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WASHINGTON: Gay marriage is a lost cause

WASHINGTON: Gay marriage is a lost cause.
Gay activists' failed strategy has put same-sex marriage out of reach for a long time to come.

OPINION

By JEFF GANNON
Washington Blade
September 1, 2006

A COALITION OF 250 authors, activists, intellectuals and celebrities recently released a major statement, "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families and Relationships."

The manifesto suggests that the gay rights movement take its focus away from a singular emphasis on marriage equality in favor of a broad-based set of economic and social concepts that would eventually produce the same result. However, it is clear that the statement is less of a policy shift and more of an admission of defeat in the battle over gay marriage.

For all intents and purposes, gay marriage is dead. Activists proclaimed that the Goodrich decision in Massachusetts was the end of the beginning of the struggle for equality, but in retrospect it was the beginning of the end.

Let's check the standings: 44 states have laws that restrict marriage to the union of one man and one woman. Nineteen states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage - 16 of those enacted since 2003. Six more states have constitutional bans on the November ballot that are expected to pass.

The highest state courts in New York and Washington recently ruled against same-sex couples claiming a right to civil matrimony, and a federal appellate court upheld Nebraska's gay marriage ban.

LEADERS OF THE gay rights movement bear significant responsibility for that failure. They overestimated the strength of their political position and influence, even though an inherent weakness has been evident for at least 14 years.

In 1992, gays helped to elect President Bill Clinton and were starstruck at being romanced as a constituency by Democrats, mesmerized by the access and empowerment that came with it.

No sooner than the jubilant cries of "We're here, we're queer and we're going to the White House!" died down, the duplicitous Clinton reneged on his promise to allow gays to openly serve in the military. The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was proposed by Clinton in 1993, and in 1996 the Democratic president signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law.

The leadership of the gay rights movement failed to recognize the political reality of the party to which it pledged unwavering loyalty. Republicans reject the gay rights movement and Democrats refuse to embrace it. Despite voluminous evidence to the contrary, gay leaders still gaze through rose-colored glasses at a bleak political landscape.

THE OTHER FATAL mistake has been misunderstanding and mischaracterizing the opposition. Conservatism was ascending during the 1990s - not declining as gay leaders and liberal media seem to have believed.

Social and religious conservatives were gaining in strength at the local and state levels, which accounts for the current GOP dominance in Washington. Since 1992, social conservatives have been working to halt the advance of the gay agenda, vowing never to be caught off guard again like they were in 1973 when Roe v. Wade made abortion the law of the land.

Gay leaders demonized opponents of same-sex marriage as hateful bigots and homophobes, completely ignoring the religious and social motivations behind the opposition. The reality is that marriage as the union of one man and one woman is our most basic social institution and deeply rooted in our culture.

Even though during the last few thousands of years marriage has had some variations that departed from strict monogamy, same-sex combinations have never been one of them. Gay marriage represents such a fundamental change that few can grasp it, let alone support it.

Instead of waging efforts to change hearts and minds, gay movement leaders have tried to bludgeon opponents and pursued a strategy where a very small minority would impose its will on a vast majority thought judicial fiat.

While activists relied on the courts for victory, supporters of traditional marriage took the debate to the ballot box and won every single time. A failed strategy appears to have put gay marriage out of reach for a long time to come.

http://www. washblade.com/2006/9-1/view/columns/gannon.cfm

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