Is It Useful To Look At Old Problems In New Ways?
by Belinda Dronkers-Laureta on December 9th, 2012

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

December 9, 2012

Is It Useful To Look At Old Problems In New Ways?


Keep Your Eye On The Price

We came away from the BOLD Gathering in Minneapolis with many ideas, but one idea struck us as particularly intriguing: every so often re-examine your goal and then closely examine the way you are trying to reach it. Is the goal still valid? Is it correctly stated? Is the way we are trying to reach our goal the right way? Are we getting results? Are there better ways? Often, once launched into an effort, we get so involved with the daily hustle and bustle of working the process that it is easy to lose sight of why we are doing what we are doing. Perhaps, the cases of burnout we observe have their roots in this phenomenon. All that hard work doing the how, but losing sight of the why.

The Goal: Achieving Equality. Why? With Whom?

The answer to the question “Why do we want equality?” seems obvious, but go ahead and ask a random number of LGBT people and straight allies and the answers you’ll get are as diverse as the people you ask. Most answers will be framed by the work people are doing: marriage, immigration, job advancement, religion, human rights. Should there be an effort to have the ultimate purpose defined and then try to express all the individual efforts in terms of it? Or, keep things the way they are, that is, whoever sees a specific injustice tries to redress it, but have occasional gatherings to make sense of it all and to ground us.

Equality for us is an integrated community where everyone is valued solely for what he or she does and no one is afraid of being who he or she is. We know, it needs work, but we just started to really think about this and ours is a notion not yet fully digested and certainly not seriously discussed with anyone else. At one time we had “. . . where everybody can choose his or her personal pronoun” but thought that would be too restrictive.

The Process

      Let’s do an example: marriage equality. The injustice to be eliminated is that LGBT people cannot get married like straight people can. We waged major campaigns to pass laws to make marriage equality happen. Our method is to drive home the point that marriage rights for LGBT people is a matter of equality. Now a Democratic Group called The Third Way launched the “Commitment Campaign.” The campaign’s purpose is “to shift the focus on the issue from an argument about equal rights to promoting the value of commitment.” A survey conducted by The Third Way found that Americans in the movable middle of the marriage equality issue answered: “to publicly acknowledge their love and commitment to each other” when asked why straight couples might want to marry. But when asked why LGBT people may want to marry, the same responders “split between ‘love and commitment’ and ‘rights and benefits.’ To engage the movable middle in a conversation that persuades them to vote for marriage equality we must find common ground. That common ground is not equal rights, but the value of commitment. Charles Moran of the California Log Cabin Republicans said that framing the campaign in terms of equality was a “fundamental flaw” that “has led to 31 straight defeats in ballot initiatives across the country.”

This Reframing Of The Issue Is Exiting

Marriage equality still has the goal of winning at the poll, but now the question is framed by the idea of commitment. It seems obvious that straight couples might want to marry for love and commitment, because what other reason could there be? They marry because they can. In hindsight our argument should have been: why can’t we marry for the same reason? Our argument is (soon, maybe, was): we want what you have, leading some in the movable middle to believe that LGBT people want to marry for reasons different from theirs.

Is the new way a better way? We don’t know. But just the rethinking and reformulation is exiting. In the case of marriage equality, it may be useful, certainly worth the effort.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride


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