How ’bout a third Sociology final paper…
The fight for same-sex marriage equality is an excellent example of conflict theory in action. Religious archconservative Republicans that are both hetero and rich definitely constitute an agent identity, where same-sex couples clamoring to be treated equally under the law are a target identity.(1)
The fight for gay marriage began, as many of these things do, with a discussion group. In February 1953 Marilyn Rieger of the Mattachine Society lead a discussion group on “Why Homosexual Marriages Fail”(2) and that same year in August ONE Magazine had their publication censored as “obscene” by the USPS for their cover story “Homosexual Marriage?”(3) This discussion was occurring back at the beginning of the LGBT movement when lesbians and gays were just starting to act with organized political intent.
Throughout the 60s and 70s LGBT activists lost battle after battle for equal rights.(4) However, in the 1980s they began to have some victories by getting equal employment rights and domestic partnerships.(5)
These victories invoked a strong backlash from conservatives during the 1990s(6) which lead to Colorado’s Prop 2 passing in November 1992.(7) It would block the state from adopting any law in the future granting homosexual people the right to claim they are being discriminated against.
LGBT activists fought Prop 2 all the way to SCOTUS who struck it down in May 1996.(8)
One could go as far to say the 90s were when the battle between the LGBT community and archconservatives was equally joined. Many states, starting with South Dakota, passed laws declaring “marriage between people of opposite gender”(9) and DOMA passed in September 1996 making same-sex marriage federally illegal.(10) While this was happening ENDA was introduced to the US Senate floor the same day DOMA was voted on. Where DOMA passed 85-14, ENDA barely failed 49-50.(11) Hawaii declared same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional in May 1993(12) and Vermont awarded same-sex couples ‘civil unions’ in 1999.(13)
The turning point of the new millennium was also a turning point in the battle for gay marriage. When religious conservatives passed Prop 22 into California law in 2000, little did they know it was the beginning of the end for them.(14)
By making the prerequisite for marriage based in gender they had violated the ban on sex discrimination. In granting LGBT advocates the ability to argue discrimination in court they were able to stand on a history of the creation and (technical) elimination of second class citizenship. “Separate but equal” and the entire Jim Crow era was now a fair argument for LGBT activists to make. Thus, Prop 22 became the queer version of the first shots fired upon Fort Sumner. Whether same-sex marriage was legal or illegal changed as litigation moved up through the court system, but by June 2008 Prop 22 had been declared unconstitutional(15) and the war simply had to play itself out. California
archconservatives tried again, this time by passing Prop 8 in November 2008.(16) In June 2013 it was ruled void by SCOTUS and the federal ruling overturning it was upheld.(17)
Meanwhile, in November 2003 the Massachusetts Supreme Court approved same-sex marriage(18) and in Washington state a slew of LGBT victories were won. In 2006 an equal protection law(19), March 2008 partial civil unions passed(20), November 2009 “everything but marriage” referendum passed(21), and in November 2012 Washington state passed same-sex marriage by referendum.(22) Conservatives fought against every single one of these based on their discriminatory belief that marriage is between a man and a woman and their need to impose their life choices on others.
With the election of Obama, the LGBT community had an ally in the White House (not to dismiss all the troubling not good things he did with immigration and expanding the police state). To him, bans on same-sex marriage smacked of the old miscegenation laws.(23) In fall of 2009 he signed a trans inclusive hate crime bill with the intent of protecting LGBT people(24), and by fall 2010 he had appointed 150 openly gay officials.(25) In winter of 2011 his Press Secretary announced “The President regards DOMA as unfair”(26) and in July 2014 Obama signed two executive orders granting LGBT people nondiscrimination protections.(27)
With Obama as POTUS, LGBT activists began their own version of General Sherman’s march to the sea.
DOMA was ruled discriminatory by SCOTUS in June 2013.(28) This prompted conservatives in Indiana and Arkansas to pass a bill called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”, blatantly discriminatory legislation against same-sex marriage. They hadn’t realized that the war was already lost. The bills were passed in March 2015 and before April was out they had both been amended due to pressure from fortune 500 companies to make them nondiscriminatory and thus pointless.(29) June 2015 SCOTUS finally made same-sex marriage legal.(30)
Even with all these victories, conservatives refuse to admit defeat. Same-sex marriage has entered its own reconstruction period. While LGBT activists continue to fight for our human dignity, archconservatives continue to fight for the ability to impose their discriminatory patriarchal values on us. Marriage no longer has gender as apart of its definition, and the battles continue. Religious conservatives are now pushing for the gay equivalent to Jim Crow with “straight only” florists, bakeries, and wedding planners.(31) With our modern Lincoln no longer in office, and his replacement an overtly racist and overblown used car salesman, does not bode well for our LGBT community.
However, if we can hold on from now till November 2020, we should be able to cement the victories of the Obama era and press forward focusing more on the issues of the most destitute and disenfranchised, homeless, queer criminalized teens of color.
1. “Cycle of Socialization” by Bobby Harro
2. “The Gay Revolution by Lillian Faderman, pg 67
3. Ibid. pg 93
4. Ibid. pg 355
5. Ibid. pg 453-454
6. Ibid. pg 455
7. Ibid. pg 458
8. Ibid. pg 466
9. Ibid. pg 587
10. Ibid. pg 566
12. Ibid. pg 585
13. Ibid. pg 591
14. Ibid. pg 602
15. Ibid. pg 606
16. Ibid. pg 619
17. Ibid. pg 621
18. Ibid. pg 593
19. Ibid. pg 595
20. Ibid. pg 598
23. Ibid. pg 610
24. Ibid. pg 573
28. Ibid. pg 628
29. Ibid. pg 633-634
30. Ibid. pg 635
31. USA Today 6/14/18 “Protections for LGBT Families are in Peril”