Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Steve Chapman: "Time is On the Side of Gay Marriage"


Nationally-syndicated columnist Steve Chapman’s latest commentary was published today in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In it he gives facts and figures to support a contention that I and others have long held: Time is on the side of gay marriage.

“The heaviest opposition [to gay marriage]” writes Chapman, “comes from people over 65. Among those under 30, by contrast, supporters predominate – and by a hefty 58-to-37 percent margin. . . . Opposition to gay marriage is shrinking. In 1996, 65 percent took a negative view. Since then, support has fallen by about one percentage point a year. Put another way, one out of every eight Americans has gone from opposing the concept to endorsing it”

For many people, much of their resistance to the idea of gay marriage is centered simply on the word “marriage.”

“It’s not the idea of treating gay couples equally that bothers most Americans,” says Chapman. “It’s the name of the legal arrangement. Call same-sex marriage by another term – civil union, domestic partnership, everything-but-marriage, Qualcomm Stadium, Death Cab for Cutie – and they’re fine with it.”

Accordingly, much of Chapman’s commentary focuses on “the advantage of [the] bashful euphemism” of “domestic partnership.” He maintains that this term “accommodates gays on the most important issues related to family – legal recognition and rights, protection for children, access to pension and insurance benefits – while avoiding the weighty symbolism of calling this arrangement by a name that carries religious connotations.”

“In time, though,” Chapman contends, “it will be apparent that granting same-sex couples substantive equality has none of the calamitous consequences imagined by gay-rights opponents. At that point, some of them will find themselves saying: Tell me again why we don’t let them get married?”

I must admit I can see the sense of this strategy. It’s pragmatic in that it takes into consideration the realities of the day while remaining focused on long-term success. Of course, such a strategy can be difficult for some in our “I want it, and I want it now!” culture.

Also, perhaps another reason why I find it appealing is that, personally, I’m not particularly, er, married to the term “marriage.” The concept, yes, but not necessarily the word, especially if it’s simply the use of this word that (for now) is preventing gay people from actually receiving all the rights and responsibilities of marriage (as they are, according to Chapman, in Washington, D.C. under the term “domestic partnership”).

I have friends who, as Chapman notes, “reject anything short of full access to marriage as a disgraceful revival of the old ‘separate but equal’ policy – which was anything but equal for African-Americans.”

Chapman response is, again, a pragmatic one: “You don’t get across a broad river in a single leap. You get there by building a bridge that allows you to travel across one step at a time.”

I'd be interested to hear what readers of The Wild Reed think of all this.

Following is Chapman’s commentary in its entirety.

____________________________________


The Ground is Shifting
on Same-Sex Unions


By Steve Chapman

Star Tribune
November 18, 2009



Opponents of same-sex marriage waxed triumphant recently when voters in Maine rejected a measure allowing gays to wed. Maggie Gallagher, head of the National Organization for Marriage, crowed, “This victory in Maine interrupts the cultural narrative that was being manufactured, that somehow American opinion is shifting on the gay marriage issue.”

But she and her allies are the political equivalent of a Minnesota Vikings fan, gazing upon Brett Favre’s middle-aged gridiron wizardry. They had better enjoy it now, because it’s not going to last.

What got overlooked on Election Day was the victory for gay rights on the other coast, in Washington state – where the electorate extended to homosexual couples all the privileges and responsibilities enjoyed by heterosexual couples. That measure, known as “everything but marriage,” passed with 52 percent of the vote.

Why did it succeed while the initiative in Maine failed? Simple: Washington calls this new option “domestic partnership” rather than “marriage.”

As it turns out, it’s not the idea of treating gay couples equally that bothers most Americans. It’s the name of the legal arrangement. Call same-sex marriage by another term – civil union, domestic partnership, everything-but-marriage, Qualcomm Stadium, Death Cab for Cutie – and they’re fine with it.

Traditionalists take heart that same-sex marriage has lost every time it’s been on the ballot, and that a decisive majority of the public rejects it. The latest poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press finds 53 percent of Americans are against, with 39 percent in favor.

But anyone who denies that “American opinion is shifting” inhabits a fool’s paradise, whose walls are sagging noticeably. Opposition to gay marriage is shrinking. In 1996, 65 percent took a negative view. Since then, support has fallen by about one percentage point a year. Put another way, one out of every eight Americans has gone from opposing the concept to endorsing it.

Time is on the side of gay marriage. The heaviest opposition comes from people over 65. Among those under 30, by contrast, supporters predominate – and by a hefty 58-to-37 percent margin.

The opponents of same-sex matrimony are in ever-worsening straits. Civil unions and domestic partnerships, which provide some or most of the accouterments of marriage, have been provided to gay couples in nine states and the District of Columbia, according to Lambda Legal. Once radical, these are seen today as the sensible compromise between giving gays the right to sacred matrimony and giving them a sharp stick in the eye.

Offered a middle-of-the-road option between Perez Hilton and Pat Robertson, Americans have flocked to it. Eight years ago, Pew says, only 45 percent were in favor of civil unions. Today, it’s 57 percent.

Washingtonians approved the most expansive version, and they knew exactly what they were doing. The ballot said, “This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities and obligations accorded state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partners to be equivalent to those of married spouses, except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage.”

Why is it not a marriage? Not because it is legally different under Washington state law, but because – well, because it is not called marriage. But it’s an identical twin.

The advantage of this bashful euphemism is that it accommodates gays on the most important issues related to family – legal recognition and rights, protection for children, access to pension and insurance benefits – while avoiding the weighty symbolism of calling this arrangement by a name that carries religious connotations.

In time, though, it will be apparent that granting same-sex couples substantive equality has none of the calamitous consequences imagined by gay-rights opponents. At that point, some of them will find themselves saying: Tell me again why we don’t let them get married?

Many gay-rights advocates reject anything short of full access to marriage as a disgraceful revival of the old “separate but equal” policy – which was anything but equal for African-Americans. But you don’t get across a broad river in a single leap. You get there by building a bridge that allows you to travel across one step at a time.

As a destination, civil unions leave a lot to be desired. But as an avenue, they’re hard to beat.

Steve Chapman’s column is distributed by Creators Syndicate.


While Googling for images of same-sex marriage I found the following cartoons which I thought I’d share.







See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Dr. Erik Steele and the “Naked Truth of Same-Sex Marriage”
The Same People
John Corvino on the “Always and Everywhere” Argument
Patrick Ryan on the “Defense of Traditional Marriage” Argument
The Changing Face of “Traditional Marriage”
Competent Parenting Doesn’t Require “Traditional Marriage”
What Straights Can Learn from Gay Marriage
A Christian Case for Same-Sex Marriage
On Civil Unions and Christian Tradition


1 comment:

John said...

I want full marriage equality, including the word, but am a realist so will settle for civil unions for now. Frankly, if we get this through, along with ENDA and DADT repealed, that will be astonishing. I'm not saying forget about SSM completely, just be more strategic about where you push the fight. Civil unions are a crucial first step in eventually getting everything.