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    November 05, 2008

    A uniter, not a divider

    Posted by: Chris

    Barackobamaelected What a historic and incredible evening this has been. Whatever differences you may have with Barack Obama, his landslide election tonight as the next president of the United States is a remarkable statement about the progress America has made in overcoming racial differences.

    Obama will not only be the first black president of the U.S., but the first leader of African descent ever elected in a country outside that continent. What's more, Obama was elected with a record of support for GLBT rights that eclipses that of any serious national candidate before him, including John Kerry four years ago, as well as Hillary Clinton and the other Democrats he defeated in the primaries.

    In Barack Obama's acceptance speech tonight, just as in the 2004 keynote address to the Democratic convention that launched him as a national political figure, and just as he did throughout the primary and general election, the president-elect specifically included "gays and straights" as among the groups of Americans he sought to unite.

    But even as gay rights activists celebrate Obama's historic election, there are sobering reminders from across the country about the long, tough road ahead before we overcome differences based on sexual orientation. In John McCain's home state of Arizona, where four years ago voters rejected an expansive ban on legal recognition for same-sex and other unmarried couples, a more limited constitutional amendment banning gays from marrying is heading toward passage.

    In Florida, even without the support of Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, voters have overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, even though state law already accomplishes that same end. Florida is also the only state that prohibits gays from adopting children, but voters in Arkansas, the state of where I was born, today have voted in favor of a ban on adoption and foster parenting by adults "cohabitating outside of marriage," meaning gays or straights in unmarried relationships.

    At least in Connecticut, where the state supreme court last month ruled in favor of gay marriage, voters have rejected by a constitutional convention that would have opened up the possibility of an amendment overturning the court ruling.

    Here are the results as of 1 a.m. ET:

    • Calfornia Prop. 8 (constitutional amendment overturning Supreme Court gay marriage ruling): Yes (53.1%).  No (46.9%).  Precincts reporting: 25.2%
    • Arizona Prop 102 (constitutional amendment banning gay marriage): Yes (56.5%).  No (43.5%).  Precincts reporting: 91.2%
    • Florida Amendment 2 (constitutional amendment banning gay marriage): Yes (62.2%).  No (37.8%).  Precincts reporting: 98%
    • Arkansas Prop. 1 (banning adoption and foster parenting by unmarried couples): Yes (55.2%).  No (44.8%).  Precincts reporting: 63%
    • Connecticut Question 1 (constitutional convention): Yes (59%).  No (41%).  Precincts reporting: 90%

    The results in California are especially devastating, if they hold. Voters in the nation's largest state seem poised to take away the newly minted right to marry won in the landmark state supreme court ruling just last year. Despite weeks and weeks of images of happy gay couples tying the knot, a majority seem prepared to take it all away -- and even more depressingly, the margin of defeat may come from the same African-American and Latino voters who overwhelmingly supported Obama's message of unity and change.

    These results should also signal something very important to those who will work on gay rights issues with the incoming Obama administration and strengthened Democratic congressional leadership. Gays throughout this country are living in states that are denying their basic freedoms by refusing relationship recognition -- in many cases writing that discrimination into their constitutions.

    Relationship recognition has therefore emerged as an issue far more important at the federal level than low-hanging fruit like workplace protections and hate crimes -- and effects numbers that dwarf those impacted by the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military.

    It's unlikely the Democrats will ever have a stronger majority in the House, and may well be near their peak in the Senate. President-Elect Obama will take office with a mandate unlike any since Ronald Reagan in 1980. The time is now to address the core principles of the gay rights movement, which Obama himself embraced during the course of the long, two-year campaign.

    That means:

    • Repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, at least that portion that blocks federal recognition of marriage licenses issued by states like Massachusetts, California (at least for now), and Connecticut (as of next week).
    • Recognition equal to that for married couples for same-sex couples in civil unions (in states that offer them), or can otherwise demonstrate an enduring, long-term commitment.
    • Uniting American Families Act, extending to gay Americans the right to sponsor foreign partners for citizenship the way heterosexual citizens can their fiances and spouses.

