November 11, 2008
Obama, free the gays!
Posted by: Andoni
I can't tell you how down I still am over the passage of Prop 8 in California repealing the right of gays to marry.
As they say, when one door closes sometimes another opens. The surprising thing for me in the aftermath of Prop 8 is the number of phone calls I have gotten from relatives (I have a lot of religious conservative relatives) to discuss the Prop 8 result. Most go along the lines of "You know I'm not against you gays or gay rights, it's just that marriage is so sacred that I can't support it for two men. Civil unions would be OK, but sorry I can't support marriage." There is almost a tinge of guilt in their voices. I think I am getting these calls because these people realize on some level that what the voters did in California was wrong.
I believe that the people who voted to strip gays of their right to marry fall into two categories: those who are not anti-gay but have a bona fide belief that the word marriage should only apply to heterosexual marriages and those who are definitely anti-gay and don't want gays to have anything, nothing, nada.
I would bet that this latter group is definitely a minority. That would make the sum of the people who favor gay marriage (voted no on Prop 8) and those who only quibble over the word "marriage" for us and don't mind us being recognized with rights in some other manner --- a fairly big majority, a working majority -- if we can get them all on the same page.
I think the time is ripe to put this majority to work, right now while people remember how we were screwed on marriage. Contrary to what our more conservative national leaders and organizations may tell you, I believe this is a good time to propose federal legislation recognizing civil unions and granting federal benefits for these unions. Marriage is the lightning rod issue, civil unions is not. We should take advantage of this fact to move our cause forward in a dramatic way at this time.
Federal civil unions would be in keeping with Barack Obama's campaign promises. He believes in civil unions for us, not marriage. Going with the flow at this time means getting on the civil union track, not the marriage track.
There is a lot of guilt out there about what happened in California and it will put people on the spot to the test themselves whether they are just paying us lip service that they aren't really anti-gay -- only anti-gay marriage. This doesn't mean we stop fighting for marriage, but it will take much more time for that. Who are we as a people to think we can get 100% in one leap when African Americans had to settle for separate but equal before they got equal. Have we run a better campaign than they did? Have we fought harder? I don't think so. They were willing to get bloodied in the streets and arrested for their cause. I don't see similar motivations or sacrifices being made on our part, so it's hard to argue that we deserve an easier, faster path than they got. Separate but equal is fine by me for a while, but we need to get some federal recognition of our relationships on the books and there is an opening at the moment. Civil unions would be a giant leap forward and because we will have a president who has said this is what he believes in, this is where we should put our energy. It would be crazy to try to do an end run for marriage, and only marriage. Marriage or bust is not a good strategy.
It doesn't take a Doris Kearns Goodwin to see that Barack Obama can go down in history as the president who brought gay rights to this country. He is in a position to pass ENDA and hate crime legislation, repeal DOMA, repeal DADT, and establish federal rights for our unions.
In summary, Barack Obama has the potential to be the Abraham Lincoln for gay people. Just as Lincoln freed the slaves, Obama (more or less a beneficiary of Lincoln's actions) is in the unique position to become known as the president who freed the gays.
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