I wonder what good it’s doing gay rights activists to keep participating in the debate over same-sex marriage. I definitely want equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians (being gay tends to have that effect on a person), but there have been some pretty devastating defeats across the country. Recently voters in Maine and California have approved an all-out ban on same-sex marriages within their borders, even after judicial or legislative actions in those states permitted gays and lesbians to marry.
Many other states have done the same, altering either their laws or their constitutions to prohibit same-sex unions. Once a statute has been passed banning same-sex marriage or such a ban is written into the state’s constitution, it becomes significantly more difficult for gays and lesbians to achieve marriage rights in those states.
It is hurtful to watch rights being taken away from gays and lesbians. Knowing that there are so many narrow-minded Americans is highly discouraging. There is evidence that popular action against same-sex marriage is literally making gays sick.
The news isn’t all bad. Some states, namely New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa either recognize or will soon recognize the right of gays and lesbians to marry. Polls also suggest that public opinion is slowly moving in favor of equal marriage rights. But it’s not there yet. If California voters can ban same-sex marriage, it can happen anywhere. The risk of continuing this debate right now is too high. With constitutional amendments in place, we are making it much harder to institute equal rights once public opinion demands them.
Here’s what I suggest: hold off for now. By vociferously fighting for marriage rights across the country, we are doing more harm than good. Let’s work on other things for a while, like laws against discrimination in the workplace, adoption rights, and hate crimes legislation. Success in those areas will put us on equal footing with heterosexual Americans in other aspects of life, paving the way for marriage equality.