    Obama was right, of course, when he said in his rousing speech tonight in Chicago, "This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change." For those who care about taking full advantage of this opportunity to win equality for GLBT Americans, this is the kind of "change" we need to believe in.

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    Comments

    1. Lucrece on Nov 5, 2008 3:18:42 AM:

      ....Really? Because 69% of the Black voters projected in voting for Prop 8 were fueled by the posters quoting Obama "I'm not in favor of marriage", and his response was contradictory and too late. I will never forgive him for his cowardice.

      This election has been a total tragedy. I could not possibly feel more crushed and unwelcome in this country than I am today.

    1. Dave on Nov 5, 2008 3:43:31 AM:

      Wow ...another slimy, smiling liar who told us he would call us after he fucked us raw. Man we got hosed bad tonight...California, Florida, Arizona and Arksansas....they all passed. I am bitterly disappointed in my fellow Americans. I really thought we were going to win in California, but they care more about fucking chickens than they do human's. I do not think Obama is going to do a damn think to help us, he saw which way the wind is blowing. He is not special enough to stand up to the bigotry. Oh he will give us lip service..".I believe we should all be treated equal, hospital vistations" and all that b.s. Maybe by the time I am a old man in another 30 years all this shit will be over.

    1. Michael on Nov 5, 2008 4:48:46 AM:

      I was so angry when I heard Obama claim to be bringing gays and straights together. He threw us under the bus to ensure a larger margin of victory. He is NOT about change. He is NOT abaout equality. He is NOT EVEN HONEST. He has lied to us. He has supported Prop 8 through his Faith Tours. He knew damn well what was going on with his face on those flyers. The only reason I am not dispondent tonight is because I am moving back to Europe before this two-faced asshole even takes office. I feel sorry for those of you who are stuck in this country. It is not going to be pretty. It is not going to be change we can believe in.

    1. Double T on Nov 5, 2008 5:54:39 AM:

      Lucrece/Dave/Michael,
      How many weeks ago did you have these comments written?

      The man has not seen his first sunrise as Pres-Elect and you have already condemned the guy. WOW!! What a whining bunch of bithes.

      Obama will not be perfect. We will not get everything we want. That is the nature of politics.

    1. Michael on Nov 5, 2008 7:45:27 AM:

      Double T: Obama will not be perfect. We will not get everything we want. That is the nature of politics.

      Then it's not really change we can believe in, is it. More like the same old shit.

      Why don't you try showing a little respect for our feelings and opinions. If we feel betrayed, who the fuck are you tell us it's not genuine.

    1. Mike Z. on Nov 5, 2008 8:30:19 AM:

      Yes, Obama could have and should have done more to speak out against Prop 8. I suspect that deep down he supports gay rights far more than he indicates, but that he keeps this support to himself for political reasons. One has to bear in mind that had Obama spoken out more firmly and public about Prop 8, the desperate Republicans would have most certainly used it against him -- thus imperiling him in the swing states. It's sad to say but probably true that Obama's victory depended on his being relatively silent on Prop 8 and other controversial issues.

      The fact is, there is plenty of blame to go around. Where was Arnold Schwarzenegger?

      And what role do we gay citizens have in Prop 8's victory? Certainly we could have done more in terms of donations and outreach. I know plenty of gay guys who think nothing of spending $50-100 on a high of partying who probably did not give a single penny to defeat Prop 8 (assuming they were even aware of it!)

    1. Allan on Nov 5, 2008 9:02:00 AM:

      OK, everyone, here's the deal.

      The message of the Obama win and the Prop 8 defeat is simple.

      Political change comes from the bottom up, not from the top down.

      Our LGBT community leaders who ran the No on 8 campaign ran it the way Hillary and the DLC wing of the Democratic Party would have run it.

