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Which way forward to defeat antigay marriage referenda, win gay marriage?

On his Americans for Truth website, Peter LaBarbera attacked "(Un)Fair Wisconsin" for its supposed stealth campaign to defeat the antigay marriage amendment in that state. To prove his point, he posted thoughts from Wisconsin blogger "Miss Judy" who makes points made by GLNers Craig Teichen, Andy Thayer and Bob Schwartz at Fair Illinois meetings that preceded the petition challenge in Chicago and statewide.

Miss Judy wrote:

The campaign was a mainstream - Democrat-style political campaign. As such, I think compromises were made in the name of perceived political expediency. Although we did indeed talk of gay and lesbian couples and their families, much of the campaign downplayed ‘queerness’ and focused on the effects the amendment would have on “all non-married couples”, i.e., straight folks. It’s a dicey path to walk - on the one hand we were asking people to expand their hearts and consciousness and really question why they are so afraid of queer folks; on the other hand we were in effect saying “Don't think about homosexuals if they creep you out; think about how this would affect ‘normal’ people,” thus tacitly accepting homophobia.

Could we have waged a successful campaign without making these compromises?... We need to look at these issues head-on, engage in constructive self-criticism and consider their effects, not just dismiss them as givens or necessary evils. (emphasis either in original or added by Peter LaBarbera)

Miss Judy is right on the money

In Illinois GLN participated in the challenge to the petition signatures to force an advisory referendum to the ballot which would have demanded that the legislature move to amend the state constitution to codify antigay bigotry by prohibiting same sex marriage. Fortunately, the effort was defeated.

However, as in Wisconsin, the campaign waged by Fair Illinois was a low-key affair, intentionally kept off the radar screens of most voters so as to not embarrass the state's Democratic party, a party eager to not appear too "gay friendly" in the eyes of social conservatives. Here too, "queerness" was downplayed as PFLAG moms were primed to be the principle spokespeople if media events became necessary. The only media event I saw showed totally non threatening men and women glued to computer monitors challenging signatures. No PFLAG mom, but Tom Tunney was the official spokesman. Still, how normal and unqueer can it get?

Now gearing up for a welcome proactive campaign for marriage equality, Allie Carter of the ACLU and Fair Illinois is planning to put the focus right where one would expect, the one that lost in Wisconsin and some 20 other states, save Arizona: selected same-sex couples with kids-- "our families," "normal" folks, PFLAG moms and maybe religious and labor leaders--that is if they can find any unionists after inviting the viciously anti-labor Whole Foods into the new Center on Halsted.

Explicitly rejected by the Fair Illinois heavies in the referendum campaign, and apparently ruled off the table in the forthcoming marriage equality campaign is any effort to rally the gay base--same sex couples and single folk alike--who would demand equality whether or not they plan to be married. Most gays will be consigned to our usual role of donating money, maybe staffing phone banks, and of course appearing at fund raisers of organizations backing the failed strategy.

Don't Degay the equality campaign!

The marriage equality campaign ought to be a public demand for equal rights for LGBT people, single and coupled alike! The Democratic party ought to be challenged to put up or shut up, in a campaign led and staffed mainly by gay people, with PFLAG and other allies playing an valued, but subordinate role.


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