On National Freedom to Marry Day, Thursday, February 12, 2009, at local marriage counters in cities all over the country, same-sex couples will request marriage licenses at their local County Clerk’s Offices to raise awareness of the harms and impact the inability to marry causes on their families.
Since 2001, Marriage Equality USA® chapters have engaged in these annual marriage counter actions to render visible the discrimination that is enforced every day. It is an affront to our basic dignity as fellow human beings when same-sex couples are turned away from the marriage counter, but it gives us the opportunity to tell our stories and show that we live in every community and want to honor and protect our families like everyone else. Everyone who supports marriage equality is welcomed to attend and support this event.
It's a nice idea. But somehow I don't really get the point. Who are we telling our stories to? Is it the harried clerk behind the counter? How is that helping, it's just the same person every year in most places. He or she has heard the story before and whether they agree or not it doesn't do much to advance our cause.
Are we telling our stories to the media? Sure the TV stations come and shoot B roll of couples standing at the counter. In a few cases they might interview the local "leader" of some group who will repeat the same line but never be given enough time to lay out a full and compelling argument. Besides, as I've pointed out the individual "stories" are really nice but we also need to point out the logical reasons same sex marriage is necessary and right. Most of the time, though the TV stations will do 30 seconds of couples standing at the counter then a voice over or studio reporter will comment on "Gay couples being turned away when trying to get marriage licenses." and then point out whatever local or state law prevents it, thus insinuating we're idiots for not knowing it's illegal.
Even then, the report will probably run at the end of the news broadcasts or as a filler story rather than being given full coverage and topping the newscast.
I'm not saying it's pointless, what I'm saying is that maybe instead of trooping in and being told we can't get marriage licenses and then trooping out, waving to the cameras, and heading home that the whole thing be kicked up a notch.
This year, why not have a few couples do the "official" try for licenses but get as many people as possible to stage a large and very loud protest in front of the offices. Get the news media there for their usual afterthought coverage and let them walk into a major protest. Don't bother to clear it with the cops so that they get to do their thing of ordering the crowds to disperse on camera.
For those who don't mind running the risk of arrest stage a sit in at the Clerk's office. Shut it down so that not even straight couples can get in to get licenses.
Image via WikipediaMaybe we could have large groups gather and march to the Clerk's office and instead of sending in a token few couples to politely ask for licenses and then walk out, we could fill the office with people while as many people as possible lined up to ask one after the other then returned outside to help with the chanting and disturbance. If we put enough people up then we could have a steady stream all day long and legally shut down the office for an entire day so that straights would be unable to get a license either.
That might make the top of the news and a little hint of civil disobedience of the type that is more than a hollow gesture could signal that this year we're dead serious about this issue. It's not going to be symbolic gestures, cutesy slogans, and "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" pseudo-protests.
Sure, I'll probably see about taking part in the protest, even if it remains the strictly symbolic gesture designed to make sure we don't ruffle any feathers or threaten anyone. But, Lord, I'd love it to be something more for once!