osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Same Sex Marriage Advocates Finally Get A Political Clue, and start Winning.

At last, at last, at last! Necessity has proven the mother of all clue by fours. Now if only the reproductive rights movement would get a clue and stop partying like its 1979.

As regular readers know, I have long chastised the same sex marriage folks for trying to achieve their goals primarily through law suits (because, of course, they hang on my every word). The result was one win in MA, a partial win in NJ, and a string of losses, including here in MD.

Happily here in MD, the smackdown by the state's highest court has finally prompted advocates of civil rights for all regardless of sexual orientation to do what I have been telling the world they need to do, get serious about a legislative strategy. For a first time outing, they did quite well in my estimation. Neither the same sex marriage bill or the civil unions bill got out of committee, but the legislature passed a bill clarifying that same sex partners ("domestic partners" in the language of the statute) have the same default authority to make medical and burial decisions for each other as do married couples, and are entitled to the same treatment under state property tax as married couples with regard to property transfers between partners (a huge issue that has cropped up in divorce cases in MA, where divorce settlements can entail a significant tax hit).

From such small victories and beginnings does real social change grow. You keep showing up to play, keep winning, and build on each subsequent victory. (It is, after all, how corporate America achieved so much.) I also believe that time is firmly on the side of same sex marriage and full acceptance, given demographic trends and shifting attitudes on same sex coupledom.

Which brings me to my usual complaint that the reproductive rights movement needs to get a friggin' life already. This is a movement that _started_ with a Constitutional right and has been losing ground ever since. But despite more than two decades of steady reversals, the movement has changed neither leaders or tactics. Way to go!

Psssttt....a clue: Even if a Democrat wins, the anti-abortion wing of the Court still has 5 votes. So do not suffer any delusion that getting a Democratic president elected will buy you four years (or eight years) of relief from possible disaster. The anti-abortion folks, who actually have a successful legislative and organizing strategy, are still busy working away to undermine fundamental rights, a minor set back like a change in administration is not going to impact them much. Unless, of course, you figure out how to fight effectively.

Want some more clues? O.K., I don't have time to take this on personally, but a few helpful hints.

a) Pick some legislative goals you can win that are proactive, rather than reactive. Almost all states except NY have a law criminalizing abortion on the books, going back to before Roe v. Wade. Organize around eliminating those laws. It is largely symbolic, but its a start and it has messaging value. For one thing, you will force the social conservatives in the more liberal states to take an unpopular stand rather than continue to achieve their goals via creeping incrimentalism.

b) Rethink your messaging. Go for something more universal. The language of the reproductive rights movement is still a holdover from the 1960s, and is all about women's empowerment and class struggle. The conservatives learned how to message against that YEARS ago. And your attempts at making this a public health issue have been, well, pitiful. Go for something more universal in nature. Focus on some of the outside issues, like increases in public health costs and the right of all people (men as well as women) to make their own decisions about medical therapy. "Do you really want the government to come between you and your doctor?" That kind of thing. Do some focus groups and testing. Really. It helps and, if you do it right, you get all kinds of yummy crunchy data flakes (which are extremely nutritious for a movement. Y'all been living on moral outrage, which is kinda like energy drinks for social movements. It can give you a burst when you need it, but if you drink too many you get really fat and flabby and stop having energy.)

c) Get some new leaders. I mean it. If you want to reach people under 35, and they are the largest growing social block and should be open to your message, you need to stop looking like their very annoying second grade teacher who always scolded them for getting ink smears on everything. Really. The fact that it took NARAL until Fall of 2007 to figure out that instant messaging was a useful tool for organizing and applied for a short code is so unbelievably lame it boggles my mind. It would not have happened if you had a few women under 35 in real leadership roles.

Sadly, I expect the reproductive rights movement to keep doing what's its doing, and to continue losing. They haven't lost enough yet. It took the elimination of any hope that the courts would solve the issue here in MD to get the same sex marriage advocates to change their tactics. I expect it will take a similar catastrophic loss to get the reproductive rights folks to reinvent themselves.

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