Allowing religion to define the marriage debate

If you read this space last week, we gave the reasons that New York would pass marriage equality. Mainly that the LGBT community, thanks to the gay-rights struggle of the last 40-some years, has created an atmosphere whereby those who didn’t know us and thus feared us have had the opportunity to get to know us and thus fear us no more.

But there is one major mistake we have made in our attempt for marriage equality: Our fight with the religious right has been played on their ground. We need to take that ground. As the Clintons learned, you create the image of your opposition before they get the chance to characterize you. We’ve allowed them to do this with one two words. Religious freedom.

We can change that debate by not only being truthful, but by making it our constitutional rights. In my debates with various religious right-wingers, I simply say, “My house of faith will marry me, why are you trying to take away my religion’s freedom of faith? While I’m not asking you to perform marriage in your church, you are actively trying to stop my religion from exercising its religious freedom.”

The point is our national leaders allow the religious right to define the debate. We need to show it for what it is. Here’s an example.

In the fight for marriage equality in New York, Archbishop Timothy Dolan said the following in his blog:

“ … It is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America — not in China or North Korea. In those countries, government presumes daily to ‘redefine’ rights, relationships, values and natural law.” He added: “But, please, not here!”

China, North Korea. Translation: he’s taking a lesson from the past, as used in the 1960s civil-rights movement. He’s calling us communists. Back then, it was “negro agitators” who were being organized by communists. Did you ever hear the term pinko fag? That’s exactly the translation of what Dolan wrote.

Shame on The New York Times, which quoted the statement, for not pointing that out, and shame on our so-called leaders for not pointing it out to the Times.

Allowing the religious right-wingers to frame the debate was one of the mistakes made in California. And it’s my bet that if Proposition 8 was on the ballot in California once again, the outcome would be quite different. Now, the people of California not only know us, they know the fear campaign is fake.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at [email protected] .