Posted by James @ 8:33 pm on May 21st 2009

A Shotgun Wedding

Ok, like it or not, here is my take on the whole gay marriage debacle in this country. Please understand the fact that I approach this issue with the opinion that same-sex couples should have equal protection under the laws of the land.

Despite the gains that the gay marriage supporters in America might cheer of late, they have also seen major defeats in places like California. Who’d have thunk it? So what’s the problem? I think it’s all about marketing and, well, that’s what I do. So here goes.

Look, there are what should be two mutually exclusive components that make up this particular issue. Simply put, it’s obvious these two components are “Gay” and “Marriage”. Duh, right? Well, apparently not (at least to the proponents it seems). You see, while former is a lifestyle choice, the latter is a religious ceremony that has been elevated to a civil ceremony recognized by government(s). Therein lies the rub.

Unless I’m really missing something here, gays want the same civil rights as heterosexual couples under the laws of the land. The being married part is cool, and desired because that is the way it is for straight folks, but not the GOAL. Am I right? If I am not right, then I would submit the gay marriage movement needs some sound advice from a marketing guy; i.e, what’s the goal? What’s the frequency Kenneth? What do you really want to achieve? The answer should be equal rights under the law and a nice wedding. The way to achieve that is to understand that , while these two things are not yet mutually exclusive, they should be. So, my friends, if you want some advice from me, which only a gay these days wouldn’t take, I would tell you to this: “First pants, then your shoes”.

Marriage is predominantly viewed as a religious ceremony, at least by the religious, even though it can be officiated by those appointed to the task by our government(s). When you invite religion to the party first you have a serious problem because that is like inviting all the relatives who dislike each other to the family reunion to get drunk before your fiancé arrives. The problem, you see, is not gay marriage. It is that the government gives a religious rite recognition in the first place. It is this that gays should focus on first. Why? Because they will have allies in the cause from unexpected corners of America: Atheists, agnostics, you name it, if they haven’t already been supportive, would be regardless of their personal positions on the gay lifestyle.

Instead of grasping frantically or even over-aggressively for that brass (or gold) ring as you push through those riding the merry-go-round, why not take a breath and buy a ticket so you can ride one of the horses? Get marriage out of the hands of government. Get civil unions in. Our government should allow a civil union between two consenting adults, with all the rights that entails, period; whether heterosexual, homosexual, platonic– whatever. If you are an adult and want to hitch your wagon to someone’s star, then that should be your right. You should be granted a civil union. What you do after that in terms of a religious ceremony, etc, would be up to you and your church, synagogue…

I fear that any state legislative wins in favor of same-sex marriage will be fickle (e.g. CA). If gays really want the rights they deserve, then they need to stop pushing on a pull door and remember the goal. The rest is pure vanity.

That’s my two cents, and worth every penny.


  1. I agree with you in spirit, but also, there is the whole “separate but equal” argument. Separate but equal, or “equal but in name only” is, aside from being unconstitutional, a bad precedent (or, as Kip would put it “separate but equal is anything but”). It’s a just plain bad idea to start divvying the citizenry into different classes of Americans, for the same reason, I imagine, you find it obnoxious in the multicultural liberal sense. What’s the fucking difference?

    I think the branding can be a lot more simple. Keep calling it “same sex marriage” (I don’t like “gay” marriage), but when you leave the “same sex” out, put “civil” in. Never refer to just “marriage”, just keep saying “civil marriage”. That does two things: it makes explicit that you are only interested in the government kind of marriage, and two, by creating a new term, you lose some of the associations of the old one. As in, every time the debate comes up, it is not about marriage, it is about civil marriage.

    Marriage, or “we would like to get married” sounds like what your grandparents did. Civil marriage, or “we’d like to be able to enter into civil marriage”, harkens to civil rights, and besides, it sounds kind of like a way to screw the government somehow, which most people are for. It’s a lot easier to just stop adding the word “civil” later, as it mainstreams, than it is to roll back the “civil unions vs. marriage” legal distinction later.

    Comment by Brad — 5/21/2009 @ 8:53 pm

  2. Adding: from a purely strategic point of view, I think you’re right about civil unions.

    But it is at least in part a fight on the principle of the thing, a desire to roll back our society’s compunction to view teh gays as a separate class of citizenry/human being, and thus the whole “civil union” thing does strike me, at least along those lines, as a bit of a cop out.

    That’s not to say it wouldn’t surely be easier the civil unions route—again, I agree with you there.

    But sometimes, the harder fight is worth the extra struggle, know what I mean?

    Comment by Brad — 5/21/2009 @ 8:56 pm

  3. Where to begin.

    Ok this first: ““Gay” and “Marriage”. Duh, right? Well, apparently not (at least to the proponents it seems). You see, while former is a lifestyle choice, the latter is a religious ceremony that has been elevated to a civil ceremony recognized by government(s).”
    Flunk the final wrong. Being gay is a status of sexual preference that exists outside of personal choice. Science is working it, but all indicators point clearly towards a combo of genetic predispostion and prenatal interaction. If you are trying to say that participating in gay sexual activity is a choice, then say so. In which case, yes, that is a choice, just as being a Christian is a choice.

    Second: I entirely reject your cherry picking expidition into the supposed political instability of gay marriage successes. Let us compare the number of states that allow gay marriage, civil unions, or some form of legal recognition to gay relatonships now to only one year ago:
    New Hampshire prematurely filled in, I acknowledge, but the difference is astounding.
    I also acknowledge the number of states that passed and signed into law legislation or amendments that forbid SSM, and in some cases civil unions. But this is clearly and act of desperation, a last line in the sand, i.e., this is their last chance to do so, another decade and half or more of those states that passed such an ammendment would see it fail. The repeated doom and gloom predictions of entirely unstable and untenable judicial or legislative action is proving false. Most states that enact it, retain it. Progress marches.

