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Incrementalism is No Solution


A questionnaire was submitted by the Human Rights Campaign to Democrats running for President.  The following is part of an article dealing with the responses to that questionnaire:

“Kucinich was the only candidate to support same-sex marriage. 

“Each of the seven said they supported civil unions. They also said they supported the recognition by the federal government of a state’s sanction same-sex unions for the purposes of benefits and taxation at both the state and federal levels. And they support extending federal benefits to same-sex couples and their children.

“All seven said they support legislation before Congress that would bar LGBT employment discrimination, and a second bill adding sexuality to the federal hate crime law.

“They said they would support adding same-sex couples to the Family and Medical Leave Act, provide survivor benefits. and amending the Uniting Americans Family Act to allow American citizens to bring their foreign national partners into the country.

“The respondents also were unanimous in supporting repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and continued support for the Ryan White Act which funds AIDS treatment.”

It might well be argued that incrementalism of this sort is a necessary first step toward full equality of Gay people in the U.S.  I don’t agree!

My view is that to the degree that LGBT people settle for short-term, though by no means insignificant, gains (to the degree that these politicians can be believed), it’s to that degree that the fire in the belly for full and equal civil rights will become extinguished for the foreseeable future.  Full rights of citizenship means just that: full and equal civil rights, and the dignity that the acquisition of those rights affords.

I’m under no illusion that most Gay people aren’t necessarily interested in getting married!  However, marriage as an institution confers a legitimacy to a relationship that no other living arrangements afford, even in contemporary United States and elsewhere. 

With marriage will come all other civil rights!  It is the penultimate right that finally serves to put Gay people on an equal footing with all other citizens; finally attests to the fact that being Gay is just as “normal” as is being Straight; obliterates the tacit belief among many that being Gay is “immoral” which, in my opinion, is the major reason LGBT people have yet to win the rights of full and equal citizenship in the U.S. and in other countries as well.

It is only when the fact is realized that LGBT people are “normal” and are not “immoral,” a reality that will only come about with the acquisition of the right to marry, will full equality be achieved; full civil and sacramental rights, and the dignity attached to their acquisition, being coterminous with the institution of marriage, will become a reality!

By settling for second best; by settling for the lesser of two evils, short-term gains will certainly be won.  But I fear they will be won at the expense of the most important gain possible: being justifiably treated as equal with all the dignity that the acquisition of full and equal civil rights affords.

An example of how tenuous such designations as Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions are can be seen here:

“The city of Kalamazoo became the first public employer in the state to strip health benefits from the domestic partners of its gay and lesbian employees.

“City Manager Kenneth Collard cited a decision last month by the Michigan supreme Court.

“The high court agreed to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that said the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage blocks the state, local governments and public institutions from providing benefits to the same-sex partners of employees.”

For the full article, see here.

Beyond what I wrote above about not settling for second best, this article provides another reason why nothing less than “marriage” must be settled for.  Anything less than marriage can have what rights accrue to them nullified by the mere stroke of a pen! 

A love relationship between two people that has any other designation than “married” can not only have its rights removed, but is not viewed by others as legitimately as is marriage.  Moreover, to designate such a relationship as anything other than partaking of the same institution of marriage as exists between heterosexuals, consigns that relationship to a lesser, “deviant,” “inferior” standing in society.

Settling for short-term gains can result in many long-term losses!  This article should be a wake-up call to that fact!

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Jerry Maneker

Jerry Maneker