People often greet my response with an awkward silence. But, the pause is a question itself: What if heterosexual couples voluntarily refused the benefits of marriage that are denied to most of our gay and lesbian friends and family?
Last week, the issue of marriage equality roared back in the headlines when President Obama stated that he believes gay and lesbian Americans have a right to marry. While his speech was heavier on the rhetoric than the politics, it did capture a growing ideological shift amongst Americans, especially young voters, from that of antipathy to empathy to public support.
Obama’s statement is a watershed. Yet how do those of us who benefit from heterosexual privilege, yet believe in full citizenship for all Americans, push that needle of solidarity, and ultimately social change even further to the left?
Thus far, both right and left have sought to use boycotts as a political tactic. The conservative National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) recently boycotted Starbucks because of the company’s support of the freedom to marry. Fortunately, five days after NOM launched its “Dump Starbucks” petition, it received only 19,000 signatures, compared to the nearly 250,000 individuals who have signed SumOfUs’s retaliatory “Thank You, Starbucks” card.
In contrast, following the passage of California’s Proposition 8, gay marriage advocates called for the boycotting of those companies and individuals who supported the ballot that decreed “only marriage between a man and woman as valid or recognized in the California.”
But if marriage equality is one of the major civil rights issues of our times, then should one of the most successful civil rights strategies—the boycott—be deployed against the institution of marriage itself?