E.J. Graff, the author of What Is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution, is a visiting researcher at Brandeis University's Women's Studies Research Center and a contributing editor at the Prospect.
Do you remember the fall 2004 gay-bashing festival? In 13 states, voters agreed to add to their constitutions a phrase like this one: "Marriage is between one man and one woman." The gay-bashing came afterward, when Democrats and liberal pundits declared that greedy gay folks had brought those initiatives on themselves with their foolish pursuit of marriage equality -- and were therefore responsible for John Kerry's loss. Political scientists have since debunked the claim that anti-marriage initiatives brought Kerry down. But here's the bad news: The anti-marriage initiatives are back.
It's embarrassing, these days, to be an American among international human rights lawyers. Or at least it was for me at the third triennial meeting of the International Lesbian and Gay Law Association (ILGLAW). After the last such meeting, I reported here on the progress being made on same-sex partnerships around the world. Held this year in Toronto, June's ILGLAW conference included lawyers and fellow travelers not only from Canada, but also from Austria, Australia, Colombia, England, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Scotland, South Africa, and Spain.
Like many folks in New England, I woke up on Wednesday wishing that my region could secede from the union and become a province of Canada. But now it's time to get over it. The election was close. We didn't lose; John Kerry did. And now we have to figure out how to talk about our moral values -- in a way that will win next time.
Congratulations, Mr. President! The progressive lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community is delighted that you have an opportunity to turn America back on a path to tolerance. Here's what we expect in return: no more, and no less, than what we got from William Jefferson Clinton.
What's that? You say that Clinton botched every piece of LGBT–related legislation he touched? True enough. His “don't ask, don't tell” policy did make life worse for lesbians and gay men in the military, increasing the numbers of gay-related discharges. And he did sign into law the nasty 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which officially decreed that the federal marriage algorithm was limited to boy + girl, no substitutions.