A Climate of Uncertainty for Gay Rights ⇢
Very interesting article from Newsweek that underscored two major issues for me. First, the LGBT equality movement (sorry for turning it into some monolith, but here it is does mean everything) is failing at educating Americans about the actual status of our rights. Second, that all the incremental change the Obama administration is providing, while nice, hands lots of talking points to the anti-equality side.
First, failure to educate
“Polling has shown that 61 percent of heterosexual Americans don’t realize that federal law does not provide protections to employees based on sexual orientation.”
My biggest issue with many advocacy campaigns for LGBT issues is that they seem to not be conceived of with the general public in mind. Advocates spend a lot of time talking to the proverbial choir. For example, a large majority for Americans support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that prevents LGBT people from losing their job based on sexual orientation. Sadly, a majority also think it already passed. We, as an activist community, need to start thinking about new ways to educate and engage the average American (gay or straight) on where current law actually stands and how they can effect change.
Second, incrementalism gives anti-equality groups power
Even conservatives like Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council have readily admitted in conversations with NEWSWEEK that smaller gains, such as hospital visitation rights, help conservatives fight larger ones like the legalization of gay marriage.
Its fantastic that there are incremental changes happening that positively affect families in need (hospital visitation and expansion of the FMLA), but there is a downside in the overall winning of equality. For every baby step we take, we provide one more item to the list that groups like FRC can site as being resolved, so let’s not change marriage law. Bullshit I know, but when you are talking to voters that have not made a decision or are difficult ideological moves, those little things can have a huge impact. Advocates need to be nimble enough in their messaging that they have a wealth of talking points that extend beyond the standard heartbreaking, hospital visitation story. I don’t mean to be flippant, but we need some new talking points because incremental change is destroying many of the current pathos laden stories. I love what GLAD is doing in this area with the DOMA Stories, focusing on the actual monetary impact of not having marriage equality. It weaves personal, emotional stories in with fact that being in a same-sex marriage comes with a huge financial burden that straight married couple don’t have.