    Third: The possibility of removing federal government from the partially religious status of marriage is so remote as to defy calculation. You propose an all out, multi-lifetime, hopeless exercise in head to wall beating, rather than simply pursuing the, according to recent history and results, successful strategy of SSM through multiple means. Yes, let the queers wait for beyond there entire lives while we pursue fruitless and ostensibly libertarian fantasy quests.

    Fourth, The civil union goal can be an effective middle step (although I can also see it as a hindrance) and it does not address portability and the thousands of tangible advantages to marriage available at federal, state, and local levels. But lets say you overcome that issue with a national civil union bill: Its still just… offensive. Why not take the South Park solution and pick a name other than Civil Union for our second class citizens? How about fuck buddy? So long as the fuck buddies have all the same rights, they cant complain right? Seperate but equal, right?

    I’ll stop there, but my primary issue with your argument is the need for it at all. I think you are a solution looking for a problem. Why try for a field goal on second down when momentum is in your favor?

    Comment by Jack — 5/21/2009 @ 9:20 pm

  4. Agree. I also missed the “being gay is a choice” implication there, good catch.

    I get what you’re saying James, but I think Jack is right on the momentum. Clearly.

    Actually, there is an interesting debate in the environmentalist community right now that strikes me as almost a 1:1 (save they don’t have the kind of momentum gay marriage does, though the harms of inaction are of an entirely different magnitude, potentially). The idea is this: do you compromise and pass a pretty good “middle step” bill, or do you go all out, decide to have the fight right here, right now, and come out swinging?

    There are arguments for both sides, of course, but one point in favor of the latter is this. You may only get a single chance—why screw yourself against engaging in a fight you could win for a solution that’s only half as bad as losing? What’s more, the “compromise” solution, quite often, becomes the next thing you have to fight against years down the line. American politics is replete with examples of where, for one reason or another, issue advocates decided to go for the pragmatic middle step compromise, figuring they could just change it once the fire died down, only to realize that once that fire DOES die down, it’s really, really hard to build it back up again. DADT is a pretty good example, as is, say, Kennedy’s tax cut, or Roe v. Wade based on the grounds it was (or interstate commerce for that matter), or hell, go back to the founding of this country and the admission of slavery to try to minimize boat-rocking. Ten or twenty years from now, when, say, you DO try to have federal recognition of civil unions, or “upgrading” civil unions into marriages, or if, over the course of many years, enough riders and further “compromises” get attached to civil unions to make them PATENTLY unequal, you might find, when you raise the issue, that people no longer care to get worked up about it. “Gay marriage? That’s so 2008. You got your civil unions; shut up and be happy.” If there’s one thing the history of policy-making tells us, it’s that poor solutions to controversial problems do not tend to get revisited. 50 years from now, that compromise is so ingrained and entrenched that some whole new math has to come along and change it, and even then it’s hard.

    For environmentalists (global warming folks, i.e. “scientists”) they figure, probably correctly, that we don’t have another 50 years where we can afford to labor under compromise mediocrity. If the iron’s hot, you’ve got to strike it, and maybe your chances of success are less, but if after awhile the compromise becomes indistinguishable from failure, take your shot when you have it. You very well may not get another.

    Comment by Brad — 5/21/2009 @ 9:54 pm

  5. Having said all that in #3, and given that you and I are pretty much equally infrequent in our posts, I am really please to see that you used one of your unfortunately rare posts to address this issue. I think you should edit your second sentence for grammer (I know this is a pot – kettle suggestion), as it is both part of your lede and your statement of moral connection: go with “equality” or “equal protection” rather than equal.

    Comment by Jack — 5/21/2009 @ 11:33 pm

  6. Opinions heard. You all can nitpick terminology, et al, but we’ll see how things work out. I stand by my position that it will not go well in the long run until the horse is put before the cart.

    Knock yourselves out.

    Comment by James — 5/22/2009 @ 12:57 am

  7. James,
    Do you really see our disagreements as merely nitpicking of terminology? I know I recommended alteration of a point in your first para, and thought it reasonable to point out the gay is a choice issue, but I sincerely think that my points 2, 3, 4, and final wrap up (solution in search of a problem) are a bit more than semantic nitpicks.

    Comment by Jack — 5/24/2009 @ 9:47 pm

  8. Seems to me the the court just today handed same-sex marriage proponents in CA a problem in need of a solution if, I’m not mistaken.

    Comment by James — 5/26/2009 @ 3:36 pm

  9. Yes, you are right James. Fortunately, very few will head your seperate but unequal plan. Because everyone else recognizes that the country is in the exact same position today as we were five days ago when I posted the boxturtle bulletin link:
    One year ago: 1 state with gay marriage.
    Today: 5 states with gay marriage.

    Guess which strategy achieved that?

    Comment by Jack — 5/26/2009 @ 6:54 pm

  10. Guess which strategy can reverse it, Jack?

    Comment by James — 5/26/2009 @ 7:37 pm

  11. Fair enough. Money on the table. Pick an amount, I’ll give you 5 to 1 odds. 5 years from now more states will have gay marriage than now.

    Comment by Jack — 5/26/2009 @ 9:15 pm

  12. I’ll take that bet. Screw money, it will be worth less then. I bet a bottle of Glenfiddich 12 year old. You in?

    Comment by James — 5/26/2009 @ 11:27 pm

  13. I am definately in. You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The first is never get involved in a land war in Asia. The second, only slightly less well known, is this: never go up against me when scotch is on the line!

    Comment by Jack — 5/27/2009 @ 11:14 am

  14. Funny, I was going to tell your the same thing.

    Comment by James — 5/27/2009 @ 12:26 pm

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