Monday, July 27, 2009

Gay Marriage in California: 2010 vs. 2012

The NY Times looks at the politics of gay marriage in California, particularly the question of whether the movement for marriage equality should focus on trying to change the law in 2010 or 2012. My feeling is very clear: wait until 2012. One major person involved, David Bohnett, put it well:

“The only thing worse than losing in 2008,” he added, “would be to lose again in 2010.”

Which might very well happen. Nothing much will have changed over those 2 years. The only reason to try again in 2010 is that many people are still seriously pissed off about losing in 2008. But anger is a dangerous motivating factor in politics. It's occasionally useful as well, but this debate is supposed to be about love and marriage and commitment, not beating conservatives.

There is no practical or political reason to try again in 2010, and some very good political and practical reasons why not to. There may not be enough money available, which would increase the likelihood of defeat. If this cause loses in 2010, it ain't gonna happen in 2012. And probably not 2014.

Conservatives are fighting gay marriage for many reasons, but one reason in particular is unique to this time period: this is one of the few culture-war issues where conservatives have won more victories than they have lost in the last few years. Conservatives have lost most other culture-ware battles: civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, abortion, separation of church and state, environmentalism, sex and marriage generally. Conservatives won the economic debate - sort of - when Soviet Union collapsed, but that's long past. About the only culture war issue conservatives have been winning consistently of late is about gun control.

As much as I would like to see gay marriage become legal in California, I don't think there's much chance of it happening in 2010. Time is on our side. That's good and bad. Good, because we know we will ultimately win. Bad, because the "ultimately" part requires patience.

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