Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Maine, Washington & elswhere electoral mess

Anyone who says they know exactly what yesterday's election means for the future of LGBTQ people is a blowhard and a liar. Yesterday's results were decidedly muddled.

Marriage equality lost yet again, this time in Maine. For anyone who's counting, and that is all of the MSM, that's 31 defeats for equality. Damn.

"Everything But Marriage" won in the state of Washington. The victory was narrow - 51.03 percent vs. 48.97 percent - but it was still a victory, of sorts, for LGBTQ people and our families.

In Kalamazoo, Mich., a landslide of voters - 65 percent - shouted "NO!" to the right's effort to be able to legally fire or refuse housing to us.

Throughout the country, and in some surprisingly moderate-to-conservative places, out lesbian and gay candidates did very well.

They range from Annise Parker's first-place finish in the Houston mayoral race to victories for out candidates for city councils in Detroit; St. Petersburg, Fl.; Akron, Ohio; Salt Lake City; and Maplewood, Minn. The mayor of Chapel Hill, N..C., is now the openly gay Mark Kleinschmidt. On a day when the fear of gays in schools helped defeat marriage equality in Maine, voters in Canton, Ohio, elected openly gay Eric Resnick to the Canton Board of Education.

I have no real answers about the true meaning of these results, but I do have some first thoughts.

**Some folks are already saying that we should give up on or de-emphasize marriage equality, but I don't buy that. I personally believe that marriage is too important to the safety and security of our families for us to back off. Also, civil rights struggles are measured in decades, even centuries, and the marriage fight is still young. I believe we will never have full equality until people can see us as being fully human, and being fully human includes the right to marry.

**The temptation is great to find a scapegoat for the loss in Maine. Some will target the No on 1 campaign. By all accounts, the No on 1 campaign did a good job.
Nate Silver (no relation) may well be right when he notes:
I certainly don't think the No on 1 campaign can be blamed; by every indication, they ran a tip-top operation whereas the Yes on 1 folks were amateurish. But this may not be an issue where the campaign itself matters very much; people have pretty strong feelings about the gay marriage issue and are not typically open to persuasion.
Where I differ from Nate is the idea that voters can't eventually be shifted on marriage. I think they can and they must.

**Some are already attacking Barack Obama and the DNC-controlled Organizing for America for failing to rally voters to vote no in Maine. I personally suspect that if Obama, or OFA had intervened, they may well have moved the vote a bit in our favor. Whether that would have been enough for us to win is unknown. All of which means nothing about how I think we should approach Obama and the DNC. I say hold their feet to the fire. Enough is enough.

**Our losses show that we're still politically weak, particularly on the issue of marriage, but our victories show that we're gaining strength. The success of openly lesbian and gay candidates is a clear sign that bigotry is beginning to go out of fashion.

I'll be keeping a close watch on the run-off election in Houston. Conventional wisdom would normally make Parker the front runner, but we'll have to wait and see if voters flinch at the last minute at the idea of having a lesbian as mayor.

I have no patience anymore. I am sick to death of people voting on my rights, on my humanity. I agree with David Mixner that we now live in an unacceptable state of apartheid with one set of laws for heterosexuals and another set of laws for the rest of us.

And yet, I've lived long enough to see that even yesterday's decidedly mixed results show progress. There was a time when any victory for lesbians and gays was unthinkable. Yesterday an entire state gave us a victory, and even though it wasn't the ultimate victory on marriage that we need, it was still a win. Conservative, little Kalamazoo stood up to say discrimination is wrong. Running as an out candidate was once political suicide, particularly in places like Texas and Ohio, but look at all our victories.

Is the glass half full or half empty? Do we give up or fight on? Should we change our tactics or strategy? What do you think?

(An earlier version of this was posted at Bilerico.)

1 comment:

Nancy Jane Moore said...

Here's a more uplifting look at the whole situation from Andrew Koppelman on Balkinization: "In short, in the long run, same-sex marriage is winning. There will be setbacks at the polls, as there have been lately in Maine and California, but the broader cultural shift is unmistakeable."

He says two things that are worth considering. One, same-sex marriage "is one of the most quickly successful political movements in American history." Secondly -- and this is probably the key element to long term success -- 58 percent of people 18-34 support same sex marriage.

Not that I'm saying be patient. Why should anyone be patient when they're being discriminated against? Rather, I'm saying be optimistic about the future.