I'm making a list of the messages that never appeared in No on 8 commercials, that we must make sure to include in all future elections regarding same-sex marriages.
- We needed a commercial showing a parent who had voted for Prop 22, which banned same-sex marriage in 2000, whose child later came out to them and reminded them of that election and made it very painfully clear how unloved they felt. Bonus points if the kid was nine years old in 2000 and hadn't the slightest idea yet that he or she was someday going to be queer, but now in 2008 the kid is seventeen and the kid remembers. And is haunted by the memory. The vast majority of us do have memories like this, don't we? Homophobic statements we heard others make long before we actually started considering ourselves queer, but that stuck in our heads and became painful later. Parents need to be told this. Parents need the look of betrayal on their child's future face vividly acted out for them on TV commercials. Parents need to know that when they try to tear apart our families, they will inevitably tear apart their own families.
- We need to shred into microscopically tiny pieces the belief that the rights of minorities should be put to majority vote. A 1958 Gallup poll showed that 96% of Americans at that time disapproved of interracial marriage. If they'd been given a chance to vote to overturn the 1948 California Supreme Court decision legalizing interracial marriage, you better believe they would have. This fact needs to be repeated a hundred million times over on every TV and radio station in the country. To believe that minority marriage rights should be put to majority vote is inherently synonymous with believing that interracial marriage should not have been legal in 1958. To believe that you as a heterosexual have any right to vote No on same-sex marriage is inherently racist. This connection cannot possibly be overemphasized. Start repeating it to anyone and everyone who will listen.
- In conjunction with the above, we need to shred into microscopically tiny pieces the belief that interracial marriage rights are more valid than same-sex marriage rights because "blacks are born that way, and gays aren't." Nobody is born a member of an interracial couple, and nobody has ever felt the need to argue for the existence of an "interracialsexual gene." The fact that each member of an interracial couple was born with their race was enough for the couple's status as interracial to be considered immutable. Therefore, the fact that each member of a same-sex couple was born with their sex is also enough for the couple's status as same-sex to be considered immutable. (I wrote more about this analogy here.) We have not yet explained the analogy clearly enough for everyone to really understand it. The main reason we haven't done that is that way too many queer people are still terrified that focusing on gender as the immutable characteristic of greatest importance tends to imply that they're conceding they can't prove the existence of a "gay gene," and they're convinced that they can't afford to appear to be backing off from that claim to any degree whatsoever. This is foolish. If we all get it through our heads that a "gay gene" is totally unnecessary and no help at all, we'll be much better off for it.
Until we have another election on our hands, we won't be putting those ideas into any political ads. But we can put them into Internet commentary, small-press news articles, ordinary conversations - anywhere we can possibly put them, just to get the ideas circulating in as many people's heads as we can. When enough journalists hear them, the journalists will start writing them down, and then larger audiences will hear them. Voters will hear them.
Oh, and please don't scapegoat black people. Or anybody else either. Scapegoating makes things worse, not better. There are more elections coming after this one - we could even put Prop 8 right back on the California ballot two years from now and vote to revoke it - so we need to be reaching out and forging alliances and allaying people's concerns, not scapegoating and giving people reason to dislike us.
Oh, and my little brother pointed out to my mother, who passed it on to me, that last spring's California Supreme Court decision specifically suggested that one alternative that could provide equality to all without giving marriage to same-sex couples would be to abolish marriage for everyone and reduce heterosexual relationships to domestic partnerships (with, presumably, no federal recognition). Wouldn't that have the Yes on 8 voters up in arms!
What else can we do in the meantime? Barack Obama has previously said he supports repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, but this pledge appears nowhere on his website. We need to call on him to follow through on it, so he doesn't pull a Bill Clinton and give us some equivalent of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" compromise after having expressed during the campaign season a desire to go further. Please go here to answer his call for suggestions by requesting that he repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.