October 31, 2006

Equality Maryland: "Preparing for a Bruising"

Dan Furmansky, the Executive Director of Equality Maryland, the LGBT advocacy group I belong to, issued a note to members regarding next week's elections. He is bracing supporters for more short term losses as several more states are expected to pass amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage, but remains optimistic for the long term:

"It may be little consolation on Nov. 8, but no matter what happens at the polls, eventually, we will win. No matter how many Americans stand against us, eventually we will win. The journey may be a long one, and we may bleed and bruise, but when it comes to basic fairness and justice, equality will always prevail."

Here is the entire note:

I wish it wasn’t necessary to write this, but it is. As an LGBT civil rights leader, I feel I must prepare our community for when voters go to the polls next week.

We were shocked and saddened when eleven states voted to change their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage in November 2004. Reading the gay press afterwards, it was as though we had no idea it was coming, and indeed, most of us hadn't prepared for it. We had hoped to win in Oregon, maybe even in Michigan...but we lost everywhere, in some cases to devastating margins.

Then, pundits and so-called progressives poured lemon juice into our wounds with their unscientific analysis that the marriage issue is what "cost us" the elections. Many LGBT Americans weren't feeling much of an "us" with John Kerry anyway, after he was the only MA member of Congress to speak out in favor of an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution, which the Legislature there thankfully rejected.

Those were dark days none of us want to relive, but we must steady ourselves once again. In a few weeks, media across the country will be reporting on all of the new states that have changed their constitutions. And we could lose in every one of the states with proposed amendments.
It might sting—badly—and right on the heels of New York and Washington high court marriage rulings against us.

I pray I’m wrong, and that instead we’ll be greeted with headlines like the one that appeared in the New York Times on October 14th: “Gay Marriage Losing Punch as Ballot Issue.” I want to see headlines announcing our victories in Wisconsin, South Dakota, Arizona, and everywhere.

But I'm here to urge us to be prepared for what we weren't last time. Most of what I read in the press these days contains hopeful pieces. A September Advocate article had the headline: "Poll: Opposition to Virginia same-sex marriage amendment grows." Several gay media outlets touted a poll from South Dakota that indicated only 48% of voters in that state support the amendment. The Blade reported two weeks ago: "fights in three other states – Arizona, South Dakota and Wisconsin – are competitive and too close to call."

Lord knows I couldn't do this work if an optimist didn't reside somewhere in this heart of mine. As someone who lived in Wisconsin for almost six years, I am hopeful that the first state to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation will be the first to reject these repulsive public gay bashings that are wrapped up in the guise of "defining" marriage.

Indeed, we could come incredibly close in a few states, which would tell us that attitudes are changing. But close or not, if we fail on a popular vote across the board, the media will point and yell "losers" faster than you can say Foley Scandal. And some in our community will cannibalize those who steadfastly fight for equal marriage rights.

If this doomsday scenario comes to pass, we'll wear dark sunglasses for a couple of days. We'll empathize with those in our community who must wonder which of their neighbors voted against their family. But we'll move on.

We'll continue to fight, just as people have done for years before us, and will do years after us. We fought for seventeen years until we overturned a Supreme Court ruling that allowed for the criminalization of consensual same-sex relations. We survived DOMA, and have gone on to see relationship recognition in MA with equal marriage rights, CT and VT with civil unions, NJ, CA, and ME with domestic partnership registries, and HI with a reciprocal beneficiary law.

We are a community of survivors. No matter how much dung the Pat Buchanans of the world hurl at us, we will wash ourselves off and continue to fight for basic dignity and respect.

After we lost the marriage cases in Washington and New York, Evan Wolfson, head of Freedom to Marry, told a crowd of Equality Maryland members that the courts sometimes take the easy way out. After all, he said...it took thirteen state supreme courts to reject the argument that interracial marriage bans were unconstitutional before California's Supreme Court had the courage to strike down its ban in 1948—flying in the face of public opinion. After that brave ruling, six states changed their constitutions to “define marriage” in a way that would prevent interracial unions.

No matter what the setbacks, we must continue to view our movement as part of a broader movement for social justice. We must continue to draw inspiration and lessons from those who pioneered social change in the past and continue to welcome the partnerships of those doing this important work today in all areas of rights and freedoms.

As Dr. King said, "All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem." Our gains in Massachusetts, Canada, Spain, and other places have led to opposition and setbacks. Karl Rove and his cohorts are preying upon fear of change and "the other" to orchestrate a campaign that makes a constitutional amendment to limit rights socially acceptable and seemingly innocuous. The success of these amendments elsewhere makes our struggle here in Maryland increasingly important, especially with oral arguments to win marriage equality here scheduled before our high court for early December.

It may be little consolation on Nov. 8, but no matter what happens at the polls, eventually, we will win. No matter how many Americans stand against us, eventually we will win. The journey may be a long one, and we may bleed and bruise, but when it comes to basic fairness and justice, equality will always prevail.

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."

Martin Luther King Jr., Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, Dec. 10, 1964

1 comment:

  1. So true. I've stopped getting angry about the votes to ban gay marriage. It's not helping anything, least of all my mental health. I'm just hoping for some other major changes coming out of the election that will tilt the nation back to something resembling sensible and go from there.