Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

It is an unfortunate reality that positive progress rarely occurs in a straight line; there are always setbacks along the way, as the vote yesterday in Maine demonstrated. At the same time, it's worth keeping sight of the fact that, on the whole, the cause of GLBT rights is gaining more ground than it's losing, as other votes taken yesterday demonstrated:

-In Washington State, the people appear to have voted to retain domestic partnerships. While the absence of the word "marriage" probably made the difference between victory and defeat, the fact that gay couples can win even that much recognition in a statewide referendum is proof of how far we've come in a short time.

-In Kalamazoo, MI, voters overwhelmingly approved a non-discrimination ordinance. This one wasn't even close.

-Openly gay candidates in Chapel Hill and Detroit won election to city office, and another in Houston moved forward to a December runoff election.

And meanwhile, the Matthew Shepard act is law and the District of Columbia appears poised to legalize same-sex marriage.

A sampling of reactions from around the blogosphere:

Kate Kendell (via Pam's House Blend):

It is a travesty of every principle that made this nation great that the rights of a minority group can be put up to a popular vote. There are many ignominious moments in the history of this country, moments of shame that were corrected by Courts or by legislative action. If those great strides, in Women's rights, in the rights of religious minorities or of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans or American Indians had been put up to popular vote we all know how those votes would have turned out. The shame would have endured. And the taint on our Democracy would have continued.

Joe.My.God (stated a bit pointedly, but no less true for it):

They [Yes on 1 supporters] should also thank NOM for its illegal refusal to comply with Maine's financial disclosure laws. And they should thank Stand For Marriage for consistently lying about "teaching gay marriage." And they should thank the Archbishop of Maine for passing the collection plate during Ma$$.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

Conservatives pride themselves on their skepticism, and generally dismiss liberals as soft-headed Utopians. But in so many ways, political conservatism is Utopianism for the powerful. It isn't broadly skeptical of human nature, so much as it's broadly skeptical of people its agents don't particularly like. Hence the sense that Americans are intrinsically "good people," that this country "is the best nation that ever existed in history," that the South is home to "the greatest people that have ever trod the earth," and that the murder of four little girls in Birmingham was the work of a "Communist" or "crazed Negro," which had "set back the cause of white people."

Hence the notion that those voting against gay marriage, are not actually, in the main, motivated by bigotry, but a belief in tradition and family. But very few people would actually ever describe themselves as bigots. We think we know so much about ourselves. This is a country--like many countries--which is deeply riven by ethnic bias, gender discrimination. And yet we don't seem to know any of the agents of that discrimination.

Alvin McEwen:

But the landscape is changing. The more America sees lgbt couples, the more America sees lgbt families, and the more open and out we are, the more opportunistic charlatans like Maggie Gallagher, Brian Brown, and the rest of the "we need to protect marriage" crowd will be seen for what they are - silly clowns repeating silly catchphrases rooted in scare tactics and phony victimology of being called a "bigot."

Justin Lee (via Box Turtle Bulletin):

To be sure, legislation is an important part of changing the future for the better. But no bill or ballot initiative can eliminate homophobia, hate, or prejudice. Increasing the penalties for hate crimes won’t stop them if churches are preaching hate. And federal marriage rights won’t stop a gay kid from being pressured into a loveless straight marriage by his parents or church.

If we want to make the world a safe place for the next generation, we must do more than change the laws. We must change the culture. So instead of thinking of people of faith as just another voting pool, we need to think about all the ways that faith impacts culture, and how supportive people of faith can help make those changes. Because even if your goals are exclusively political, it’s worth noting that culture shapes the political landscape in big ways.

Andrew Sullivan:

But I do want to point out that, from the perspective of just a decade ago, to have an even split on this question in a voter referendum is a huge shift in the culture. In Maine, where the Catholic church did all it could to prevent gays from having civil rights in a very Catholic and rural state, gays do have equality but may now merely be denied the name. The process itself has helped educate and enlighten and deepen the debate about gay people in ways that never happened before the marriage issue came up.

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