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Selling snake oil '70s style: A look at a Milk era marriage ban

by Jeremy Hooper

Milk-2As we continue our recognition of Harvey Milk and the fabulous flick that bears his name, we want to show you more of the kinds of headlines and sentiments that fueled his '70s era activism. This time we'll take a look at a 1977 marriage ban that successfully made its way through the California legislature, setting the stage for decades of future elected officials having to waste conversation on what could have been, should have been a non-issue. As you will see, there were some striking similarities (and a few key differences) between the way anti-equality lawmakers futzed with our rights then, and the way they bastardize fairness now:

(In all instances, click pic for full view)

Back in '77, they still used code wording like "sanctity of traditional marriage," framed their actions in terms of "child protection," and denied that their measures would deprive gays of anything:


However, if you dug a little deeper, you could usually see what sort of motivation was lying behind the 'mo foes' more palatable language:

Long Beach Independent

But despite the striking similarities in playbook, we did find an interesting distinction between now and then. Back then, before the deceptive religious right turned this matter into one that is "targeting religious freedom," the anti-gay proponents seemed to more fully understand (or at least admit) the differences between civil licensing and religious ceremony:


Unfortunately, the post-debate headlines were also similar to the ones with which modern gays are all-too-familiar:


Interestingly, this same Bruce Nestande (whose son Brian was just elected to the CA Assembly) later became the campaign chairman for the openly gay Michael Huffington, himself a marriage equality supporter. Which would seem to indicate another similarity between old school and new school Republicans: The "Some of my best friends are folks who I chose to ban" mindset that has been giving biased social conservatives a pass for far too long.

**EARLIER '70s era insight:

Our MILK timeline:
PART 1: Brush up on your Harvey: A prequel [G-A-Y]
PART 2: 31 years, one million thank yous [G-A-Y]

The marriage fight
From Richard Nixon to Cynthia Nixon: Four decades of stagnant 'marriage protection' [G-A-Y]

Pat Buchanan's 70's era rhetoric
'Sordid and sick': The evolution of Pat's anti-gayness [G-A-Y]

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Your thoughts

From the Long Beach Independent column, I wonder just which part Assemblyman Nestande thinks needed medical attention.

It all sounds pretty good to me. :)

Posted by: dave b | Dec 2, 2008 1:42:28 PM

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