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Straightforward: How to Mobilize Heterosexual Support for Gay Rights

Ian Ayres
Jennifer Gerarda Brown
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    What can straight people do to support gay rights? How much work or sacrifice must allies take on to do their share? Ian Ayres and Jennifer Brown--law professors, activists, husband and wife--propose practical strategies for helping straight men and women advocate for and with the gay community.

    Straightforwardadvances a thesis that is at once simple and groundbreaking: to make real progress at the central flashpoints of controversy--marriage rights, employment discrimination, gays in the military, exclusion from the Boy Scouts, and religious controversies over homosexuality--straight as well as gay people need to speak up and act for equality. Ayres and Brown take aim at both the hearts and minds of the general public, focusing on strategies that can change the incentives and therefore the behavior of the recalcitrant.

    The book is peppered with stories about real people and the decisions they have faced at home, in church, at work, in school, and in politics. It is also filled with creative legal and economic strategies for influencing public and corporate decision-making. For example, Ayres and Brown propose the development of a "fair employment mark" to help companies advertise inclusive employment policies. They also show how a simple pledge to vacation in states that legalize gay marriage can create powerful incentives for legislatures to amend their marriage laws.

    Engagingly written and sure to spark debate,Straightforwardpromises to change the way America thinks about--and participates in--the gay rights movement.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3747-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Heterosexual Allies and the Gay Rights Movement
    (pp. 1-14)

    A first-year law student named Nancy went to her Contracts class with Professor Jay expecting nothing out of the ordinary. But somewhere between sessions on “promise” and “breach,” between “expectation” and “reliance,” she one day noticed something quite different about Professor Jay. Jay, who combined left-leaning politics and scholarship with a distinctly conservative fashion sense, usually sported short hair, penny loafers, and oxford cloth shirts. But today, Nancy noticed, Professor Jay was also wearing bright green nail polish.

    Unable to contain her curiosity, Nancy asked her professor about his new fashion statement. Jay explained that the day before, his young...

  5. Part I. Exercising Privilege

    • [Part I Introduction]
      (pp. 15-16)

      In some of her earlier work, Jennifer focused on same-sex couples as sources of tourism revenue following a state’s recognition of same-sex marriage. In this book, we’re shifting focus to another group: allies who can deploy voices, access, influence,and walletsto support gay rights. Our goal here is to describe strategies for deploying both political and purchasing power of allies in ways that promote gay rights.

      Chapter 2 focuses on the ways heterosexuals can use their positions as coworkers, parents, and parishioners to support gay rights. Chapter 3 then turns to financial matters, arguing that heterosexuals can powerfully promote...

    • 2 Parenting, Parishes, PTAs, and Places of Employment
      (pp. 17-59)

      When Jon was a senior in college, he took his girlfriend home to meet his parents. He knew that his old-fashioned father would not let them sleep in the same room during the visit. And in fact, when they were standing at the airport’s luggage carousel, Jon’s dad said words so familiar that Jon could recite them word for word.

      “I don’t care what you two do off at school, but you can’t sleep together while you’re under our roof.”

      Jon wasn’t upset or surprised by this injunction, but he was very surprised by what his dad said next...

    • 3 The Vacation Pledge for Equal Marriage Rights
      (pp. 60-78)

      In May 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in the case ofBaehr v. Lewinthat denying same-sex couples the right to marry may be gender discrimination.¹ The case was remanded to the trial court, which held that the state had failed to present a compelling state interest justifying the discrimination inherent in the marriage law. In response, the legislature approved and the voters ratified, by overwhelming majority, a constitutional amendment exempting the state’s marriage law from the usual requirements of its equal rights amendment. In light of the constitutional amendment, the Hawaii Supreme Court dismissed the case. Although the...

