June 11, 2015 at 10:36 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
After marriage, what’s next for LGBT movement?
Supreme Court, same-sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges, gay news, Washington Blade

Fifty-six percent of Americans would back a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex nuptials. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

After a decades-long struggle, the U.S. Supreme Court may by the end of this month bring to a conclusion a major struggle of the LGBT rights movement by guaranteeing same-sex couples the right to marry across the nation.

Many legal experts expect a win, raising questions about what will happen to the LGBT movement and its donor base if marriage is longer a marquee issue.

Marriage has been a central focus of the LGBT movement in recent years, dominating headlines and inspiring discussion as court after court has struck down state prohibitions on same-sex marriage. No other issues relevant to the LGBT community have been able to generate as much interest.

Andrew Lane, a prominent gay donor in New York, said the short answer is “we don’t know” how donors would react to a Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage.

“There is no question that some people and institutions became engaged as donors because they were inspired by the promise of the freedom to marry,” Lane said. “And we may well lose some number of those folks.”

It’s uncertain exactly when the Supreme Court will issue its decision, but the best guess among legal observers is that it’ll be on the last day of the court’s term, which is currently scheduled for June 29.

Although he wouldn’t specify any names, Lane said he’s aware of only one donor who gives annually more than seven figures who may walk away from the broader movement if the Supreme Court rule for marriage. On the other hand, Lane said in the wake of the public attention to Caitlyn Jenner’s photo spread in Vanity Fair, three donors have talked to him about ways to support transgender communities.

Lane drew a distinction between individual donors who might lose interest in the LGBT movement and future actions of foundations that have supported LGBT causes, saying the latter is less of a concern.

“I am inclined to be hopeful,” Lane said. “The conversations we’ve had over the past few decades about relationship recognition provided us with a vehicle to talk in compelling ways about our lives as queer people. The level of awareness and empathy that we created through those conversations — and the support that we won from our allies — are not going away. And awareness, empathy and support are all of the kinds of things that create and sustain donors.”

LGBT advocates who’ve worked on marriage and other issues were confident the movement would build on a Supreme Court win in favor of same-sex couples, including one advocate who’s made clear his organization intends to shut down after a favorable ruling.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said instead of marriage being off the table, the movement should “harness the marriage win and the marriage conversation” to work in other areas.

“Let’s remember that though we will, hopefully, have won the freedom to marry as a matter of law, the conversation and the actual transformative power of seeing couples marry and all that it sparks will only just have come to many of the places where we still need to change hearts and minds,” Wolfson said. “So we will have something tremendously powerful and transformative to work with and to connect that to the next set of legal and political objectives that are, of course, very, very important.”

Wolfson said Freedom to Marry decided to close its doors after a Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality because the organization was created on the idea of building a campaign to drive a winning strategy specifically tailored to pursue a goal, which he said has provided a model for the rest of the movement.

“And so, as our movement now lays out the next goal, or set of goals, and the next strategies to achieve those goals, the structure for achieving those goals should be connected to what the goal of the strategies are. I believe that the goal dictates strategy, and strategy dictates structure,” Wolfson said. “And our movement is fully capable of creating the right strategy and the right team of players, including hopefully a campaign approach that will drive toward our next set of big goals.”

But Freedom to Marry won’t close overnight, Wolfson said. Under his stated vision, that’ll take place after a period of months and after it has worked with partners to transfer knowledge, expertise, assets and key staff.

The nation’s LGBT largest group, the Human Rights Campaign, has in recent years undertaken significant efforts to promote the marriage cause. In recent months, it has worked to promote the lead plaintiff in the Ohio marriage case before the Supreme Court, Jim Obergefell, who lost his spouse to Lou Gehrig’s Disease and is seeking state recognition of his marriage.

Fred Sainz, HRC’s president of communications, said his organization doesn’t keep track of how many of its donations are the result of marriage or what percentage of its budget is dedicated to the issue.

“There’s a lot of work that remains to be done on the road to full equality,” Sainz said. “It’ll be incumbent on us to continue to make the case that this work must get done.”

Other items on the LGBT agenda are already well known. To name a few, they include instituting workplace non-discrimination rules; barring widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy; alleviating LGBT youth homelessness; increasing transgender visibility and combatting widespread anti-trans violence; lifting the ban on transgender service in the U.S. military; removing the ban prohibiting gay and bisexual men from donating blood; and increasing acceptance in sports and entertainment.

