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Election 08
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Miami Beach, Fl
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
November 4, 2008   photo-album Bookmark and Share

Years from now, it’s possible people will ask us, “Where were you on Election Night 2008—when Barack Obama made history as the President-elect of the United  States?”  We won’t soon forget the joyous cheers, the jubilation, the hugs and tear-stained cheeks—at Lucky Strike Lanes, where we celebrated the returns with the entire Miami Beach Gay Bowling League.  All over the Beach, there was such excitement: at Obama’s de facto Miami Beach headquarters, Halo Lounge, where a balloon drop signaled victory, and all along Lincoln Road where people smiled and high-fived, united in relief, and on Washington Avenue, where car horns blared through the early morning hours.

Of course, if you were a member of the LGBT community, Election Night 2008 wasn’t entirely sweet.  Consider that in California, voters granted rights to chickens—while discriminating against LGBT citizens. The passage of California’s Proposition 2 means that farm animals have been freed from their cages—while Proposition 8’s passage means that happily married gay Californians will have to find a new home to call their own.  In other words, you can take your wedding cake—and eat it in Massachusetts.  Clearly, the rights of gay people mean less to California voters than the rights of chicken, pigs, and cows.  Nice, huh?    

Oh, and then there was Florida, where gay marriage is already illegal, and which (until yesterday) was the only state that statutorily bans gays and lesbians from adopting children under any circumstance—but no, that still wasn’t enough for Florida voters.  They voted to write discrimination into the state constitution, barring gay marriage and any future recognition of civil unions, as well as the repeal of all city and county domestic partnerships.  Apart from the obvious, the immediate impact of this latest proscription will likely be the prohibition of health insurance benefits for any and all domestic partners.

As went Florida, so did Arizona, where voters also approved an amendment to their state constitution to enshrine a ban on same sex marriage—while in Arkansas, voters supported a proposal to keep all unmarried couples (read: gay people) from adopting children and from serving as foster parents.

What has made Election Night in recent years so difficult for so many of us in the LGBT community is that, thanks to television personalities such as Ellen and Rosie, and shows such as Will and Grace, and films like Brokeback Mountain, and supportive court decisions in the New England states, we allow ourselves to believe that we have been accepted into American society—only to find out on Election Night just how unacceptable we are to such a large percentage of the populace.

As the New York Times reported, Proposition 8 in California was supported by large swaths of the church-going African-American and Hispanic populations—groups that conceivably took their lead from African-American President-elect Obama who repeatedly voiced his opposition to gay marriage.

There’s a disconnect here—it’s okay to vote for an African-American, while repressing LGBT people?—and it reminds us of our recent attendance at an Out in the Park celebration in Miami Beach, where we attempted to photograph one participant—who was too fearful of being seen at a Gay Pride rally.  People!  Now that the Bush regime of fear and intolerance is coming to an end, might we ask that all LGBT sisters and brothers of church-going people stand up and be counted?  Let your congregations know who you are.  Speak to your families; come out for your rights, and your right to be.

This isn’t about “tolerance.”  We don’t want to be “tolerated;” we want to be fully embraced as American citizens, invested with the rights of full citizenship--such as the roughly 1,138 benefits that the United States government provides to legally married couples.  We’re tired of working in the kitchen.  We want our place at the wedding reception—and not just as caterers.

Here’s what we’ve done ever since gay marriage became a wedge issue for elections: we’ve boycotted every wedding we’ve been invited to--except for the ones that take place in the states that have granted us marriage rights.  Let's reward socially progressive states--and penalize the others.  Why should we support institutions that persist in keeping us second-class?  We don’t do second class.  And none of us as LGBT Americans should settle for second-class citizenship. 

As President-elect Obama said last night, "This victory alone is not the change we seek—it is only the chance for us to make that change."  It’s our choice.  It starts from within.  Yes, we can—if we want to.


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