I read the news today, oh boy

May 16, 2008

california ruling

Yesterday California’s Supreme Court ruled that a ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. I should be walking on clouds today, but instead I’m fixated on what it all means and I have this dreadful sense of deja vu.

In the interest of full disclosure, marriage equality is something I absolutely believe in and have fought for both personally and professionally.  It was our agency, DDB in Seattle, that worked with Equality California Institute to develop the Let California Ring campaign and the television spot that, hopefully, helped create an environment where yesterday’s ruling is viewed by most as just. I spent many, many hours over the course of more than a year helping bring this creative perspective to life.

So I should be thrilled.  And in many ways I am.  But I also feel like the timing is as unfortunate as it was four years ago.  It was in the run-up to the 2004 Bush/Kerry election that gay marriage jumped onto the front pages and became national news.  San Francisco began marrying gay couples and the story became a media sensation.

But it was also clearly a gift for the right who used constitutional amendment ballot measures to energize conservative voters in swing states.  Conservatives used this as a wedge.  And it worked.  Look at Ohio.  Before Florida and hanging chads, the election in 2004 hinged on this state. Ohio’s anti gay marriage amendment drove a lot of very conservative voters to the polls — and convinced other voters who might have gone for Kerry to vote for Bush because he was the candidate who would protect “the sanctity of marriage.”

Are we about to replay 2004 all over again?  I’m sure there are many people I have worked with on this cause who will think that my view is far too pragmatic — that I have abandoned my ideals.  And, in some ways, I suppose this criticism is probably true.