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06/27/2013

'Gay marriage activists didn't get what they wanted'

by Jeremy Hooper

If you've looked at the anti-equality movement's spin regarding yesterday's marriage decisions, you've surely seen some variation of the paraphrased quote I use as my headline. The National Organization For Marriage, the Family Research Council, ProtectMarriage.com, the Alliance Defending Freedom—they all used some variation of it.

It's yet another example of the reliably duplicitous "traditional marriage" movement responding to a development (whether favorable or unfavorable) by misrepresenting what our side actually sought. We've seen this in everything from the aftermath of the North Carolina marriage amendment vote, where they overstated their "win" by claiming we LGBT activists were extremely confident that we would win (in truth we were the opposite), to the 2012 elections, where they tried to say that our margins of victory were much narrower than we had hoped. Another big one was Minnesota, where they kept saying our side guaranteed state residents in 2012 that opposing that cycle's discriminatory amendment would not lead to marriage equality—something we did not say (we simply said that voting against the amendment itself wouldn't bring marriage; of course anyone with a brain knew we ultimately wanted marriage).

With losses compounding on their side, we're seeing this more and more. They try to make their losses less loss-y and their wins more of a sign by pretending to know what our movement was thinking and flat-out misstating what our movement was saying.

So back to the SCOTUS cases. Yes, every LGBT activist I know would love a Supreme Court that says everything negative to LGBT people is unlawful and that LGBT people must, in one swoop, get everything we seek. I mean, obviously. Of course we want this, just like any other movement would like their own goals handed to them on a silver platter. We want full equality in every state and federally. We are not hiding this.

But in these cases, most every LGBT activist I know (and I know and chat daily with quite a few of 'em) assumed that our wins, if we got them, would look EXACTLY like they did in fact look. Yesterday's decision is the outcome I was told to expect as early as the day that we learned these cases were going to D.C.

And not only did we expect this to be as far as our victories would extend, but we were quite excited about the possibility. I don't know one activist, either in our national orgs or at the grassroots level, who was pooh poohing the historic possibility of overturning DOMA or getting marriage back in the massive state that is California. Sure, every one of these same activists (self included) would have loved the fantasy possibility of a sweeping right to marriage in every one of our states, but I don't know anyone who let his or her self to dream that big. It just didn't happen.

The anti-LGBT crowd is messaging this false truth for one reason and one reason only: they need to dampen the crushing blow. Yesterday was perhaps the most damaging day in the anti-equality movement's history. While the Lawrence ruling, Massachusetts' Goodridge decision, the historic 2012 elections, and a number of other developments have built on themselves to lead us to this day, yesterday's pair of decisions, coming after such a great stream of gains and buoyed by clear polling trends, drive home an even clearer message. These were more like repudiations of the anti-equality movement's considerable attempts to stop the train. They tried and they lost. People now know that DOMA failed because DOMA was terrible and animus-driven; people now know that Prop 8 failed because its defenders could not present an able case in court (esp. Judge Walker's court).

What marriage equality activists wanted was a clear sign that momentum is on our side and winning is our inevitable. We got that! Oh, and federal rights too.

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