Monday, April 13, 2009

What we have to look forward to

In Sunday's Outlook section, the Washington Post gave space to Jamie Kirchick, an up-and-coming pundit, to write about how gay rights groups should declare victory and close shop when gay marriage is implemented in their states.

This is, I fear, a talking point we'll be hearing more and more. The scary thing is that it will come not just from the 100%-officially-anti-gay people, but also from gay conservatives like Kirchick and even many people who consider themselves gay moderates -- and that could give it an air of legitimacy (I think that this point has already been demonstrated -- by the Post printing this piece).

The question here -- of what the LGBT rights groups will do as gay marriage becomes law in more states -- is extremely interesting and important. In the states where gay marriage is law, like Massachusetts, how much of the groups' grassroots energy and funding has been lost? Before marriage became law, how much of their resources were going to advocacy that was not about marriage? If they have lost resources, is the total amount they are now dedicating to non-marriage-related advocacy higher, or lower, than before?

In states where gay marriage may become law in the next few years, are the biggest state-level advocacy groups -- many of whom built at least a bit of their membership on the marriage issue -- making clear to their members that when gay marriage is won, they will be continuing the fight? Are they doing the opposite?

Obviously, the state-level and smaller groups are hardly monolithic. They have a huge range. Some publicly consider marriage to be their primary issue.

In the case of Massachusetts -- where Kirchick calls for MassEquality to disband -- Bay Windows reports the inspiring news that "nearly 300 transgender people, allies, advocates and legislators" turned out for a recent lobby day, spearheaded by the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, for a bill that would "add gender identity and, expression to protected groups in the state’s hate crimes and nondiscrimination statutes."

It's not a matter, in the end, of which group with which name does what. The question is, when a state adopts gay marriage, will the activism on LGBT issues die down (regardless of what groups it is under), or will it remain vibrant?

The framing of gay-marriage as "the end" of the struggle is a serious threat to future LGBT advocacy, not because it will fool any real advocates, but because it will make it harder to win the support and energy of the moderates. No, the moderates aren't the vanguard, or the be-all-and-end-all, but their support does matter.

The meme of gay-marriage as "the end" needs to be knocked down now. If we wait until after gay marriage is ubiquitous, it will be much, much trickier to do.


Post a Comment

<< Home