(apologies to those who rec'd this email after the election - wanted to post it here)
Today, for the second time in my life, I woke up with fewer rights than when I went to bed. Today, for the second time in my life, voters in the state in which I lived eliminated some of my existing rights while giving animals more.
In 1992 I lived in Colorado, which Clinton won and which passed a law protecting Black Bears from being hunted. In that same election, my fellow Coloradans passed a statewide constitutional amendment making city-level anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation in housing, employment or services illegal; the laws in Denver and Boulder were voided. A cartoon in the Denver Post the next morning showed two hunters, one aiming at a bear. His buddy says “Wait, Frank, black bears are protected in Colorado!” to which the shooter replies “Not if he’s gay!”
You could fire me, deny me housing, deny me health care, deny me equal protection under the law if you wanted, all on the basis of your “discomfort” with my “lifestyle.” It was repugnant and illegal. It was eventually overturned. Today in Colorado there are statewide protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment and housing. It was not “natural” or inevitable for this change to happen over the past 16 years – it took anger and effort and money and courage – but it’s there now. The fight over Amendment 2 inspired many gay people to come out, stand up and fight back. The religious right - and let's not kid ourselves, organized religions and their untaxed millions are behind these moves to rescind the rights of me and other GLBT folk - over-reached, and they haven't won a statewide issue in Colorado on GLBT issues since.
But if you’d have spoken to me that morning and asked me if I thought I’d have the option to marry in 16 years, even in California , I’d have laughed. Ruefully and angrily, but I’d’ve laughed.
Last night when I went to bed, Prop 8, nullifying friends and neighbor’s marriages, was passing (yes = no same sex marriage). Prop 2, giving chickens the right to bigger cages, was passing. I wanted to bask in the glow of our nation’s maturity and to cherish the beautiful words of President Elect Obama and to believe in the nation that I thought we can be, before I knew for sure that I was going to have fewer civil rights. When I woke up this morning, sure enough, chickens won and gays and lesbians lost.
A friend wrote this:
Our struggle as gay and lesbian Americans is a baby in comparison to other civil rights' efforts and we are certainly suffering from another setback today. But if last night's election proved anything it is that in the United States progress is inevitable, sometimes is just takes time. Almost a decade ago, anti-gay Californians passed similar discriminatory legislation with the Knight campaign that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. But their victory that night was much more decisive. Today we see that Proposition 8 will only pass by the narrowest of margins. And as Barack Obama took the stage last night, for the first time ever, I was mentioned in a presidential acceptance speech. As he talked of inclusion, he spoke of uniting not just Blacks, Whites, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, the rich and the poor, but of gays and lesbians too. Two times in one night, history was being made and I was part of the conversation. Change is on the way and history will recognize our struggles. The chickens may have been victorious last night, but this caged bird knows he'll get to sing very, very soon.
While I appreciate his sentiment, I would like to point out that it doesn’t take only time and it isn’t inevitable. Progress only happens with hard work, and sacrifice, and challenging others to do better, and leadership. My sorrow and my anger – and to be clear, I am hurt and I am angry – at waking up with fewer rights today than I had yesterday must be and will be turned to something positive. I need to work harder. To tell my church-going neighbors what it means. To remind my fellow residents of this beautiful, progressive state that separate is not equal. To knock on more doors and shake more hands and tell people that their bigotry towards me – not “the gays” but me – is as irrational as any other, and comes with a human cost. To debunk the lies told by the other side – funded by $18 million dollars of Mormon/LDS money, by $1.5 mil of Knights of Columbus money , by millions of dollars from fearful men and women from every state across the country – that my marriage would not weaken religious freedom, or require that gay sex be taught in schools, or destroy traditional marriage.
Progress is not inevitable. But the group of 7th graders at a friend’s house on Halloween who didn’t say “Trick or treat!” but instead asked “How are you voting on Prop 8?” and responded with a cheer when told we were a “NO!” house showed me great hope. That would have been incomprehensible ten years ago. We learned last night – we showed last night – that with leadership we can be better versions of ourselves. And I was reminded that I’m not done – I need to provide more leadership, and use my anger and apply effort, and it needs to start today. Those 7th graders need good things to vote for.