Misguided activism

I’m as disappointed as anyone about the passage of Prop 8 and similar initiatives to prevent marriage equality nationwide.  But this Day Without a Gay campaign is likely to backfire.  I understand what organizers are  trying to accomplish, to raise awareness that we are an integral part of society and the workplace.  But I’m not convinced that the timing is right to wield a largely symbolic economic truncheon when what we need is to continue to highlight the similarities of gays and straights in all facets of life.  Messing with someone’s money is more likely to cause resentment than to get his attention in a positive way, particularly with a global economic crisis looming.

I believe a major contributor to the loss of marriage equality in California, and likely elsewhere, was the economy’s downward spiral.  People have a hierarchy of needs, and gay marriage just doesn’t rank in the face of lost jobs, sinking home values, and a general feeling of uncertainty about our near-term economic future.  It is shared aversion to economic pain that drives a populace that is normally inclined to be detached observers of labor unrest to be sympathetic with the efforts of employees of Chicago-based Republic Windows and Doors to protest by occupying the now-closed factory.  Apparently the next president feels the sit-in is politically popular to sufficient degree that he can voice his open agreement with these workers’ efforts to obtain adequate severance pay.

I don’t perceive the same sort of support for the issue of gay marriage.  It just doesn’t impact people in the same way as an economic downturn.  People who are supportive of marriage equality in the best of times may become — often subconsciously — less at ease with the concept when so much of their everyday life is being impacted by more basic concerns of food, health, and shelter.

History is likely to be on our side, but that doesn’t mean that this Wednesday is the day to make history by “calling in gay.”  Gay activists are right to feel proud and empowered by the recent and damned near spontaneous post-Prop 8 protests that were organized online and witnessed all over the country.  But we need to keep our finger in the winds and gauge when they’re blowing our way and when they’re likely to turn into a tempest, and perhaps even worse and more difficult, to recognize when they peter out altogether.

Let’s be active responsibly and not squander the goodwill and support garnered in recent weeks.  I’d hate to see us lose momentum by overreaching.  I can all but guarantee this is one bailout the government is not prepared to make at this time.

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