This year’s election was indeed a bittersweet moment for those of us who supported President-Elect Obama and also gay marriage. While Obama was elected to be the 44th president of the United States, all three of the proposed constitutional amendments in Florida, Arizona, and California passed, even with slim margins.
I am keenly aware of what these election results actually mean. For me, there are two things: First, that voters were willing to write discrimination into their states’ constitution. Second, that gay marriage supporters spent a lot of money and time in trying to reach the wrong people.
One of the most frustrating consistencies in the gay marriage debate is in just how little discussion really occurs. No one really talks about their views on same-sex nuptials, unless they know they’re in safe territory to voice their opinion. Pastors tell their flock that gay marriage will lead to the downfall of society, and nearly everyone in their congregation will nod their heads and “amen” without ever once questioning whether such an absurd statement is actually true. On the flip side, pro-gay activists and politicians will opine on their positive views on gay marriage to their own crowds, whether they’re in campaign rallies or poetry readings.
As a result, the topic echoes through the empty halls filled with nodding heads at every turn. Very few minds are changed, and even fewer people are actually presented with both sides of this very complex discussion.
Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that California voters supported by a slim margin to write discrimination in to that state’s constitution, should never have passed. I, too, mistakenly thought that it wouldn’t get the needed votes. Like most people on the pro-gay marriage side of the coin, I never took into consideration the fact that the same group that helped to elect Barack Obama as our 44th president would also vote against gay marriage overwhelmingly.
While it was the Mormon church that put forth a huge chunk of the cash to sell the amendment to California voters (stop for a minute and ponder the hypocrisy of this fact alone), it was the African-American community vote that handed down this crushing defeat. This fact wasn’t lost on the gay community in California, either. Protests have been both vitriolic and angry toward the Mormon church, but the most hateful rhetoric has been hurled at blacks.
Rod 2.0 reported on some of the outrageous scapegoating by some gay protesters:
Geoffrey, a student at UCLA and regular Rod 2.0 reader, joined the massive protest outside the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Westwood. Geoffrey was called the n-word at least twice.
It was like being at a klan rally except the klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. YOU NIGGER, one man shouted at men. If your people want to call me a FAGGOT, I will call you a nigger. Someone else said same thing to me on the next block near the temple…me and my friend were walking, he is also gay but Korean, and a young WeHo clone said after last night the niggers better not come to West Hollywood if they knew what was BEST for them.
The article also tells of how black gay men (who were carrying NO ON PROP 8 signs were also accosted and subjected to racial abuse.
I suppose I should be shocked at such abject hate and bigotry, but then again, I’m not. I absolutely condemn this act of scapegoating the black community. Never before has there been such a clear opportunity for us to make some inroads for our cause, and never before has that opportunity been completely destroyed by the stupidity of some idiotic gay protesters and bigoted attacks against blacks. They had a chance to overcome, instead they chose to sink to the sewer of hate.
They’re rightfully angry. This was the first time where gay marriage was actually revoked. Conservatives say it’s a “moral” issue. But what the hell is moral about stripping rights from people? What the hell is so amoral about two consenting adults who make a lifetime commitment to each other?
But, I digress.
Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out pointed out that this isn’t matter of race as some would like it to be. Education, Besen says, is the primary factor that drives a person’s vote on gay marriage:
Think of it this way. 57 percent of white people with a college education voted No on Prop. 8. Yet, 58 percent of white people with no college voted yes on 8. In other words, uneducated urban black people vote very much like uneducated rural white people.
Uneducated people – black, white and Hispanic – often derive their power from physical strength. They perceive being gay as weak and antithetical to real manhood. By voicing support for gay rights, they lose status and often fear rivals may perceive them as gay. The easiest way to gain status is dissing faggots. I see this attitude all the time in Brooklyn – in the gym and on the basketball court, where I often play. (Not the best sample, I realize this)
Meanwhile, educated people of all races gain power by outsmarting opponents – not beating them up. This creates a safe space to support gay rights and not lose social status. (Unfortunately, the fact that the conservative black church is a central organizing point for politics makes even educated blacks less likely to vote for gay rights. But, this is secondary to education levels.)
There comes a point in every election where fingers are pointed to lay the blame for failure. The GOP has been attempting to point their collective fingers at Governor Sarah Palin for their loss this year. And like the Republican party, many of us in the GLBT community are blind to the reality of our own failures – on so many levels.
Just as the Republicans are blinded to the reality that they are completely out of touch with society, those of us who are pro-gay marriage are often blinded to the reality that we are out of touch with the reality that it’s still okay to hate gay people. In many circles (including some of Besen’s examples of uneducated groups), the use of the word “faggot” is perfectly acceptable.
We have been out of touch with the reality that churches have the most influence on a huge segment of our population, and the anti-gay venom that’s spewed across pulpits all across the country has not diminished. Parishioners everywhere will nod their heads as they’re told that God destroyed Sodom because of homosexuality, and never once read for themselves what really happened.
They’ll say “amen” when they’re told that Romans chapter 1 is an outright condemnation of gay relationships, and never stop to look at the context of that chapter, which is actually discussing the evils of idolatry.
But this isn’t a debate over Christianity and gay rights. At some point, there has to be a conversation over simple fairness. The notion that “majority rules” has brought out the very clear reality that there is indeed a “tyranny of the majority,” and we should be mindful of the dangers of such oppression.
In his piece, Besen gives four major suggestions in how we should continue this discussion. One is particularly important:
We must also have substantive discussion with the African American community – as many of you have suggested. But, until we raise education levels, there is only so much we can do to win support of urban blacks – or rural whites. In other words, scholarships for urban blacks and rural whites are as effective as spending money on education specifically about gay rights. Keep this in mind.
Education is indeed an effective way to reach those who are opposed to gay marriage. However, it’s a little too nebulous a concept without a little down-to-earth common sense, which comes in the form of a commentary by Keith Olbermann, the MSNBC anchor that conservatives love to hate. His latest piece is on gay marriage. His most powerful point is the fact that the US has “re-defined marriage” quite regularly, and that it is a good thing:
I keep hearing this term “re-defining” marriage. If this country hadn’t re-defined marriage, black people still couldn’t marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.
The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn’t have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it’s worse than that. If this country had not “re-defined” marriage, some black people still couldn’t marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery.
Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not “Until Death, Do You Part,” but “Until Death or Distance, Do You Part.” Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.
You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.
And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn’t marry another man, or a woman couldn’t marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage.
How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the “sanctity” of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?
Olbermann’s commentary is thankfully not a voice in the wilderness, and more Americans are coming to realize that marriage between two consenting adults is never a bad thing.
No matter how we reach out, the most critical solution is for us to reach out and to have solid, genuine discussions on the merits of same-sex marriage. We’ve learned how dangerous it is to assume anything, now we must learn how to scale a mountain of ignorance.
We can’t avoid it any longer.