Fifteen years ago, I had a conversation that changed my perspective on same-sex marriage when I sat down with my friend and colleague Evan Wolfson, then the director of a group called the Marriage Project at the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
At a time when President Clinton had recently signed the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, Evan argued to me it was absolutely essential to fight for the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples. I disagreed and maintained it was not the right battle at that time. The LGBT community should focus on ending discrimination in employment, allowing gays to serve openly in the military, outlawing hate crimes, providing access to health care and other more pressing issues, I argued.
Evan won me over that day with a familiar but compelling analogy. He said we have to shoot for the moon, and even if we fail, we end up in the stars. In other words, by fighting for marriage equality, we would make it easier to achieve anti-discrimination laws, hate crimes laws and lifting the ban on gays in the military. And the push for marriage would also move the boundaries of the debate, he argued, so civil unions would eventually become a default fall-back position for moderates instead of outright opposition to gay relationships. (BET)
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