    • 4 The Fair Employment Mark
      (pp. 79-94)

      This chapter follows closely on the heels of the preceding chapter by proposing yet another way supporters of gay rights can vote with their wallets, rewarding progressive policies and institutions. Just as consumers can travel and spend tourism dollars to support progressive state and local governments, so, too, they can reward companies that treat gay employees fairly, by purchasing their products and services. To facilitate such progressive purchasing decisions, this chapter describes a coordinating mechanism, the Fair Employment Mark. The Fair Employment Mark does not currently exist, but if launched and monitored, it would advance the practice of gay rights...

  6. Part II. Disabling Privilege

    • 5 Ambiguation
      (pp. 97-115)

      When you say, “I am a heterosexual person who supports gay rights,” you offer a kind of support that is important to the gay rights movement. We explored in part I just how straight allies can use their position as heterosexuals to advance gay rights. But this chapter considers the possibility that the first phrase in this sentence, “I am heterosexual,” should not be uttered, at least in some contexts.¹ When someone says, “I support gay rights,” the audience may assume the speaker to be gay. This raises the question: When is it legitimate or even necessary to “correct” this...

    • 6 The Inclusive Command: Voluntary Integration of the U.S. Military
      (pp. 116-142)

      Many opponents of gays in the military will accept the proposition that gay and lesbian soldiers, most of them closeted, have served their country bravely and well.¹ General Colin Powell has referred to gay service members as “proud, brave, loyal, good Americans”² who have “served well in the past and are continuing to serve well.”³ General Norman Schwarzkopf agrees: “homosexuals have served in the past and have done a great job.”⁴

      What these opponents find harder to accept is the proposition that heterosexual people can effectively serve their country if openly gay people are in the military with them. The...

  7. Part III. Renouncing Privilege

    • [Part III Introduction]
      (pp. 143-144)

      Chapter 6 began to move toward some uncomfortable choices. Some soldiers would prefer not to choose between the inclusive and exclusive commands described in that chapter; even if they generally support equal rights for LGBT people, they prefer to ignore the fact that the military discriminates. In the chapters that follow, we’re going to push further with the theme of uncomfortable choices—choices that give people opportunities (sometimes unwelcome) to renounce the benefits of their heterosexual privilege.

      Consider, for example, the story of Barry, who for several years had volunteered as a leader for his son’s Boy Scout troop. On...

    • 7 The Informed Association Statute and the Boy Scouts of America
      (pp. 145-161)

      InDale v. Boy Scouts of America,¹ the U.S. Supreme Court reinforced the principle that no matter how large or apparently public an organization might be, the decision to join it is imbued with meaning; a person signals something by associating with an organization. Thus, the Boy Scouts of America and its members had rights of “expressive association” that would be violated if they were forced to extend membership to someone who failed to meet the BSA’s admission standards. The trouble, of course, was that one of those standards came into direct conflict with New Jersey’s public accommodation statute, which...

    • 8 Renounce or Share?
      (pp. 162-177)

      This chapter asks a seemingly simple question: Can it ever be ethical to take a benefit that is invidiously denied others? To a question couched this way, the appropriate answer seems to be “no.” Few of us would advise a friend (or a child) to accept a scholarship that was only open to whites. If you are white, would you drink from a whites-only water fountain? Of course not. But at the same time, many of us take benefits that are unfairly denied others. Bill Clinton took a Rhodes Scholarship that was only offered to men. In 1982 Ian accepted...

    • 9 Working with Organizations Advocating Gay Rights
      (pp. 178-194)

      Before this book draws to a close, let’s review the general strategies proposed here for heterosexual people who support gay rights. We’ve discussed both intuitive and counterintuitive steps supporters can take. On the intuitive side, we’ve stressed the importance of voice. In many situations (several quite close to home), there is a power in standing up specifically as a heterosexual person to say, “This is important to me, too: I support equality for LGBT people.” We’ve discussed heterosexual privilege and the role it may play when nongay people weigh in on issues affecting the lives of gay, lesbian, and bisexual...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 195-236)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 237-246)