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Essay donated by a visitor to this web site

"Why the Lesbian/Gay Community Should Not Be Fighting for Same-Sex Marriage"
by Leland Traiman

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I am a gay man who has worked most of his adult life for equal right for lesbians and gay men.  I chaired the 1984 Domestic Partner Task Force for the City of Berkeley which wrote the first domestic partner policy enacted into law.  I was the first coordinator for the Berkeley Gay Men's Health Collective in 1977.  I successfully fought the Food and Drug Administration when they want to make it illegal for gay men to be sperm donors. (The FDA still advised against it but they did not put it in their regulations which would have prohibited it.)  I currently run the world's only gay sperm bank and fertility service.

Lesbians and gay men have already lost the fight for same-sex marriage and it is time to move on to a fight we can win.

Same-sex marriage with all of the rights, benefits and obligations of marriage cannot exist in the United States in the near future.  Here is why:  Forty-five states have laws or constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Source: Human Rights Campaign)  There has been over 48 million votes cast on this issue in 29 states and almost 32 million, almost two-thirds, voted against same-sex marriage.  As the noted gay historian and professor at the University of Illinois, John D'Emilio, observed in his 2006 article, The Marriage Fight Is Setting Us Back:

"The campaign for same-sex marriage has been an unmitigated disaster.  It has created a vast body of new anti-gay laws." 

There has already been, in effect, a national referendum and we have lost......BIG.

Despite the title, "marriage", same-sex marriage with all of the rights, benefits and obligations of marriage does not even exist in Massachusetts.  Massachusetts's same-sex marriage, California's domestic partners, and Vermont, New Jersey's civil unions, etc. all have the same federal benefits of marriage: zero.

Anecdotal reports of inappropriate or anomalous implementation of California's two and one-half year old comprehensive domestic partner laws would not be solved by changing the title to marriage.  Lesbians and gay men in Massachusetts have reported problems with their state's implementation of same-sex marriage.  Like California, Massachusetts's legislature is having to plug some new holes because both of these policies are new.  Any new and comprehensive policy, no matter how well written, will have bumps along the road to implementation.

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There is a myth that marriage has more rights and benefits than civil unions/domestic partners.  That myth is born from the fact that civil unions/domestic partners have only been passed by states.  States have no power to grant the 1138 federal benefits of marriage.  However, a national civil union policy, which Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Dodd, & Biden have pledge to support, would.

In poll after poll, a clear majority of voters say they would support civil unions with all the same rights, benefits and obligations of marriage but they would not support same-sex marriage.  Illogical?  Yes!  But it is a fact we must live with.

There have been no successful direct challenges to statewide domestic partner or civil union policies.  Domestic partners and civil unions have been overturned only when they were included in ballot propositions whose primary purpose was to ban same-sex marriage.

All of the rights, benefits and obligations of marriage are attainable, with public support, under the title civil unions or domestic partners.  Same-sex marriage is not.  We may not like that fact, however, it is none-the-less a fact.  Why the leaders of our community do not see the obvious is beyond my understanding.  It is time that someone in the lesbian and gay community tell our leaders that their strategy on same-sex marriage has failed.  We must return to the successful strategy of attaining our rights through civil unions and domestic partners which has worked well for over 20 years.

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Originally posted: 2007-SEP-08
Latest update: 2007-SEP-08
Author: Leland Traiman (www.EqualityWithoutMarriage.org)

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