Saturday, July 6, 2013

Same Sex Marriage and Social Change

In spite of how it feels sometimes, social change happens--and it sometimes happens fairly quickly.  The Vietnam War was ended.  Racism is not okay today.  It still exists, even if we have a black president, but the very fact that Obama is in office shows how much things have shifted.  Discrimination against women is no longer okay either, even if the Equal Rights Amendment never passed.

But if you want to see the speed at which things can shift, look at what's happened over the last decade with same sex marriage. Prior to 2012, thirty states banned it--including eleven states which voted to ban it in 2004 and seven more voting to ban it in 2006.  However, last year four states voted in favor of it.  It's now legal in twelve states and the District of Columbia, and one of last week's Supreme Court decisions made California the thirteenth state.  The polls have shifted over the last five years from a majority of the country opposing same sex marriage to a majority favoring it. I think the Supreme Court was pushed into their twin decisions last week.  It wasn't hard to see which way the wind was blowing.

While some of this has come about because of protests and other actions, I think most of the change was due to hard work in what I will call 'education' and Joanna Macy refers to as 'A Shift in Consciousness'.  (For more about these ways of looking at social change strategy, see my posts on Creating Social Change, 7/2/08, The Great Turning, 1/15/09, and Social Change: My View, 6/29/10.)  I think that change came about mostly because queer marriage activists kept putting out one clear, simple message:  "I deserve the right to marry the person I love."  They made it clear that this was a matter of fairness and justice.

On Wednesday of this week I went to a public reading (led by the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick) of a speech by Frederick Douglass, "The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro".  It was given in 1852 before the civil war and the end of slavery.  It was a powerful speech, mainly because Frederick Douglass had one clear message in it: slavery was inhuman and violates all the principles implied in the American Revolution.  He makes a very clear and simple case for it--this is just wrong and there can be no argument about it.

I think that the climate change people are trying to do something similar now--putting out a message that fossil fuels cause climate change and we are going to need to stop using them.  We'll see how well it can be heard.

At some point, I'm hoping the message will get out that our whole way of life is oppressive and not sustainable and that we could live very differently--and live quite well.  It's a hard message to get out, but I take heart when I see what's happening with same sex marriage, and what happened with slavery.  Social change is indeed possible, but it takes time and persistence.

Quote of the Day:  "But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? ...
"Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong?  No! I will not. I have better employments for my time and strength than such argument would imply." - Frederick Douglass

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