During the Grammy Awards last Saturday, hip-hop artist and marriage equality advocate Macklemore performed the hit song “Same Love” with Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert. During the performance, Queen Latifah legally presided over the marriages of thirty-three couples, gay and straight alike. The song then resumed with Madonna transitioning to her song “Open Your Heart.”
As someone who cares deeply and has written academically about marriage equality, I found the performance to be quite moving. It reminded how art can capture dimensions of ongoing public policy debates in ways politicians, lawyers and even advocates often cannot. What struck me is just how apt “Same Love” is in encapsulating the essence of the marriage equality movement. Despite all of the legal arguments and political propaganda surrounding gay marriage, the debate, at bottom, boils down to a simple proposition:
- The reason the state, not only permits but, promotes marriage is to encourage love and loving relationships.
- Gay couples and straight couples share the “same love” and can enter into the same types of loving relationship.
- Therefore, the state should permit and promote same-sex marriage just as it does opposite sex ones.
Although the performance was a strong message of marriage equality, I question whether it was the best medium by which to purvey it. Initially, I was inspired by the performance, but my second thought was “And, the entire state of Kansas just changed the channel.” Making matters worse, the entire first verse of the song calls out “right wing conservatives” being naïve, fear mongering and “paraphrasing” the Bible. However, the marriage equality movement is currently turning its attention to more conservative populations. In the coming months and years, the movement will be attempting to overturn state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage in more conservative party of the country (than say Los Angeles, where the Grammy’s were held).
If the marriage equality movement is to continue to be successful, it must adapt its message in such a way as to appeal to a potentially skeptical audience. Once way in which the music community could assist in this re-branding there was a country version of “Same Love.” In past years, songs such as Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” have been successfully remixed by adding a hip hop element for broader consumption. In this case, the reverse would be appropriate. “Same Love” could be adapted by a country artist (excluding the first verse) for a more targeted audience.
In sum, while this year’s performance of “Same Love” at the Grammy Awards made an important statement (one that could not have been made just a few years ago); what will matter next year, and the years to come, is whether a pro-gay rights song can gain traction in the Country Music Awards. For it will be those who listen to country music and live in more conservative areas that will decide the future marriage equality movement.
This post was originally published on the SLACE Archive. For more public policy related video/audio, be sure to check out the SLACE Archive for daily podcast recommendations.