Marc's explication, while certainly pro-Gay rights, has the distinct quality of someone who has not walked in an other's black brushed calfskin Prada slip-ons. We live in a compulsorily heterosexual culture--nee world, and understanding what it's like to be constantly on the outside looking in would be difficult for the most compassionate of straight, white, men. And this is not a "circular firing squad" in dissertation form, but an honest rhetorical response. I shall try to address each of his points as succinctly as possible.
1. Actually to begin my arguments for point 1, I have usefully somewhat conflated points 3 and 4 to some degree. Let's begin with Marc's position on the passage or rather repeal of Gay marriage legislation:
...it seems unwise to engineer gay marriage in one leap, to attempt one great span. Not because the concept is wrong, more because a historical analog doesn't come to mind, and it's too much for numerous, strongly established networks of belief to accept. Call them crazy, backwards, intolerant, but winning well requires empathy with the enemy, and the victories which endure often exhibit solid architecture with many points of support. Given the prevailing gaps and conflicts, one might better seek to co-opt or by-pass reflexive oppositions, not galvanize them with gongs in their ears."Winning well" is unnecessary and morally insignificant. Opposing thousands of years of religious dogma as to seek "acceptance" is as unrealistic as is the backward-thinking bigots themselves. Playwright/Composer/Lyricist Stephen Sondheim states it well in his musical, "A Little Night Music" when his morose character Henrik sings, "As I've often stated, it's intolerable being tolerated." Acceptance from intolerant hypocrites is as unnecessary as it is undesirable. And "a historical analog" does exist: The desegregation of the U.S. military in 1948.
One might be tempted to put the event of President Truman's Executive Order 9981 as one step of ascendancy in the rubric of the civil rights struggle over two hundred plus years, or start counting in 1868 with Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, but where ever you begin to take note of victories for African Americans, one must keep in mind, as long as there have been Black people, there have been Gays. The modern civil rights movement began in this country mere moments, in historical time, before the gay rights movement and all the progress made in both movements has been incremental. It is the time for the accession of gay marriage to be recognized, of course keeping in mind, it already has been acknowledged as a fundamental right which was rescinded by a slim majority of voters.
The Yes on Prop. 8 campaign was participated in, and funded by, to a great extent, the Mormon Church and it's members. Marc says, "They [Mormons] fought so hard over Prop 8 because, as they understood it, California law would require them to perform same-sex marriages." This is an often propagated lie and unfairly divisive element injected into the yes on 8 campaign to "motivate the base" and further perpetuate the "culture wars" republican strategists use as wedge issues.
2. The term "marriage": Marc calls the concept "fuzzy" and defines the current state of marriage as, "...tradition, tax status, commitment and official blessing." The 'official' definition of marriage has changed many, many times over the span of human history and currently labeled "tradition" changed dramatically in the 20th century from the "traditional" arranged marriages to marriage for love. Anti-miscegenation laws were struck down as unconstitutional in 1967, despite public opinion against such unions by 73% of the American people. The "blessing" is a religious artifice unnecessary for legal purposes; civil ceremonies and state permissions in the form of licensing, blood tests, etc. are the norm in all 50 states. Religious ceremonies must have the proper state documentation in order to be legal. It is of course understandable that couples may want the official blessing of a religious institution, but it is legally unnecessary.
Marc's conclusion that, "...extending the office of marriage changes the nature of family on deep levels.", was not all together clear beyond his assertion that hospital visitation is a necessary component of "family." The American definition of "family" has changed dramatically over the past four decades to include everything from single parent households to Gay couplings and many other configurations of people in communal situations. Family has become commonly, what one defines as family. The legal distinction of marriage is the linchpin which allows for the more than 900 laws, regulations and policies which separate so-called, "civil unions" or "domestic partnership" statutes from marriage.
3. "A rights-based approach..." is supported but compared and contrasted to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation which freed slaves but provided no framework to ensure equal rights for former slaves. Enter the 14th Amendment ratified in 1868 which affords the Due Process Clause and equal protection under the law to all persons. Specifically, the 14th Amendment was used to dismantle segregation laws and is commonly used to further privacy rights such as those encompassed by Roe v. Wade.
While morality cannot be legislated, it can be enforced by law. The GLBT community harbors few fantasies of laws changing peoples hearts and minds but it does extend the concept engendered in the Equal Protection Clause and deliver the necessary bulwark of access.
As a small aside, I would disagree to some degree with Marc's premise that the GOP, "...started out with the most reasonable of propositions, not showing their full agenda, building bigger levers, always keeping their end prize in mind." I lean more to the Naomi Klein model of Shock Theory as a device to rush through legislation and policy that led us to our current financial meltdown and the culture war. Just an aside.
4. Here's where I get a little cranky. Mark posits,
"Few Mormons would object to granting medical visitation rights to domestic partners. There should be a law for that! Corporations would assemble more resistance to employee benefits to civil unions than would Mormons. And there should be a law for that! This is ground begging to be taken, ground which builds into the larger cause. Obviously these base-battles won't be won uniformly; there will be a hodge-podge of uneven progress across states and churches. But it will be progress, and far less risky than coming by Federal fiat."No one in the GLBT is seeking Mormon 'permission.' LDS can object on whatever grounds they prefer but their permission for Civil Rights for ALL Americans is not their provenance and cannot be based on the morality of a particular group. Federal adjudication becomes the bottom line for ensuring civil rights for ALL Americans. Additionally, marriage versus civil union/domestic partnership creates a tiered, hierarchical division. When marriage is available to Gays, it is inexorably linked to heterosexual unions and any legislation pertaining to marriage would include everyone ameliorating specific Gay-only laws. Heterosexuals would be forced to protect Gay marriage rights as fiercely as their own indistinguishable marriage rights. Separating and creating a two-tiered system only promises the slippery slope of Brown v Board of Education and some variant on the BOE "separate but equal" argument.
And another thing while I'm at it...Why is it that Gays are always the ones getting thrown under the bus? Even by the so-called 'left.' The latest bus-tossing comes with Obama and his invitation to anti-gay bigot Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Warren, who has compared Gay relationships to incest and pedophilia, is nice how-do-you-do slap in the face to the GLBT community. Why is it in Obama's new spirit of a 'team of rivals' and "we all must agree to disagree" is it that Teh Gay and basic human rights are simply ignored?
To quote columnist Dan Savage,
" You know, there ain't no white supremacist giving an invocation at the inauguration, nobody who authored, 'Barack Obama is a super-secret-Muslim-terrorist-emails' is giving an invocation. The only people it seems in America today who are expected to join hands with, and agree to disagree with, and make nice with, and just try to get along with the people-who-hate-us, are fags and dykes. No anti-Semite would be invited to participate. No racist would be invited to participate. No fire-breathing atheist, religion-basher would be invited to participate in the inauguration, but Gay-bashers are welcome at Barack Obama's inauguration. It's kinda pissing me off..."
Not to mention that in the arena of " civil rights", it's always Gay rights that get sent to the back of the bus so to speak in the hierarchy of civil rights issues. And that is downright uncivil.
I appreciate Marc's thoughtful and well written missive but can't reiterate strongly enough that separate but equal is neither nor.
Finally, if you don't believe in Gay marriage, don't marry a Gay.