Michael Crawford

Marriage matters even to gays in "flyover" states

Filed By Michael Crawford | April 28, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Deborah Mell, Freedom to Marry, gay marriage, gay relationships, marriage equality

I spend my days working to working to win marriage nationwide as New Media Director for Freedom to Marry. As part of my job, I come across an amazing array of stories from folks all over the country eager to marry their partners.

i want to share this video of Illinois State Representative Deborah Mell announcing her engagement to Christin Baker and her decision to discuss their engagement on the floor of the state legislature.

This story from what is sometimes refers to as a "flyover state" shows that despite protests from some in the LGBT community that marriage is only an issue for gays on the coasts same-sex couples across the nation want the freedom to marry.

Video after the jump.

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Thanks Michael. That news video was very well done and expressive. I recommend it to everyone. I admire your efforts and the Freedom To Marry organization.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | April 29, 2010 7:04 AM

Thanks Deena. We've got a lot of work to go and appreciate your support.

I don't deny that there are LGBTs in "flyover" states that want to marry. The issue is prioritizing resources.

Illinois has a Human Rights Act that includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in employment, housing, loans, and public accommodations. So, it makes sense for that state to move on to marriage rights.

South Carolina on the other hand is a coastal state and does not provide a single protection for LGBTs whether it's employment or housing. And they just cut their AIDS funding. So I would consider it unethical to divert resources to a marriage campaign in that state. Marriage rights are useless if you can get fired or denied housing because you're married to someone of the same sex.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | April 29, 2010 7:00 AM

At no point did I suggest that activists in South Carolina abandon efforts to pass non-discrimination legislation and focus on marriage. If they did, I wouldn't say that was "unethical," but it definitely would be smart strategy.

As for prioritization of resources, it's a question of who decides what are the priorities. I thing I sometimes here is that LGBT people of color are not interested in marriage. From my experience working to win marriage in DC and seeing the POC who worked on the issue and who married their partners, I know that's not true.

People prioritize different things at different times. For some people, marriage is a top priority and for others youth issues are key. I think we should be encouraging more people to get active no matter what they see as their core issue.

I was just using an example with South Carolina. It's not flyover vs coastal.

I think priorities should be questioned, even other people's priorities. People can be led away from what they need when you're pitching a dream to them, something they want.

My opinion has evolved quite a bit over the last two years. I do want to get married to my partner of 13 years. I proposed to her in 2004 on bended knee with a ring in public and everything. And that was when I was living in South Carolina...we were going to run off to Multnomah County in Oregon. Had the marriage application forms sent to us.

In retrospect, that was pretty foolish. We lived in SC for 8 years with my parents. We couldn't find a real estate agent that would help a couple of dykes find a home and get a loan. And every place we could afford, friends would tell us, "That area's too dangerous for gays." But still I was caught up in this marriage movement like it was the promised land.

Now I lived in California for 9 months, and I'm still not used to all the protections I have. I have to remind myself I have them. Even though I'm eating beans and rice, and my home is falling apart, I have food, a home and a love. My cup runneth over. We've gone this long without marriage. And I just don't know if I want to keep seeing millions of dollars going towards marriage campaigns when there are so many without basic protections. There should be millions going towards a trans inclusive ENDA or LGBT safe homeless shelters.

Sorry if this all sort of "bleeding heart" stuff, but it kind of sounded like you don't really know why the folks that think marriage is only an issue in certain states. It's not a question of where the states are geographically, but where they are in the rights and protections they've secured thus far.

Of course there are gays in every state that want to get married. But there should be honesty about the pros and cons, and whether or not it's realistic if they're living in a state without other protections. Illinois has a lot more protections than it's neighbor Missouri. Illinois isn't like every other flyover state.

DC has laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in employment, schools, housing and public accommodations. So, again that's another area where it's realistic to take on marriage rights.

People need equal opportunity in employment and housing more than they need marriage, even if they want marriage more.