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Friday, July 5, 2013

The fight begins. All supporters must be welcome.

There are two important things to think about when you read this Palm Beach Post item. The first is that all supporters of marriage equality must get in fighting shape right now. The other is that we absolutely cannot start beating away people who are on our side.

From the post:
Former NBA star Tim Hardaway tonight is scheduled to become the first petition-signer on the Equal Marriage Florida effort to put a proposed constitutional amendment legalizing same-sex marriage in the state on the November 2014 ballot... Equal Marriage Florida would define marriage as a “union of two persons” and would erase a gay marriage ban approved by voters only five years ago.

As I already noted in a prior post, it will be hard to pass this item. While I think a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Florida today would surely fail because it couldn't hit 60 percent, reversing this terrible decision from just five years ago will be a challenge because that high hurdle is now our burden.

And that brings me to the second critical aspect of this fight. We cannot scoff at anyone's support. Not anyone.

It will be hard to stomach for many to fight alongside Tim Hardaway in this fight, a man who made headlines making unabashed homophobic remarks at just the same moment the last gay marriage fight in Florida was gearing up. He was beaten up for that, and seems to have fully embraced the equal rights agenda now. We need to welcome people who change their mind into the fold.

It wasn't so long ago that the great fear of straights supporting gay rights was that we would be mistaken for gay. I'd love to tell you that was never a concern of mine growing up, but this I don't think I would have marched in the streets at age 19 for gay rights just because I would be afraid what others would assume. Of course, I got over that at a younger age than certain NBA all-stars, but that's not the point.

There is a reason that we didn't see a pro athlete in one of America's major team sports come out until this year. The attitudes on personal issues like that are different from situation to situation. If we preach tolerance, we need to allow people to evolve and embrace them when they reach the other side of this great divide. Our job is to coax people into our position using reason, not embarrass them by waving the finger of shame.

This has struck me especially this year, we saw the first GOP senator come out in favor of gay marriage. Rob Portman changed his position because his son is gay, and that changed his position. Of course, Dick Cheney it may be presumed was at least influenced by similar circumstance. Liberals unwilling to put down the sword for even a second chastise these individuals for having selfish reasons for coming to the side of angels.

The New York Times' Paul Krugman said of Portman:
While enlightenment is good, wouldn’t it have been a lot more praiseworthy if he had shown some flexibility on the issue before he knew that his own family would benefit? I’ve noticed this thing quite a lot in American life lately — this sort of cramped vision of altruism in which it’s considered perfectly acceptable to support only those causes that are directly good for you and yours.

But so what? Hardway may only have come around on gay rights because he was afraid of losing endorsement deals. Portman may only have rethought his position on gay marriage because a ban hurts his own child. Do you know what that makes these men?


Folks, this is how change happens. The reason marriage equality supporters were losing this issue so badly 10 years ago wasn't because we weren't organized. It wasn't because we needed better spokesmen or better funding. Improvement in those area helps, but in a democracy, none of those things are what truly wins the day.

We were losing 10 years ago because the vast majority of Americans thought we were wrong. We lost on Amendment 2 five years ago more than 3 of every 5 Floridians favored codified bigotry over equal rights. We only win this issue when we convince people who once that we were wrong that we in fact are right.

Now, momentum is so clearly on our side it seems unimaginable that the tide will turn against gay marriage. But make no mistake, the winning shot on this one is not made by Jason Collins. It's made by Tim Hardaway. He is the one who changed the game he was playing. And we need the game-changers on our side.

1 comment:

  1. I remember that getting press 6 years ago. Hopefully he gets as much press today.