Thursday, March 1, 2012

It's Time to Start Talking

I know I've been silent on this so far, but today the Governor is going to sign same-sex marriage into law!  I suppose I should take a moment to celebrate, but instead I'm charging forward to "where do I sign up? what do I have to do to make this happen?"  Because the Governor's signature is the starting line, and the referendum will be the ball game.

So where do we start?  I think we start by talking.  I think we start by saying, "I support marriage equality."  I think we start by talking with our allies about how to frame our arguments.  There are going to be certain things that resonate with certain people.  When our older secretary admitted to me that while she fully supports equal rights for same-sex couples, she struggles a lot with the idea of marriage being anything but what she has known it to be for her entire life (she's in her late sixties, and from a really conservative area).  Her argument wasn't even religious.  It was more of a simple statement - that it is very hard for her to undo her own conditioning.  She asked about civil unions or domestic partnerships.  I said that separate but equal doesn't really work, either legally or emotionally.  I pointed out that Mark and I were in a domestic partnership for three years, and now that we are married, it is totally different.  I don't know if I changed her mind, but I think I framed the argument in a much more practical way than she was used to.  I also think using the term separate but equal resonated with her.

So I think we need to start thinking about how to frame our arguments.  And we need to start talking.  And we need to be careful.  A lot of my friends think the answer is to just call everyone who doesn't support same-sex marriage a bigot.  Truthfully, calling people names will not change their minds, it will make them dig their heels in more.  Saying, "I can see how you would feel that way, but the system we have in place now isn't a solution and there are families who need the protections of marriage and divorce and it's not really fair to deny them that" is going to get you a lot further than, "I can't believe you think that, you bigot."

So let's start talking.  What arguments have worked best for you to change people's hearts and minds, and if you can't change their minds, is there anything we can do to make sure they change their vote?  Do you think there is any merit to asking people who are uncomfortable with same-sex marriage to simply not vote for or against the referendum if it is too difficult for them to cast a yes vote, or is that too dangerous?


  1. I was thinking about this yesterday after our twitter conversation (more specifically about how to react to people who hold any number of unjust beliefs).

    And then I got to thinking about my mom & family. My entire family is from the Tacoma/Seattle area and as you know they're likely to be faced with a vote this fall too. I want to communicate with them on a personal level and doing this in a confrontational manner is sure to be seen as "negative" and certainly won't help matters. This is going to take some thought. And then some careful action.

    I suppose there is some merit to asking people to not vote either way on a measure however I don't know how realistic that is. People feel awful compelled to vote on every issue once they're at the ballot box... I still think it is more important to have them try and place WHY they're uncomfortable.

    1. The most powerful way of framing it, to me as a lawyer, has been as an "access to justice" issue. You are denying the protection of the law to an entire group of people because you have a problem with it on a personal level.

      But I doubt that resonates with non-lawyers as well as it does for me.

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