To my lovely queer community

11/08/2009

The sky is not falling. The end is not nigh. And some of us need to remember the words and meaning of the video above.

For those who don’t know what’s going on, basically we lost Maine, the referenda people’s veto of a gay marriage bill passed through the legislature earlier this year and signed by the governor by similar margins to the prop 8 battle in California.

And basically, the loss has seemed to hit a lot of my fellow queers pretty hard. The repeat of the Prop 8 situation after strong volunteering efforts, amazing fundraising efforts, and a pitch-perfect campaign combined with the raw hurt of having civil rights stripped away by small margins of uneducated voters spurned to vote based on obvious lies about children has got many queer people hating the world and mostly sad.

Well, I say sad, but I mean distraught. A lot of people seem to be convinced that the momentum following the devastating loss of Prop 8, wherein queer rights seemed to be ascendent with a mobilized queer and ally community, has somehow disappeared with this latest loss and that we should accept that we are hated and instead of fighting, we should sit and wait on the marriage battle.

Don’t believe me, read some of the comments here.

A short summation, California activists have finished ballot language for an attempt to repeal Prop 8 in 2010 and a bunch of people who had supported the idea less than a week ago ended up calling those planning it nasty names for daring to start so quick when no one will ever win at the ballot box for gay rights.

There was a lot of talk of something called “0 for 32”. This is the idea that gay rights has gone to the ballot box 32 times and lost every time.

Thing is, this isn’t actually true. Yes, a lot of southern and midwestern states did indeed pass constitutional amendments banning gay marriage in those states and California has joined them thanks to the 50%+1 votes needed to amend the constitution in California. But not every gay marriage amendment battle actually won. It was defeated in VA for instance and several other states where it was put up to the people and this year alone, two gay rights referenda passed by the wills of the people, Ref 71 in WA which gives “everything but the word marriage” domestic partnerships to gay people, and a referendum for a city-wide ENDA in Kalamazoo, MI. Both passed handedly.

And I think the whole evening underlines how we seem to be getting distracted by the pain of the big loss to really process what is going on right now and what all of this really means.

First of all, the biggest mistake made has been to focus on Maine as if it was exactly the same state as California. Sure, there were similarities in that Maine also had gay rights leading in the polls and that the result was eerily similar in final outcome, but…

Equal result is actually a massive gain. Maine is far less liberal than California. They’ve elected two republican senators, conservative policies have fared very well there and it is the least progressive state in New England. The general impression of the state is that outside Portland and the other southern cities, the rest of the state is conservative and rural and older and exceedingly catholic. In short, it wasn’t friendly ground.

But gays forgot that in the hope. It wasn’t expected to pass legislature, but committed out queers and allies had a triumphant narrow victory. It wasn’t expected to pass the governor, but a governor who had previously indicated a likelihood of vetoing it despite being a democrat had a last minute change of heart and decided to throw his full support behind it. It was expected to be essentially dead the moment the signatures were gathered in a state that only 4 years ago decided to narrowly pass ENDA protections over the people’s veto on the third try. But the amazing campaign of No on 1 and the backbreaking efforts of activists and volunteers made a longshot actually start looking like a favorite.

When No on 1 started narrowly leading the polls, it seemed like destiny had overcome everything and this would be our proudest moment.

It wasn’t. It was close, but not quite. Not bad for a throw-away, the state not expected to have even been on the list of 6 new england states in GLAD’s 6 by 12 campaign. And a good indicator for slightly more liberal California in 2-4 years if the Circuit 9 Court doesn’t overturn Prop 8 first.

And secondly, the gloom and doom ignores another important, I would say critical aspect of the whole circus.

This wasn’t exactly a bad year for gay civil rights.

Seriously.

The momentum? The energy? The feeling of being on the cusp of major victories on every level?

Still way fucking here and the evidence is in what we have this year. This year, we passed gay rights for the first time ever by legislature in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Vermont won by enough votes to overturn the governor’s veto. The supreme courts of Iowa and Connecticut overturned gay marriage bans and gave full marriage rights to gay men. DC recognizes marriages of other states and is right now working on passing marriage rights itself and all signs look very strong by early signs.

New York and New Jersey are under heavy pressure to pass gay marriage bills of their own in the remaining year by their current governors and it’s possible they’ll be added to the list as well.

Of three gay rights referenda, two passed. Civil Union legislation also passed in Nevada. All of the out mayoral candidates won their races in Chapel Hill, NC, St. Petersburg, FL, and Houston TX.

And oh yeah, there was that teeny little tiny deal of:

Federal Hate Crimes Legislation

For those who are tempted to ask: “Where’s Obama?”

Basically, we the riled angry proud and right gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer community have kicked ass and taken names this year. We have gone from being the whipping boy of the religious right, to actually making forward proactive progress on equal rights.

Of the 0 for 32 count above, only 2 were triggered by gays actually gaining something first and being proactive about our rights. And those two were close and unlikely to be so close in even 5 years, not as more states join the Forces of Good and residents of those states note how their states have failed to be destroyed by allowing gays basic rights.

We are winning, my queer brothers and sisters! The momentum is very much ours as long as we keep pushing forward, wherever we can, however we can, on whatever we can. We are so close to the tipping point, where we can have an election with no bitter tears or sour moments.

This year we got closer than we ever have. Next year, we’ll be even closer and one day soon, we’ll wonder why we had to work so hard at all.

So buck up, my fellow queers, we lost a minor skirmish, but we’ve taken this battle and we will definitely win this war.

And that is why I included the video I did at the start, to remind us of that unalienable fact.

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One Response to “To my lovely queer community”

  1. Keely H. said

    I like your optimism. I admit I’ve been feeling numb about the LGBT rights struggle since the Maine loss. It’s so important for activists to keep acknowledging the movement’s victories to prevent the burnout that has been so widespread among LGBT activists of late.

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