Friday, January 23, 2009

Settling for Less

Don George on civil unions: 

The best part of this is that it is such a powerful tool. Literally hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of gays in all 50 states will have the ability to access these 1100+ federal benefits even if their own state doesn't recognize that relationship.

Finally, I realize that the screams from our own left will say "marriage or nothing." Here's a counter argument. By setting up such a clearly "separate but equal system" (there is no debate on this, right?), that separate but equal system, as a half step, will be successfully challenged more quickly (either through public education or in the courts) and become full marriage equality sooner, than the purer route of going from nothing at the federal level to full marriage equality in one step. Anyone who thinks that going from nothing to full marriage equality at the federal level all in one step is coming soon is fooling themselves. That is a much harder, bigger, and more time consuming route.

I wish I could say my thinking is original on this, but it is based on my discussions with a prominent LGBT Obama campaign official and a prominent ACLU attorney neither of whom wishes to go on record at this time. (h/t: The Daily Dish)

I don't know. There's always a tension in politics between no-compromises activism and patient incrementalism. There is certainly enough room in the system for both kinds of leadership, but should we really be settling for less when it comes to - of all things - civil rights issues? The acceptance of a clearly "separate but equal" solution may be the best move in the meantime, and perhaps it would force the issue into the courts before DOMA could be repealed. But after accepting discrimination and inequality for so long - after institutionalizing it - how can the law come so close to full equality but stop short? 

In the end, though, the argument is almost certainly correct: full marriage equality will arrive sooner if civil unions are adopted in the meantime. If that's what's most important, maybe this is the way to go. But what a frustrating route to have to take. 

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