Gay Marriage Advocates Reframe the Debate

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November 7, 2011; Source: USA Today | Lesbian and gay couples want the freedom to marry out of love and commitment, just like their straight counterparts. And same-gender couples, many of whom have been together for decades, want the 1,138 federal rights and benefits afforded different-gender couples such as social security and veteran benefits for spouses as well as the right to sponsor their foreign-born spouses.

Advocates for same-gender marriage have been arguing that it is a matter of equal rights, but now a bipartisan group is urging proponents to frame the debate as a matter of love and commitment.

The centrist group Third Way launched the “Commitment Campaign” on Monday and is reported to have already won support from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents such as Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, and former chair of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman.

Those behind the initiative believe that the focus on equality may give the false impression that lesbians and gays want to marry for different reasons than their straight counterparts.

Charles Moran, chairman of the California Log Cabin Republicans, told USA Today that the old way of framing the issue has led to 31 straight defeats in ballot initiatives across the country. “This is a real radical way of changing the approach in communicating why gay marriage equality is important.”

O’Malley added that “in this fast-evolving issue, we’re all searching for common ground and the way to have a conversation with those who would be inclined not to support marriage equality is to search for those common values that we share.”

Lesbian and gay couples want to marry for the same reasons as straight couples: they want to express their love and commitment through a public and social compact. But they also want to do so in order to secure the legal recognition, protection, and stability that come with the right that straight couples take as a matter of course but that is denied to Americans who happen to be gay.—Erwin de Leon