About Gay Marriage and ‘Inevitability’

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Today Politico is running a banner headline, "Gay Marriage's 'Inevitability' in Doubt." It's essentially the same as an AP story that ran Thanksgiving week. It even uses essentially the same quote from National Organization for Marriage founder Maggie Gallagher: "The events of the last few months have put a serious dent in the idea that gay marriage is inevitable." Basically, Politico is swallowing the story line being put out by her and other gay-marriage foes. It's like they let her write the headline.

To be clear: Marriage-equality proponents have suffered a string of very stinging defeats this fall — in Maine, where a statewide referendum overturned legislation to legalize it, and in New York, where the State Senate voted down a similar bill. Tomorrow, when the New Jersey State Senate votes on the issue, it will likely fail there. And yes, though there has also been a recent victory in D.C., this all has been demoralizing.

A lot of times, people that are fighting for marriage equality console themselves in defeat with the idea that it's not the right time — that one day, people will be more open-minded. That like other civil-rights battles in American history, the tide will change as time goes by. Sometimes, this comes out with phrases like "It's inevitable" and "foes will be on the wrong side of history."

But anti-gay activists like Maggie Gallagher should make no mistake: Gay people do not really think that marriage equality is "inevitable" in the sense that it is incapable of being avoided. They know all too well that their rights are fleeting and nearly impossible to grasp. For it to happen, it'll take a lot of hard work, persuasion, time, and yes, fighting.

The first time I came across this "inevitability" quote was in an AP story on Thanksgiving day, running in the Portland Press Herald up in Maine. There was Gallagher, who is from Oregon, went to school in Connecticut, and lives in New York, on the front page, lecturing Mainers about what they were thinking. I picked up the paper while spending the holiday in rural Stoneham, Maine, population 251, with my parents. Stoneham is in a central part of the state where the majority of townships voted against marriage equality last month. But that teeny town voted No on 1, to protect the right for gay people to marry. Why? Because a small handful of gay people, or families with gay kids, like mine, live in the area. And tiny in number though they may be, they've been steadily winning people over with their arguments. Gallagher would no doubt be surprised by how little it takes. I talked with one lesbian resident of Stoneham who returned from her wedding in Massachusetts this year and was greeted with a reception thrown by the town.

Is marriage equality inevitable? Maybe not. But the odds are on its side, for a dozen different reasons. In the meantime, proponents would do well to focus on stories like that of Stoneham, Maine, rather than ones that come straight from the mouths of gleeful, close-minded people like Maggie Gallagher.

Gay Marriage's 'Inevitability' in Doubt [Politico]