Do Gay Rights Have a Future Outside of California? Do We Care?

Categories: Politics

gaymarriagegeneric.jpgBy Benjamin Wachs

Although it’s easy to get lost in the fact that California voters recently decided to put discrimination in the state constitution, a little perspective is in order: gay couples in California still have (almost) full equality under the law, with provisions for civil unions, adoption, and other rights that aren’t going anywhere.

That’s still a rarity. Most states in the U.S. don’t recognize gay civil unions, let alone gay marriage. Where the battle in California is largely won, and largely symbolic, the fight elsewhere is very real, with consequences that go far beyond the clash of vocabularies.

That point was driven home this week when the “Ballot Box” blog published a list of states that could approve gay marriage or expand civil unions in 2009.

“If one of these places does legalize gay marriage,” reporter Josh Goodman writes, “it will be the first time a state (or a non-state in D.C.'s case) has taken that step without being ordered by a court to do so.”

They include (in what appears to be declining order of likelihood): Vermont, New Jersey, D.C., New York, Maryland, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Washington.

All of which suggests a strategic question to me: While Prop 8 should absolutely be fought in the California court system, where would political resources, activist sweat, and monetary donations do the most good – fighting for the word “marriage” to apply to otherwise fortunate gays in California, or fighting to expand gay marriage elsewhere in the country … and bring the protection of civil unions to states that don’t have them?

There are good arguments both ways. Personally? I say there’s no need to wait until 2010 when there are so many states near the tipping point now.

But that would require a strong organization, and if there’s one thing our current marriage equity activists hate more that the Mormons, it’s organization.

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