Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Equality: Be Nice or Be Had?

South Carolina still seems to be no place for the impatient. That would include Laurel and an anonymous commenter as well as me.

The pointed and succinct replies to the NYTimes op-ed are clear enough. The proposal there was that a tasty offering of federal status for civil unions and same-sex marriages as states allow will make for happy (and quieter) multitudes.

Laurel —I'd agree to it if it applied to married heterosexuals too, and their marriage was only valid in the states that recognize ssm or civil unions. deal? thought not. i see absolutely no reason to create a whole new relationship system when all we need to achieve the same ends is repeal DOMA.
Anonymous — Separate is not equal. Why should we accept a second class style of marriage "lite"? The fundies get to discriminate, and they don't have to extend equality to LGBT's who wish to marry. What the hell would we get out of this so-called "compromise"?
These are spot on. They also brought up recollections of the 2006 DOMA-amendment battle in South Carolina.

Here though, battle is much to dramatic a term. Fact is, as in the post at the time, nothing is gained by making nice to those who demand to harm you and your fellow citizens. Historically, there have been many times and there are still places in the world where, as the Greeks used to say, it does not profit to kick against the goads. That was where the repressive sorts were so powerful that any action or word against them would only increase the oppression and decrease any freedom or breathing space.

Begging for respect and legal crumbs does not produce good results.

Three years ago, I read of, spoke with and exchanged email with equality sorts in South Carolina. I have family connections, attended college and worked newspapers there. Yet, even knowing the culture, I was impatient, much more so than those GLBT advocates I came across.

For example, consider the view of the chair of the S.C. Equality Coalition. , Linda Ketner at the time. Campaigning, oh so gently, against a DOMA amendment, she said, "We are conservative in South Carolina but we are fair. And this is not fair." Figuring they needed half a million votes to keep defeat the amendment in November 2006, she added, "if each one of those voters gets one family member, friend or co-worker to vote against, then we win. I think we have a chance."

The campaign drew on successes in places like Massachusetts and Maine. GLBT individuals and couples outed themselves to friends and coworkers. Some went to possibly accepting events, such as screenings of Brokeback Mountain to hand out political literature. The very polite idea was that they were nice people deserving fair treatment.

Come November, the amendment squeaked by roared into law with 78% of the good citizens' support.

Begging for respect and legal crumbs does not produce good results.

The locals there may still hold that there was nothing to be gained by being confrontational or demanding. They might contend that the result would have been the same, plus the pro-equality types would have steeled the dislike and distrust from the anti folk.

We can't disprove that negative. However, we know that making kissy face did not work.

Instead the coalition is nibbling on the large anti-gay/anti-SSM wall. They cite:
  • A February ordinance passed in Columbia (the capital city) prohibiting housing and public accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. "The ordinances passed unanimously."
  • Passage of a code change "to provide that a person who possesses a valid health care power of attorney form shall be permitted the hospital visitation. "
  • "In partnership with local, state, and national organizations, SC Equality led successful efforts to demand that the Lexington-Richland District 5 School Board continue their policy of non-curricular clubs, allow the existence of the Gay-Straight Alliance and to implement training for school personnel regarding anti-gay harassment."
Those in such GLBT and equality-hostile or indifferent places note that you can't understand their struggle unless you live there. Yet, I do not buy into making nice as the only or even the best way to make substantive improvements.

Regardless, to the larger issue, we must not extrapolate the make-nice attitude beyond those states and cities where the equality forces feel that is still the best course. On the national front, our moderately progressive new President has some catching up to do.

Barack Obama needs to become clearly aware that marriage LITE is too LITE and in fact dishonest. Are we about fairness and equality, as he says? If so, the way is clear.

I stand with Laurel and Anonymous. Spending even a short visit in a hut on the road to equality when there is so far to go won't serve well.

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