Big Rock Candy Mountain

The official voice of the Deseret Liberation Organization

“You can’t live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living.”

Though he is not a member of the gay politburo (yet), Dale Carpenter criticizes the direction the movement has gone in the wake of the MASSIVE FAIL last Tuesday:

Nevertheless, I am uncomfortable with pickets directed at specific places of worship like the Mormon church in Los Angeles. It’s too easy for such protests to degenerate into the kinds of ugly religious intolerance this country has long endured. Mormons, in particular, have historically suffered rank prejudice and even violence. Epithets and taunts directed at individuals are especially abhorrent. Individual Mormons (and blacks and others) bravely and publicly opposed Prop 8. Even those who supported Prop 8 are not all anti-gay bigots, though I saw plenty of anti-gay bigotry when I was in California last week. As I’ve repeatedly argued, there are genuine concerns about making a change like this to an important social institution. Those concerns are misplaced and overwrought, but they are not necessarily bigoted.

Here’s my advice to righteously furious gay-marriage supporters: Stop the focus on the Mormon Church. Stop it now. We just lost a ballot fight in which we were falsely but effectively portrayed as attacking religion. So now some of us attack a religion? People were warned that churches would lose their tax-exempt status, which was untrue. So now we have (frivolous) calls for the Mormon Church to lose its tax-exempt status? It’s rather selective indignation, anyway, since lots of demographic groups gave us Prop 8 in different ways — some with money and others with votes. I understand the frustration, but this particular expression of it is wrong and counter-productive.

Furthermore, I see much of the failure as being a result of inaction on the part of powerful people who could have changed this thing. Steve Young refused to show any courage about his views. Progressive politicians of all stripes refused to dispute the erroneous arguments for Prop 8. And most tragically, Governor Schwarzenegger, while saying the challenge “should never happen,” refused to campaign against it. It was our failure to properly mobilize and debunk the myths, not the massive funding of the “traditional marriage” lobby, that stopped us last Tuesday.

But it is only a momentary loss. Virtually nobody in my age bracket (18-30) was behind Prop 8. Many young religious people realize the mistakes of their elders. And every massive struggle for rights has faced massive setbacks.

The current protests, which hurt our cause by separating it from religion (a driving force in all great American social movements, from abolition and suffrage to labor and civil rights). Rather than react to hate and emotionalism with hate and emotionalism, we must conquer our enemies with love—and a healthy dose of civil disobedience.

Carpenter proposes:

If a more intense physical expression of anger and frustration is needed, why not have sit-ins at marriage-license bureaus in California? It could be modeled on the sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in the 1960s. The demonstrations would be targeted at government buildings — rather than at churches. And after all, it’s government policy we’re legitimately protesting, not religious doctrine. Let people get arrested as they sing “We Shall Overcome.” The protesters themselves — gay and straight, single and married, black and white, Mormon and Catholic, Republicans and Democrats, moms and dads raising kids — would suffer and accept the legal consequences of their acts. Rather than instilling fear and resentment in others, rather than dividing people on religious and racial lines, they would literally be putting their own bodies on the line for the good of their relationships, their families, their friends, and for a just cause whose time has come. We’ve had enough of lawyers, courts, focus groups, and media handlers. Let peaceful protesters by the thousands be dragged away just because they want to marry. It would be good old-fashioned civil disobedience, an American protest tradition.

I would gladly be a party to such activities. Sullivan reminds us

Look, guys: we lost an initiative. We lost it by a much smaller margin than in the past, and the next generation will pass it. Boycott as you feel like; protest by all means. But in the end, even constitutional protections require popular support. We have come from nowhere to a near-majority in less than fifteen years since the first marriage case. We have marriage equality in two states, and civil unions in many others. We are winning. If we do not blow it in a hissy-fit that borders on intolerance.

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