Fighting intolerance with intolerance

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

One day, historians may write of this period of gay-rights history that the movement began to fight intolerance with more intolerance—and in the process fell further behind.

My strong opposition to Prop. 8 was posted on this Web site more than once prior to Election Day. My pieces earned praiseworthy comments from other pro-gay marriage Californians and disdain from people who disagree with me.

I continue to be disappointed that Prop. 8 passed. I am further disappointed that instead of working to change peoples’ minds so that we can get a majority of Californians to support gay marriage, the movement has decided to single out an irrelevant $100 donor who works at a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles. And now the movement is attacking Barack Obama for selecting Rev. Rick Warren to lead the nation in prayer during the presidential inauguration.

(Would you guys have preferred Rev. Jeremiah Wright?).

I don’t subscribe to Rev. Warren’s religious beliefs, nor do I agree with his stands on marriage and abortion (just as I don’t agree with Obama’s position on gay marriage). But a majority of Californians who voted on Nov. 4 do agree with Obama on gay marriage, and we should try to convince them that gay couples’ love for each other is no different from straight couples’ and should be recognized as such.

Many gay rights activists have publicly blamed the African American community for sealing the passage of Prop. 8, and the election results in those precincts reflect that. Many African Americans I know are uncomfortable with gay marriage and even the concept of men holding hands. They are proud of Obama’s achievement in being our next president and look up to him for leadership on many political issues. My guess is that if the most prominent black politician in America is attacked over his religious views, we’re not going to be able to count on increasing support for gay marriage in this community.

Assuming that voters will revisit gay marriage in the future, our energies should be directed to impressing upon more and more people that gay people are cool and gay marriage isn’t anything to feel threatened by.

What if Aretha Franklin’s views on gay marriage are not consistent with ours—should Obama drop her from the inauguration program, too? Shall we give a litmus test to Yo-Yo Ma and other inaugural performers?

The point is this: the gap is narrowing, but we still need to convince a few more Californians that they should support marriage equality. If we’re going to spend time fighting intolerance with more intolerance, we’re going to lose ground.

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