To De-Emphasize Benefits of Gay Marriage, There’s a ’Third Way’
Whenever I ask a heterosexual friend why he loves his girlfriend or why he decided to marry his fiancé, the answer is almost always the same. My friend looks me in the eye and says, "I love her." I’ve yet to hear a friend say, "I love her benefits."
In other words, most people get married because they want to spend the rest of their lives together, regardless of equality issues and benefits. In contrast, I believe that our messaging has gotten off track. The LGBT rights movement would rather say, "I do" to benefits than to a person. That’s a problem -- and I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Earlier this month, a group of high-profile Democrats and Republicans who back legalizing same-sex marriage called on advocates to shift the focus on the issue from an argument about equal rights to promoting the value of commitment. The group, dubbed the "Commitment Campaign," said their national effort is aimed at developing and deepening support among Middle American voters - moderates and independents - for marriage equality.
The campaign, created by Third Way, a leading moderate think tank, officially launched November 7 and has already enlisted the bipartisan support of prominent political leaders and activists. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D), former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee (I), and former New Jersey Governor and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman (R), among others, are on board.
The goal of the campaign is to change the way we communicate about LGBT relationships. Commitment Campaign officials say they will work with policymakers and advocates to persuade the political middle that LGBT couples want to marry so that they can make a lifetime commitment, not simply for rights and benefits.
Support for same-sex marriage is increasing across the country; 53 percent of Americans now support marriage for gay and lesbian couples according to Gallup. The recent passage of marriage in New York State potentially signifies a tipping point on the issue. But the next handful of years will put that support to the test in states, in Congress, and in the courts.
This week, advocates of same-sex marriage in Washington State announced a coalition, Washington United for Marriage, to emphasize the make-or-break year of 2012. Because Washington voters voted to approve a measure that grants the same rights and responsibilities of heterosexual marriage to the state’s registered domestic partners, Washington United for Marriage will not be able to argue the equality route.
Other than the word "marriage," for all intents and purposes, same-sex couples in Washington State are equal to their heterosexual counterparts. The argument must be love, commitment, fairness.