Wolfson said a top goal for the LGBT movement after marriage should be passage of a federal civil rights bill that prohibits discrimination in all the major arenas of law on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I think that should be a top priority for our movement, and a top organizing vision for how we structure and resource the organizations who are going to get us there,” Wolfson said.

To facilitate that goal, Wolfson called for pursuing a legal strategy that includes ensuring existing gender protections in the Civil Rights Act cover both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination as well as shepherding toward passage state and local non-discrimination laws “both because they are important in and of itself themselves and because they will be building blocks to getting the full federal protections that we have to prioritize.”

Additionally, Wolfson said the LGBT movement should pursue cultural changes other than legal and political efforts to improve the experience of LGBT people throughout the country.

“While it’s necessary and right to prioritize legal change, we also need to work on cultural embrace, cultural acceptance and making sure that no matter where people live, they can feel supported and included and free to shape their lives,” Wolfson said. “So it’s not only the law, it’s also the culture and it’s also the engagement across communities and across structures.”

Another advocate said a favorable marriage decision from the Supreme Court would benefit other agenda items.

Dana Beyer, executive director of the transgender advocacy group Gender Rights Maryland, said the decision would mean no additional fear of muddying the message for other LGBT issues.

“The most important outcome of a final marriage win is that it is final,” Beyer said. “No more need for major efforts and allocations of resources to the issue, and, for those more cynically inclined, no more excuses to ignore what many consider more fundamental issues of discrimination.”

In 2012, former Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Maryland, but in the same year a bill that sought to expand the state’s civil rights act to include transgender people didn’t pass the state legislature. It wasn’t until last year that Maryland enacted an update to the statute to include gender identity.

Beyer said the gay efforts made on behalf of the gender identity bill were a fraction of those made on marriage and were generally more halting and awkward, so trans leadership had to step up to guide the legislation toward passage.

“So the bottom line for the post-marriage, Cait Jenner future is that efforts need to be inclusive and comprehensive wherever possible, with trans leadership alongside gay leadership,” Beyer said. “As our legal impact organizations are now pushing for sexual orientation to be included under Title VII, and gender expression comes to the fore as the primary cultural focus of the next generation, we have no choice but to unite. After all, in most states you’ll be able to get married on Sunday and fired on Monday. That should be sufficient motivation for continued engagement.”

Based on his experience with marriage, Wolfson said he has no doubt the movement is up to the task of addressing the remaining challenges.

“I have great confidence that our movement is up to the task, and I think it is the challenge and opportunity of leaders and of activists to inspire others to step up by putting forward a strong and inspiring vision, by conveying that it is something we can do, by mapping out a smart and clear strategy and then by doing it to build on that strategy to drive it forward and then to bring others in,” Wolfson said. “I’m very confident that if we do all of that, and I believe we will do all of that, people will continue to step up and provide their time and personal engagement and also the resources.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • After marriage, what’s next? Fragmentation.

  • The Blade does know there are trans people to interview other than Dana Beyer, right?

    • “Beyer said the gay efforts made on behalf of the gender identity bill were a fraction of those made on marriage and were generally more halting and awkward, so trans leadership had to step up to guide the legislation toward passage.”

      True, this is why the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality was formed. It was MCTE’s transgender led steering committee which marshalled and allocated the resources of over 50 allied organizations. A true victory for trans Marylanders and their allies like Senator Rich Madaleno.

    • Let Dana talk to the press, it’s not like she’s preparing for session in Annapolis or anything.

      • Did she think to give the Blade a copy of the HRC internal report, perchance? After all, it doesn’t seem as though the Blade has acquired one yet.

  • Maybe if marriage equality succeeds, the gay community in America can become a little more internationally minded and start to focus some of our attention on those countries where homosexuality is still illegal and can be punished very harshly.

    • Winning marriage equality doesn’t solve all our domestic issues. People can still legally discriminating in employment, housing, public accommodations and services in many states. We need to address our own issues before we spend scarce resources abroad.
      What about GLBT aging and building safe communities where we are accepted and not abused? Much of the population is aging. How will elder GLBT be treated, cared for and manage?