      Buy lots of TV time and waste it with ineffective and mushy messages. Try to avoid at all costs actually showing real live gay and lesbian Californians talking about what their ability to marry means to them and their families. Give us talking straight heads delivering platitudes about equality and fairness and what it means intellectually to amend the constitution.

      The Yes on 8 people ran their campaign the way Obama and the new Progressive coalition of the Democratic Party would have run it. Find coalitions of people who believe the same way you do. Go into the social institutions around which they center their lives. Talk to them with messages that resonate to them and hit them in their gut. Run TV commercials that appeal to their beliefs and hammer the same message home consistently.

      Obama's victory proved that when a real, honest-to-God progressive/liberal Democrat runs a campaign as an unapologetic advocate for core progressive/liberal principles, and organizes those of like minds at the grass-roots, he will energize enough Americans to come out and vote to validate those principles.

      No on 8's failure proves that we failed as a class of people to build and grow coalitions with our straight allies. We have, so far, failed to build connections with the African-American and Latino communities, who found limited resonance between our struggles and theirs. It is up to US to connect those dots and build those bridges so that next time, our side wins.

    1. Mike Z. on Nov 5, 2008 9:21:41 AM:

      Allan: Excellent points, and I completely forgot to list the No on 8 leaders as people to whom blame could (should?) be directed.

      The TV commercials for No on 8 were awful and far inferior to those for Yes on 8. I was astounded by how voters didn't see and hear from the very families that would be affected by the passage of Prop 8. It's almost as if the No on 8 "strategists" were operating under the idea that if they didn't show voters actual gay couples, those voters might somehow conveniently forget that they were voting for a gay rights measure. The passage of these anti-gay initiatives in so many states show that campaigns based on "fairness", "equality", and other abstract concepts -- and not on actual gay people and their lives -- consistently fail.

    1. Tim on Nov 5, 2008 2:25:50 PM:

      "Yes, Obama could have and should have done more to speak out against Prop 8. I suspect that deep down he supports gay rights far more than he indicates"

      gosh that will keep me warm at night, maybe if I see him in the hall he'll nod or something.

    1. Tim on Nov 5, 2008 2:32:44 PM:

      "Relationship recognition has therefore emerged as an issue far more important at the federal level than low-hanging fruit like workplace protections and hate crimes -- and effects numbers that dwarf those impacted by the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military."

      Chris, I think it's all well and good that your pushing your agenda but your math skills are a bit questionable. how can ignoring issues that effect EVERY GAY PERSON suddenly have to step aside to an issue that only affects a small percentage of gays?

    1. Charlie on Nov 5, 2008 4:24:44 PM:

      Chris, I think it's all well and good that your pushing your agenda but your math skills are a bit questionable. how can ignoring issues that effect EVERY GAY PERSON suddenly have to step aside to an issue that only affects a small percentage of gays?

      It's an interesting, and ultimately contrasting, set of goals. One set, hate crimes and workplace anti-discrimination, seek to define as a special group worthy of special rights and protections like other minorities. The other set, marriage recognition (and the repeal of DADT), seeks only to receive the same rights everyone else already has with no special nomenclature. One adopts a mindset of victimization and the other adopts a mindset of normalization. Personally, I like the agenda Chris is backing, but that may be because I've rarely been specifically victimized for being gay. Regardless, the bias is interesting, and it makes me wonder, can we really ever come together on common goals if we're splintered in how we see ourselves?

    1. Dave on Nov 6, 2008 1:25:48 AM:

      I am tired of the p.c bs about not blaming certain groups. I blame blacks as a whole, Mormons, evangelicals, religious zealots. Excuse me if I do not understand their pain while my rights are stripped away.

    1. Double T on Nov 6, 2008 1:39:50 AM:

      Michael
      "Why don't you try showing a little respect for our feelings and opinions. If we feel betrayed, who the fuck are you tell us it's not genuine."

