It has been a frustrating week. You’re angry, maybe even irate. I understand. The courts recognized marriage as a right for same sex couples, and that right was lost in a close battle in the ballot box. Though Mormons make up a small amount of the total votes in favor of Prop 8, you hold them responsible for much of the fund-raising, canvassing, and phone-banking for the Yes on 8 campaign. Mormons seem like the easiest and most obvious targets for your anger. You have chosen to protest outside of Mormon temples and meetinghouses to express your anger, including petty vandalism, and to produce inflammatory commercials. I suggest that you seriously reconsider this doomed-to-failure strategy as accomplishing exactly the opposite goals that you intend.
It has been a long haul since Stonewall. Protests and marches have been a critical part of the gay liberation movement’s success. Though the courts have been an integral aspect of the movement’s strategy, public demonstrations remain a key element in consciousness raising and public relations. The problem in this instance is that protests only confirm the fears of the Yes on 8 vote.
I think that a major political miscalculation has been made by the No on 8 folks. While some, perhaps even a great deal, of the Yes on 8 vote can be reduced to homophobia or bigotry, the biggest reason for many religious groups’ opposition to same-sex marriage is the fear that they will eventually be forced to perform same-sex marriages in the future. This is quite likely an absurd fear, one not grounded in sound legal reasoning, but it is a sincerely-held concern. In this view, to vote in favor of same sex marriage is to vote against the future viability of religious freedom. Your job is to convince a majority of voters that this is not the case.
The problem with protesting Mormon places of worship is that it only substantiates these fears that homosexuals are out to destroy religious freedom. When you picket Mormon temples where marriages are performed, block the entrances, and yell at them as they prepare to worship, it seems to confirm the assumption that you are trying to tear down religious marriages and interfere with the free-exercise of religion. When you make inflammatory commercials, it raises the defensiveness of Mormons who have been vilified in American political life since their beginning. These actions are worse than ineffective in convincing the electorate to support gay marriage; they are actually extremely destructive to your cause. For years to come opponents of gay marriage will be able to point to the harassment of Mormons that has occurred over the last few weeks as definitive evidence that gay people oppose religion, seek to impose their marriages on religious institutions, and will choose to vilify religious people. This is a public relations disaster for you. Instead of being able to be the persecuted minority, you have begun to appear as the rabid haters of religion that many fear you to be.
I do not know who is organizing these protests, but I strongly urge any who will listen to stop and reconsider a cooperative approach that will ease the fears of religious people and institutions that same-sex marriage will infringe on religious liberty instead of enacting it.
[Added: This post is has some good coverage on the issue]
[Added: Some good news]