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It was a night of celebration for many Americans and for much of the world. Barack Obama won with a mandate, Democrats swept up both the House and Senate, even abortion rights withstood strong challenges in several states even as affirmative action fell.
Obama took the podium and started off with his victory speech while LGBT communities, friends and families across America watched in bittersweet shock and dismay:
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
There are no blue states nor any red states; there are purple states. And Californians today–the progressive lot–will realize this with much aggravation and sadness. Their ‘blue’ state voted to eliminate rights, voted for discrimination and bigotry, voted for hate – PROP 8.
In Florida, 62% of voters approved Amendment 2 that would write the gay marriage ban into the constitution. Arizona also banned gay marriage while 57 percent of voters in Arkansas supported a ban that would keep gays from becoming foster or adoptive parents. It was again, up to California to take the lead and re-write the story of election night for LGBT communities across the United States. It failed to do so; Proposition 8 passed even as it had trailed in opinion polls for months.
And they won.
They had more money, more organization, more in-roads into minority communities and more reasons to lie.
They sent out mailings with Barack Obama and Joe Biden saying “Yes on 8” to African American voters, made similar misleading robocalls, and even hijacked the internet with such erroneous ads. Result: 70% of African Americans reported voting Yes on 8.
Barack Obama–the supposed healer of this nation–was too much of a coward to come out strongly against Proposition 8. Only 67% of Democrats vote No on Prop 8 compared to 79% of Republicans who voted Yes — “the rest (of the ‘democrats’) need to hand in their cards” said Mo, a concerned young queer male in Michigan. IS THIS THE CHANGE WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE IN, a change that eliminates the rights of same-sex couples? Being a spineless Democrat that is too hesitant to take a stance on important issues is certainly no change (But it is something we can certainly believe).
Churches will not lose their tax-exempt status if they refuse to perform gay marriages, ‘same-gender marriage’ will not be mandated as teaching curriculum in schools, Western civilization will not fall due to two people loving each other and vowing to spend the rest of their lives together under the law (though it might fall due to the fiscal mess we are in…) Despite these clarifications, the ‘scare tactics’ of the ‘Yes’ side won. Fear won, not hope and certainly not change.
In 2000, more than 61 percent of Californians voted in favor of Proposition 22 affirming that only marriage between a man and a woman would be valid or recognized. The statistic was not quite representative of how Californians felt about the issue since these were not General Elections and had low voter turnouts, but regardless, the majority of California was clearly set against the idea of marriage equality.
Then came the queering of mainstream America. Queer As Folk, Will & Grace, The L Word, Brokeback Mountain, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and numerous other positive and popular gay characters on TV made bigotry against same-sex couples increasingly unacceptable. Fast-forward to 2008 and we have out with the Neanderthal and in with the metro-sexual male, out with the ‘good-housewife’ image and in with the desperate housewife and working Alpha woman. This is the epitome of change, progressive change. Unfortunately, it was not enough.
May 15 2008 will go down in history as one of the most emotional days of my life–the California Supreme Court had just overturned the ban on gay marriage in California by 4-3. I cried like I never had before and I didn’t even know why — I don’t support marriage and certainly don’t want it for gay people. We can do better than adopt desecrated and bastardized institutions from straight people, we are better than those that deny us our rights and face it, heteronormativity is boring. But to see so many people finally be able to call their love for each other whatever they want to was a truly ethereal experience. And to see it all taken away under the guise of ‘democracy,’ is devastating.
The same people who called the California Supreme Court decision ‘undemocratic,’ and call this vote a triumph for democracy MUST remember that Jim Crow laws, anti-suffrage and slavery were also ‘democratic.’ We all know what happened to these purported democratic values; they became history because the people of this country reclaimed and re-wrote history into ourstory.
Make no mistake — this is just a temporary roadblock in the battle for civil rights. The election of Barack Obama should tell us that discrimination and prejudice has a way of ending up in the dustbin of history. The writing on the wall is clear — In less than 8 years, we have won over 20% of the electorate. Young people overwhelmingly support LGBT rights and exit polls suggest that 66% voted against the ban, so it is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when.’
Make no mistake. 16,000 couples will sue for their rights; this ban will be more short-lived than my height of 5″ 2.
Make no mistake. We will be back and take back the state of California along with the rest of the United States.
Make no mistake. A major social upheaval is coming.
Make no mistake. We will prevail.