Saturday, June 8, 2013

Talking Points

As we have entered into the month of Pride celebrations--and the height of 'wedding season'--the advocates for marriage equality are eagerly awaiting the ruling in the two marriage cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nobody knows when, exactly, the high court will issue an opinion.  

No one knows, exactly, what the justices will say in that opinion.  

We do  know there will be a ruling.  And we know that we need to be ready to respond to said ruling.  And this often leads to that tightrope walk called "Talking Points."
It's hard to know what to talk about when you don't know to what you are responding.  However, there are some who have begun developing a list of "talking points" if the Court says this, that, or the other.  As one who is among the many LGBT community leaders sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation of these opinions, I'm glad to be observing the conversations happening across the country via the internet about how and what we should say when the Court finally speaks.   And I've noticed that with all the groups that are engaged in this conversation, there are many nuanced ways to say what it is we want to say.
The difficulty I see, however, is that there is no good way to come up with "a" message that is going to work for everyone across the country. And, much as folks have made their cases for using the phrase "similar to" as opposed to "just like" based upon focus group responses to words, in the end, people will hear what they want to hear no matter how well you choose your words.  I think, as we all get ready for these rulings, the concentration should be on the issue--marriage equality---and the impact any particular decision is going to have on the local context.

For instance, in Florida, a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that says the Prop 8 case should never have come before them because those defending the California law don't have standing to do so, will be great for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community of California; it will not mean anything here.  In the Windsor case, which is the one challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, there is a concern that the Court will only find a portion of the law unconstitutional and will turn the enforcement of DOMA over to the states.  For Floridians, this will be highly disappointing because our state lawmakers have shown little to no interest in protecting LGBT citizens from discrimination.  A "middle of the road" opinion from the Court will have the effect of being more like a "median in the road" of our country: there will be those who live, mostly above the Mason-Dixon Line, who will continue to enjoy the benefits of equality while those of us living in the southeastern United States will be on the other side of that median, stuck in traffic as it were.  This growing gulf between gays and lesbians living in the north versus' the south can not continue if we are going to be one nation.  And our LGBT brothers and sisters, as well as our allies in those places where they have already achieved equality by leaps and bounds, must not forget those of us who are not enjoying that taste of freedom yet.  We will need your voices to join with our own to raise up the hue and cry that we want "liberty and justice for all" to reach us as well.

Ultimately, our voices will be "the thing" that will change hearts and minds.  LGBT people, our family members and our friends, telling our stories and sharing who we are is the only way to persuade people who remain "unsure" to see that we are not to be feared.  As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness.  Only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only love can do that."  The more we keep showing up, presenting our true selves, and refusing to engage in a shouting match with those who would scream epithets at us, the more we will see a movement in our direction... even in the south.  It takes courage.  It takes the willingness to stand up and stand out.  If we remain invisible, nothing will change.  Tell your story.  And do not be afraid... even when you're trembling inside.


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