Feature » Queer

Hearts and Minds

Regardless of the Name, Here's How We Win

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Well, at least we knew it was coming. Right? We anticipated the gay rights referendums and we made sure that this time it's the "more palatable" option that we're defending—it's "domestic partnerships" that might go before voters in November 2008, not "civil unions." This time it's our language that we tested, and we know we have the votes to keep the laws on the books.

We've got the mind thing down pat. We've got charts mapping out the logical inconsistencies of our opponent's arguments. We have the better legal position. We've counted the rights and we have a strategy. In a logical discussion we win every time. The minds are on our side.

But what about the hearts?

The talking points that got us here were contract heavy, pointing out the legal deficiencies of the current system for GLBT families—important messages that we have been highlighting through election and legislative cycles. Contract provisions and pensions are important, and what's more, they're not threatening. We can safely talk about our families in the confines of these legal constructs.

After all, who can be angry at a contract?

Sure it's more palatable to talk about contracts instead of same-sex affection. Sure more people will vote "yes" to keep a Domestic Partnership bill because they think we already have those rights. But, what happens once we get to domestic partnerships? Minds got us this far, but hearts will take us the rest of the way—to full equality.

After all, who can love a contract?

As we strip away the "scary" parts of GLBT people, we make our lives more palatable. But we lose something. Those "scary" parts are our greatest strength. I love my partner. Sure, I'd like to have the legal protections and responsibilities that go along with a domestic partnership, but that's not the core of what a partnership, union, or marriage is about for me. It's a much more emotional, social thing. People can understand the importance of inheriting a pension. But, people can feel the importance of a public declaration of affection. If marriage were just about contract provisions, nobody would care about keeping GLBT people from having it.

It's true that things like equality don't happen overnight—not when inequality is the status quo. We're working toward equality one step at a time. I don't know any GLBT families that think domestic partnerships or civil unions are equality. They're a stopgap for the hemorrhaging our families face every day. Nobody, including our opposition, thinks this is the end.

If we are working toward true equality, we need to share the beauty of our families with everyone we can. Conversations about legal rights can be very helpful, but if we are seen as not fully human, as less than equal, why would anyone care that we don't have equal legal rights? We have to lay the groundwork of humanity before the framework of legality will mean anything.

GLBT people have great love and compassion in our lives, regardless of how you label it. We would have to in order to keep our relationships intact through things like constitutional amendments and second-class citizenship. When we share that love we truly touch the hearts of others, because we share with them something fundamental—our humanity.

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