How can I write about anything except politics right now? Obama, Obama, Obama. Fivethirtyeight had the projections almost completely accurate. I didn’t see too many major voting mishaps – aside from the long lines at polling places which, as we all know by now, are the new “poll tax.” Which is reassuring! In the last few days I kept hearing, “things are looking good for us, but remember: they cheat.”
So, thank the gods. I’m glad we all got to vote. I’m glad each of our votes counted. I’m so glad to see Obama victorious.
But … then there’s the gay stuff. Prop 8 in California, Prop 102 in Arizona, Prop 2 in Florida. Initiative 1 in Arkansas. Connecticut and Colorado were victories, but with the other four I’m feeling pretty defeated this morning.
I’m angry about this election. I am so grateful for Obama’s landslide win, don’t get me wrong. He ran a fantastic campaign and he did some incredibly gracious, beautiful things with the entire United States, in every place he visited – he wasn’t purely focused on the battleground states, he wasn’t ignoring the South just because it was a given that it’d go red.
But I’m angry about all the other propositions that passed. The literally millions of people who think that me, my relationship, my love, my orientation, my body’s wiring, my queerness is somehow a threat to them, somehow damaging to their way of life, somehow harmful, somehow detrimental to society, somehow bad and wrong and evil.
I take personal offense to these results.
It’s so hard not to. I try pretty hard to ignore the gay marriage activism that are going on in this country – ever since DOMA I’ve been only increasingly discouraged. I’ve written about this recently – my hesitation to think that the gay marriage fight is the end-all be-all of gay activism, that gay marriage is going to get us accepted into the “normal” club. Well, maybe I don’t want to be in the “normal” club.
But this time, I got involved. I got all crazy with 8 Against 8, I read every post Lesbian Dad kept eloquently writing, I researched the state of gay marriage in the US for weeks. I got invested. I named the puppy. I – in my liberal progressive hippie love-will-prevail idealist brain – was not prepared for such a defeat.
Gay marriage is going to revert to being illegal in California. Californians just voted to legally and specifically discriminate against a group of marginalized people. To explicitly and intentionally make us second-class citizens. Less than.
What about Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin’s widow, who just months ago made their more than fifty-year relationship completely equal, valued, valid, legitimate, in the eyes of California law? God I hope they had a good lawyer who put all sorts of forms and documents in place. How stupid and fucked up and time consuming and wasteful that Phyllis and Del even had to go through that, to do the research to figure out what rights and privileges, precisely, they were being denied because they couldn’t get married, and pay a lawyer to draw up the corresponding papers, and enter into a legal agreement with each other.
[It reminds me of If These Walls Could Talk 2, the first segment, with Vanessa Redgrave. Watch it, if you haven’t seen it. I guarantee it will break your heart, but kind of in a good way.]
I want to go back and study the history of interracial marriage – also called miscegenation, which is a great word I don’t know if I knew until today – and see how it was finally overturned. Was it state-by-state? So-called “activist judges?” Did this country watch as, one at a time, states added their own constitutional amendments banning interracial marriage? Were there Mayors who were radical enough to marry interracial couples anyway? How did it finally get overturned? I’ve never been much of a historian, really, I’m much more interested in what’s happening right now, in front of me, how this current system works – and of course it’s important to know where we came from to know how the current system works, but still, I didn’t understand history until I started studying the history of my people, the queers and gender-variants and radicals and revolutionaries.
But still, I don’t have a firm grasp on this particular American activist history, and I want to know how it worked before, because I want it to work again. Because maybe after I know one storyline’s success, I’ll be comforted. Because I’ll remember that it took hundreds of years to gain that particular right to marry, and then I’ll remember that this fight is young, that, despite our headway, there is much farther to go.
I know there is much to celebrate. Perhaps I am taking Obama’s win too much for granted. I know I have a particularly “biased” perspective because I grew up with activist parents in liberal communities; I spend my times in progressive activist circles and queer communities in big cities. There is a piece of me that is saying, “of course Obama was elected, how could it possibly be any other way?” But I said that about Gore and Kerry too, despite that Gore did win the popular vote (don’t get me started) and I’ve seen cardboard cutouts of people that have more personality than Kerry.