      • I didn’t mean to imply there were no domestic issues to fight for, I agree the rights of LGBT seniors are important. But I think we can achieve this and still not ignore our LGBT brothers and sisters who are being killed, tortured, and imprisoned around the world.

        • Where is the money coming from to help those brothers and sisters abroad? It’s probably better to get our government to adopt a foreign policy that does that. Withhold aid to countries that abuse GLBT people and deny their rights within their borders and give political asylum when necessary. However, how far is our government willing to go to fight for justice? Would it freeze the assets of GLBT oppressors for example? Would it risk alienating countries like Saudi Arabia or other key allies for GLBT justice?

          Notice our government was willing to freeze the assets of Russians government officials over Ukraine but not over their laws against gay propaganda.

          I also don’t believe that if the SCOTUS rules for marriage equality that social conservatives here will give up. Remember how George Wallace was defiant in Alabama about school integration despite the Brown V. Board of Education ruling? That led to Southern Congressmen adopting the Southern Manifesto and declaring that the SCOTUS had overstepped it’s authority. I would also expect annual protest marches by conservatives like they have for abortion. Some states will drag implementing changes to their constitutions and laws regarding marriage equality too making gay couples have a very hard time in the process.

  • There has been exclusive focus on marriage equality. We need to still solve the issue of nationwide job, housing, public accommodation and services discrimination that impacts GLBT Americans. We may win in court but these issues require a legislative and Executive office win to become law. We are all vulnerable as long as they forms of discrimination are legal.
    Beyond that, how about economic and career advancement opportunities for GLBT people. As GLBT age, they need safe communities where they can live, be cared for and interact without discrimination, hatred, or abuse. This will impact a lot of the community. We also need to preserve our culture and our community rather than be disconnected assuming we can just assimilate into the heterosexual community and don’t need each other anymore. That’s very shortsighted.
    We see how racism still permeates society despite all the legal advanced racial minorities have achieved and that social conservatives continue to find ways to chip away at those gains. We must not become an invisible community again. We must hang together or we will lose out separately. Don’t ever take the rights you’ve gained for granted. There is no absolute assurance they can’t be rolled back by our enemies.

  • The issue of homosexuality is the seminal religious and Constitutional issue of our day; for no other single issue masquerading behind so-called “Equality” is so effectively silencing “the freedom of speech” and “prohibiting the free exercise” of religious beliefs.

    “Many Americans (still – added) do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.” – Associate Justice Antonin Scalia (539 U. S. 558 – Lawrence v. Texas, 2003)

    This was written over a decade ago; and the judicial imposition of same-sex “marriage” against the express will of the majority of the people (67% of those who cast a ballot in 35 states said “No; thank you” to same-sex “marriage”) has not lessened, but rather added more to the ranks that make up “Many Americans…” who still believe (AND HAVE THAT RIGHT GUARANTEED TO THEM BY THE FREE EXERCISE CLAUSE OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT OF THE US CONSTITUTION) that homosexual conduct and the homosexual lifestyle “…to be immoral and destructive.”

    What the Left wants with a victory at the SCOTUS is a Brown v. Board of Education (1954) type of acceptance; but what they are most likely going to get is a Roe v. Wade (1973) fracture, and a far greater moral divide.

    • ” ‘Many Americans…’ who still believe (AND HAVE THAT RIGHT GUARANTEED TO THEM BY THE FREE EXERCISE CLAUSE OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT OF THE US CONSTITUTION) that homosexual conduct and the homosexual lifestyle ‘…to be immoral and destructive.’ ”

      They have every right to believe that, but “Brother, you can believe in stones as long as you don’t throw them at me.”

      Marriage equality is one area where there is no conflict of interests among rational people. In this, the only desire is to allow equal access to a government-provided service for consenting adults; there is no secular basis for denying that equality.
      What other issues people may point to that equality as support of their positions is a separate discussion.

      • Many of “The Great Silent Majority” share Justice Scalia’s view that, “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

        The new (2004) judicially invented “gay rights” are being used as a weapon in the hands of the intolerant left. Consider Sweet Cakes (OR) which is bakery that refused to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual “wedding” based on the owners’ religious beliefs. Hardly, “throwing stones”; and yet, they have been fined $150,000.

        The web and newspapers are literally littered with examples like Elane Photography (NM), Masterpiece Cakes (CO), Hands On Originals (KY), Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (NJ), Just Cookies (IN), Aloha Bed and Breakfast (HI), Victoria’s Cake Cottage (IA), Wildflower Inn (VT), Liberty Ridge Farm (NY), All Occasion Party Place (TX), Arlene’s Flowers (WA), Fleur Cakes (OR), Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel (ID) all of whom, went into business with their religious beliefs, and now the addition of sexual orientation language disguised as “equality” is eviscerating their “old” rights of conscience and religious freedoms grounded in the actual text of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, and making them into 1984-esque “thought criminals”.

        So; you’ll forgive me if I don’t buy your secular argument in this religious Republic.

        • You’re right: there are no such thing as “gay rights”, only human rights. Happily, this encompasses marriage equality, since marriage is a government service where there is no grounds to distinguish between consenting adults.

          An attempt to frame this as a secular vs a religious argument is fallacious as it is simply a logical one. To make this a religious argument, you’d either have to base your argument on your chosen religious text (which I nor the state [the private opinion of some public servants does not constitute law] recognizes as the basis of law in this country) or on your interpretation of said religious text (which is one step further removed from what I and the state do not recognize).

          As for the businesses suffering from supposed infringement of their religious freedom, the bonus here is that means that this is not a matter of religious freedom; how it was ever framed as that is confusing. When you’re talking about being compelled to perform some service and that is a straight-forward matter of freedom which falls under the protection of the right to liberty. And again, you’re right; their freedom is infringed when compelled to perform services for any reason.

          However, as previously stated, there is no relationship between marriage equality and these businesses’ problems; any attempt to relate the two is a non sequitur.

          • How about this one which is still binding precedent?

            “For certainly no legislation can be supposed more wholesome and necessary in the founding of a free, self-governing commonwealth, fit to take rank as one of the coordinate States of the Union, than that which seeks to establish it on the basis of the idea of the family, as consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony; the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization; the best guaranty of that reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement.” – Associate Justice Stanley Matthews (Murphy v. Ramsey, 114 U.S. 15, 1885) which upheld the Constitutionality of the Edmunds Act which required the constitutions of the States of Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah to contain provisions stating that polygamy is “forever prohibited.” See Ariz. Const., Art. XX, par. 2; Idaho Const., Art. I, §4; N. M. Const., Art. XXI, §1; Okla. Const., Art. I, §2; Utah Const., Art. III, §1. Polygamists, and those who have a polygamous “orientation,” have been “singled out” by these provisions for unequal treatment; and that treatment can only be changed by achieving amendment of the state constitutions.

          • There is also precedent for laws which you disagree with (I believe there’s one under discussion as we speak). I cannot address every erroneous interpretation of the United States Constitution (which hasn’t always been perfect, either). What is under discussion here is what ought to be according to those principles; the current state of the law is fluid.

          • …and in regards to “human rights” (which never seem to include the right to say something is wrong), I think Judge Bork hit it out of the park, when he said, “The difference between our historically grounded constitutional freedoms and those of the theorists, whether of the academy or of the bench, would replace them with is akin to the difference between the American and the French revolutions. The outcome for liberty was much less happy under the regime of the abstract “rights of man” then it has been under the American Constitution. What Burke said of the abstract theorists who produced the calamities of the French Revolution might equally be said of those, judges and professors alike, who would remake our Constitution out of moral philosophy: “This sort of people are so taken up with their theories about the rights of man that they have totally forgotten his nature.” Those who made and endorsed our Constitution new man’s nature, and it is to their ideas, rather than to the temptations of utopia, that we must ask that our judges adhere.” – Robert Bork, The Tempting of America, The Free Press, Pg. 355

          • If it is not human rights on which you base your argument, what rights do you subscribe to and on what grounds?

            It is these human rights (life, liberty and property) that are accorded based on human nature; they are the rights necessary for a society to function to the prospective benefit of all involved. Any other rights must necessarily produce conflicts when applied.

          • The “rights” of Americans are not “based on human nature”, and our Founders made such perfectly clear in the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence, which is not legally binding, but it is historically enlightening.

            “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

            Created…and endowed by their Creator.

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