope that the tremendous victory of accepting sexual orientations in their diversity already exists in America.
If this were not the case, the anti-equality groups would not be pressing so hard.