Clearly I don’t have a very good grasp on the reality of this country. On how conservative Republicans are capable of organizing people to vote against their own best interest in the name of “values.”
I’ve seen some posts around today already that say having Obama in office we are poised for a Federal lift on the ban on gay marriage, but honestly I don’t know if I believe that. Of course I’d like to think so, sure, but then there’s DOMA, and “37 states have their own Defense of Marriage Acts [and] … 27 states have constitutional amendments.” (source.)
Make that 30, as of November 2008: Arizona, Florida, California.
Times like these I wish I knew more about politics, and history. How can we lift these constitutional amendments out of the states? Do the voters have to vote again? Who can overturn DOMA at the Federal level? Do we need it to go through the courts, or through voting? Do we need certain Supreme Court members in order to have these things overturned? How do we get a Federal constitutional amendment that protects the rights of minorities?
We couldn’t even get something written into the Federal constitution that says that women are equal to men. Remember the ERA? Failed. Failed, failed, failed. It has been introduced in front of every Congress since 1982, and yet we still do not have anything official that says women are equal to men. Is that really so radical, so influential, that there is such opposition to it?
And correct me if I’m wrong here, I am not a constitutional scholar, but: I thought constitutions were for guaranteeing rights, not for taking them away.
Despite that I do understand what people say about the threat of gay marriage, I don’t really understand. I just don’t. Why? Why why why are we so threatening? On bad days – like this one, when literally millions of people voted against my very personal right, my very personal decision to get married – my heart fills up with emotion and I feel like a little kid after another kid yells, “I HATE YOU!” My eyes well up. I didn’t do anything to you. Just – why?
Here’s what gay marriage is: it’s commitment. Building a family, possibly taking care of children, or dogs or cats or hamsters or fish. Finding someone to share your life with. Taking care of each other. Being better together than you are alone.
And here’s what gay marriage is: love.
The simple act of loving another person. Maybe I forget how difficult love is for so many of us. Maybe I’m forgetting that love is often beaten out of us before we are even able to critically think about the world around us, just by nature of growing up in this culture. It really is revolutionary, isn’t it? Just the act of who I love could change the world, and is changing politics.
Despite my frustration at the horrible steps back that we are taking, there is hope. There is change happening.
Obama’s acceptance speech was especially moving. He slipped “gay” right in there with that long list of American identity descriptors – “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” – as if it belonged. As if it was no better or worse than any of those other things.
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.
It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.
It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.
We are, and always will be, the United States of America.
(Full text of Obama’s presidential acceptance speech here, though I do suggest watching the video – he is such an impressive orator.)
I just have to keep remembering: let the soft animal of my body love what it loves. I can do that. I have to do that. I will do that, despite that my government says it’s not good enough. I know, I really do know, underneath it all, under the pink of my skin, in the nest of my heart, that it is enough – that I am enough – that we, my beautiful community, are enough.
UPDATE, 7pm EST: I know, I know, it’s not completely 100% official yet: the No on Prop 8 folks haven’t given up, and a recount has been demanded. But last count, Yes on 8 was ahead 400,000 votes. Not an easy thing to make up.
Legal Groups File Lawsuit Challenging Proposition 8, Should It Pass: “The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a writ petition before the California Supreme Court today urging the court to invalidate Proposition 8 if it passes. The petition charges that Proposition 8 is invalid because the initiative process was improperly used in an attempt to undo the constitution’s core commitment to equality for everyone by eliminating a fundamental right from just one group — lesbian and gay Californians.”
Also: There’s a protest rally tonight in West Hollywood: We Shall Not Be Overlooked. Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 7:00pm – 10:00pm, San Vicente Blvd between West Hollywood Park and the Pacific Design Center (647 N San Vincente Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA).