Congratulations! After much civil, heart felt debate you have swiftly adopted marriage equality for your citizens. This is a wonderful moment, and you should be rightly proud. You have now joined an elite club, though we both know that history is on our side and this club’s exclusivity will not last. In time, “marriage equality,” the very term, will be viewed as a quaint anachronism, sort of like the buggy whip or 8-track tapes. Why? Well, because the thought of lesbians or gay men getting married will be as shocking as grass growing or trees bending in the wind. In other words, it will simply be part of the landscape in the United States. No drama, no outrage, no indignation. That day will come, Washington, and your actions help to bring it that much closer. Bravo.
Of course, until the day comes when we can banish the idea of unequal under the law once and for all, we both know that you are vulnerable. I applaud your legislature for having the moral courage to pass marriage equality for a governor who is very willing to sign the bill into law. However, there will be those who will openly scorn and oppose you. Believe me, I know. So as your neighbor down south, as a fellow traveler who has been there and done that, please allow me to give you a few words of friendly advice.
Those opposed to equality have already announced their intentions to challenge this historic decision in the polls. They will collect signatures, however many it takes, to get it done. Take my advice. Don’t assume that they will not be able to get it on the ballot. They will. Just be prepared. Start planning the campaign to repel their efforts now. Do not wait until the petitions are filed and certified. Gear up. Do no hesitate.
As for the fight itself, make it the mother of all fights. Be fierce. Be real. Do not fight off their initiatives from the closet. Trust me, Washington, it does not work. Avoid ambiguous buzzwords divorced from the issue, words such as “fairness” or “equality for all.” They sound nice and are nice, but devoid of context, they are as useless as the word “nice” itself. And you know what Strunk and White said about the word “nice”: “A shaggy, all-purpose word, to be used sparingly.” Be direct. In your radio and TV ads, it’s OK to say “gay” and have your thespians say “lesbians.” They are not dirty words. Similarly, and most importantly, show the families directly affected by the marriage equality vote. Show the straight brother who cries when he realizes that he can now have the double wedding with his gay baby bro that he always dreamt of having. Show the lesbian couple whose children happily plan their parents’ big day.
Yes, Washington, show the children. We both know that the opponents will pitch all that “it hurts children” and “they’ll teach it to them in the schools” business in their ads. We both know it’s hateful hogwash, but if you don’t address the issue of children and how they are positively affected by marriage equality, if you remain silent, then you let them define the issue. Big mistake. Do not let them own this issue. Show how equality bolsters healthy, happy families. And show how the absence of equality can lead to bullying and hatred. Make the case that equality leads to tolerance, which means less bullying, not more. Equality means less hurt and less pain for everyone.
Marriage is about love. And that is what needs to be shown. Now, I know that the new equality law will not go into effect for 90 days after the governor signs it. And that it may be further delayed should an initiative to overturn it qualify for the November ballot. So, no, you probably will not have the opportunity to show people getting married the way we did (and didn’t). However, I’m sure you can easily find lots and lots of happy couples planning to tie the knot. Talk to them. Show them. Show their happy parents, who want nothing more than their children to be happy and in love. Show their siblings who want the same. Show their friends and coworkers, who promise to throw bridal showers and stag parties. Show all the love and smiles and tears surrounding folks as they imagine a day they never thought they would see. Show the love. That should be your campaign: Show the love. Don’t be afraid of the love. Embrace the love. Love, love, love. As someone once wisely said, it’s all you need.
Take care, Washington. And congratulations again for your wonderful achievement.
The Great State of California
P.S.: Be sure to show this, too, over and over.
© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.