Bil Browning

Making Lemonade

Filed By Bil Browning | July 13, 2006 2:56 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement

Much has been happening recently to give occasion for sober reflection. I want to talk about the disgrace of the New York State Court of Appeals, but first a word about South Bend. Do not misunderstand, I wish the HRO (Human Rights Ordinance) had passed; I wish it had passed unanimously, but perhaps its failure was a blessing in disguise. The issue before us is equal rights, and the major battlefield is the Marriage Discrimination Amendment because its passage will enshrine inequality in the constitution. Once there enshrined, it can poison all of the laws and ordinances of the state. That battle must be fought for the hearts and minds of all Hoosiers. If a solid majority of Hoosiers decide that everyone deserves equal rights, which they have, and understands what that implies, which they do not, we will have won. Until then any legislative victory will be tentative and partial.

Since "all Hoosiers" live all over the state, that is where we must wage the fight;

and since our best weapon is talk: who we are and what equal rights mean, we need to have conversations all over the state with people who do not agree with us and are not likely to educate themselves without prodding. That is the value, at this particular moment, of the campaign to get HROs introduced in every town; that it creates forums for discussion of equality across the state. (Work on Safe Schools can achieve the same benefit.)

Paradoxically, in this struggle, swift victory is not necessarily best. Could we but wave a magic wand, and have inclusive HROs enacted all over the state, we would have achieved something, but not all we hope for. Almost, but not quite, winning keeps the conversation going, giving more people a chance to become involved and learn more about our community and its agenda.

When the HRO failed in Indy last April, we took it very hard, but the ensuing struggle to get it passed in December make a much greater effect on the city and county than quick passage ever could. Getting the letters to councillors signed, writing to the newspapers, and our blogs; talking to friends, acquaintances and councillors all helped our struggle to achieve equality. It did so in ways that we may never know, but which can further our cause in future battles.

So never, never give up. The loss can work to our advantage. It can redouble our commitment. It can educate us as well as our adversaries. I have been to many meetings, and I have never heard them offer anything to persuade anyone who was not completely on their side already. On the contrary, our speakers, as a group, never fail to give anyone whose mind is even slightly ajar something to think about.

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Marla R. Stevens | July 13, 2006 7:02 PM


Caveat: This is not all that much different than the discussions in the Democrat Party about the comparative strategy and benefits of a 50-state strategy and working the electoral college numbers.

Most recognize that, for longterm success, both have to be done and that, the pressures of immediacy and exigency being what they are, if you concentrate on the latter, you're less likely to achieve the former than if you reverse the emphasis.

That said, the reality that the amendment looms and that real legislators from real, defined districts will be voting on it and that, if we concentrate on sure loss ones to the point that we don't put enough effort into the ones that have a real chance of becoming votes on our side, we'll have shot ourselves in the foot.