      ............gee, someone needed to tell you to sober up and cut the drama. I'm sorry you shit your pants, but I don't think you can blame the smell on Obama. Maybe, just maybe, you're going to have to learn to wipe your own ass.
      While you're trying to figure out if you can do it or not, just keep chatting "Yes We Can!"

      Merely a suggestion.

    1. gkruz on Nov 6, 2008 1:52:19 AM:

      "Relationship recognition has therefore emerged as an issue far more important at the federal level than low-hanging fruit like workplace protections and hate crimes -- and effects numbers that dwarf those impacted by the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military."
      Amazing! In other words, safety and dignity at work and within the greater community isn't important, Chris Crain is impatient to get married! This is just the sort of hubris I would expect from the man who demanded that those troublesome trannies volunteer to be thrown under the ENDA bus or get thrown off, and then blamed them for putting a drag on its speed. But to witness someone who has consistently acted as a divider within the GLBT community wax so ecstatic over the Obamafraud as an 'uniter' is worth the price of admission.

    1. Chris on Nov 6, 2008 12:05:54 PM:

      Tim, I don't follow your thinking. More than HALF of all gay Americans are already protected by workplace protection laws, and only a very small (relatively) number of gays face job discrimination based on sexual orientation.

      On the other hand, only gays living in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island receive equal relationship recongition, and the percentage of gays who will at some point enter into long-term relationships DWARFS the percentage facing job bias without recourse.

      In terms of impact, relationship recognition is exponentially more important than workplace rights, hate crime laws or gays in the military.

      What's more, I agree with Charlie that there is a fundamental difference between demanding affirmative regulation of the private sector on our behalf and simply expecting our government not to be the discriminator.

    1. gkruz on Nov 7, 2008 2:34:07 AM:

      "More than HALF of all gay Americans are already protected by workplace protection laws, and only a very small (relatively) number of gays face job discrimination based on sexual orientation."
      Bullshit plain and simple. Those laws are toothless (and for trans-people, even gumless) and I've seen how easily homophobes both in staff and in management get around them. I also worked for one of the corporations with the highest rating on the HRC's index, and it was a joke that it ever received the LGBT-friendly label.
      I don't know you personally Chris, or know what your background is, but I can only conclude, from knowing others who express similar views to your own, that anyone who can make the claim that "relationship recognition is exponentially more important than workplace rights, hate crime laws or gays in the military" and insist that "there is a fundamental difference between demanding affirmative regulation of the private sector on our behalf and simply expecting our government not to be the discriminator", is the recipient of extraordinary privilege and damn well intent on keeping it, no matter who else has to suffer for it.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Nov 7, 2008 1:09:21 PM:

      In terms of impact, relationship recognition is exponentially more important than workplace rights, hate crime laws or gays in the military.

      I disagree. I think you are correct that relationship recognition is universally more important because most of us end up in a relationship at some point. However, this largely achieved at the state level, not the federal level. Granted, there are several federal benefits of marriage, but most benefits are at the state level. There is little Obama will be able to do for our relationships except to urge repeal DOMA and try to pass UAFA. These are important, but they will not help GLBT residents in states which provide no recognition of same-sex relationships.

      Regarding your assertion that relatively few GLBT individuals are impacted by employment discrimination, I would say even fewer are impacted by the lack of UAFA. This is no diss to you, Kevin, or any of the other talented and wonderful people who are forced to live overseas. This is tragic and a drain on the resources of our country. I hope and pray that UAFA passes some day so that any of you who wish to return home can do so.

      However, employment protections, hate crimes, and DADT are more squarely within the scope of what Obama can achieve for us. And these will benefit more people. He can and should try to repeal DOMA and pass UAFA. But again, these will not help GLBT residents in states which do not recognize same-sex relationships on any level. ENDA, Hate Crimes, and DADT will help our community in every state.

      To be honest, ALL of these issues are important. I don't like to say that one is more important than the other. But I think it would be a mistake to focus on DOMA and UAFA to the exclusion of ENDA and the rest.

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