At East Longmeadow High School, where I teach, the GSA* is the fastest growing club we have. Although I have marched in the Northampton Pride Parade with our students a couple of times, I never realized just how many kids belonged to it. Then I attended a GLSEN Conference in Holyoke. I spent the entire day there, but it wasn’t until the kids started headed toward the bus that I realized there were 35 or 40 kids who had come. There are 850 kids in my high school. Only Key Club might rival that level of participation.
How far we have come! Things might have been different–at least delayed–if it were not for the accomplishments of Massachusetts in opposing bigotry. Well-organized, intelligent activists and progressive Beacon Hill leadership killed a constitutional amendment against marriage equality and even domestic partnerships.
Think Progress has a long piece that, I think, is very worth the read. It ends with The “two important lessons for progressives for future fights”:
Former Massachusetts ACLU legislative director Norma Shapiro said that, like the current fight in Massachusetts and elsewhere over transgender public accommodations protections, much of the challenge with same-sex marriage was to simply show people that their fears are unfounded. “After we have a transgender rights bill and it’s in place, really it’s not gonna be any different than we have now” for non-trans citizens, she said. “After we pass the law and people live with it for a year, they’re gonna wonder what the hell this was about. And I think it was the same with marriage. Before marriages took place, there were a lot of scary things said and a lot of people were afraid. Once they took place, it turned around quite rapidly. People also began getting invited to gay weddings, realized they had worked with someone who was gay and isn’t it nice he’s getting married. You jar people’s expectations and they shift.”
And Arline Isaacson firmly believes that in these and all fights, it is important to do whatever it takes to win, short of breaking the law. “Progressives have a tendency to want to argue on the merits of the issue, because we’re right about the merits. But sometimes to succeed politically, we have to be able to use the same tools and weapons to defeat our opponents,” she argued. “If you have to use parliamentary rules to keep a bad thing from happening, you should not feel apologetic for doing so. Thank heavens we ‘broke the rules’ in Massachusetts by truth squadding [and] posting names on the internet… And we took advantage of the rules by doing a procedural vote. And I am proud we did all those things. They all made a difference, they all helped us keep a very bad thing from happening that would have very possibly changed the course of history on same-sex marriage.”
* I use GSA because many former Gay Straight Alliance groups use the term Gender Sexuality Alliance. I don’t recall what our school uses).