At this critical time in which all civil liberties are in peril and a fanatical cabal of right-wing zealots is desperately trying to ram their theocratic agenda down the throats of Americans, it is critical that we stand with the queer community against the Christian Right when it comes to this attempt to thwart same-sex marriage.
The political dynamics behind this particular assault on the queer community have implications that go far beyond queer rights or the so-called "culture wars." There are three main reasons that I think a united front with more conservative LGBT advocacy organizations is appropriate:
1. We cannot sit idly by as theocrats claim that our civil rights can be subject to the whims of an election.
In America, many bigoted and discriminatory practices have been justified by appeals to "democracy," "majority rule" and resistance to "tyranny." The anti-gay lobby in this country is no different and they find themselves in a long line of hateful ideologues who use populist rhetoric to legitimize injustice and discrimination.
In addition, the American electorate is not representative of the American people. Of course, it is well known that most Americans do not vote--especially in local elections. The electorate also tends to be wealthier than the population as a whole and numerous people in this country are not even eligible to vote due to disenfranchisement (felony records, for instance, disporportionately disenfranchise black and Latino communities). We know that the 2000 election was stolen and there is reason to suspect that the 2004 election was also stolen. To say that voting is an expression of "democracy," especially in this country, is disingenuous.
No one here would argue that voting is not an important aspect of any democratic society. But no one's civil rights and freedoms should be subject to something as fundamentally flawed as voting. We fear our civil rights being subject to a vote not because we fear the will of the people, but because we know how elections and the political system in this country are used to circumvent the will of the people.
Elections and voting in America are about money, obfuscation and propaganda--not truth and democracy. If the question of same-sex marriage gets put on a ballot, we can expect a lot of misleading, deceitful, and demoagogic thirty second ads and soundbytes from those who wish to use the State to punish queer people for their non-conformity. We should fight very hard so that we are not in a position to be "swift-boated" by the Christian Right.
2. We have no illusions about the judiciary in America, yet we must defend an independent judiciary against assaults by the right-wing.
The attacks on the judicial branch and the maligning of them as "activist judges" are particularly insidious at time in which the President believes he should be able to do anything and everything in the name of his so-called "war on terror." The courts are one way in which the President's attempts to roll back civil liberties can be checked. But the attacks on the judicial branch by the right-wing play right into the hands of an Administration that seeks to erode civil liberties and act with impunity.
At the same time, we must also recognize that the judicial branch is conservative and more often than not makes the wrong decisions. We cannot rely on the courts or the law to provide us with our civil rights. We must make consistent and compelling moral, social and political arguments for our cause. This is something that we, as queer people, and our allies can do only in the context of a mass social movement. Even appeals to "activist judges" require an appropriate political context in order to be successful.
3. They don't really care about democracy.
Let's face it. "The people" cannot vote on things that have a far greater impact on their real life than same-sex marriage ever could. For example, "the people" cannot decide whether or not to bring the troops back from Iraq. "The people" can't even decide whether or not they want a Wal-Mart in their community because corporations supposedly have "rights." No one on the Christian Right ever suggests that people should have more control over important political decisions, except when they want to whip up bigotry to deny people their civil liberties.
Their selective "concern" for the people is dangerous and reminiscent of other authoritarian political movements that stir up mass support for bigotry and discrimnation while allowing for the erosion of democracy and freedom in other areas.
In sum, though we criticize the prioritization of same-sex marriage within the movement, we should recognize the importance of defeating the Christian Right in this battle. We are not just defending our community from attack, but stopping the Right from a major attack on the judiciary, democracy and civil rights. Be sure to contact your legislator and show up at the State House on Wednesday to show your support for our community!