Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Aftermath

The sense of elation I feel this morning is tempered by a deep disapointment in my home state of Florida and my adopted state of California, both of which have passed anti-gay ballot measures (along with Arizona and Arkansas). California's Prop 8 is particularly dispiriting for a number of reasons. The main reason is that it's a constitutional ammendment, which will make it very hard to undo. It's also, for the first time, a striking down of existing marriages. Think about that. A wafer-thin majority of Californians voted to dissolve legal marriages between hundreds (thousands?) of loving couples. And when you look at the map of how people voted, it's even more disapointing: voters out in the sticks where no gay people live basically killed it. People living in the city, interacting with gay people every day, were all for it.

On the plus side, California still has civil unions. And I guess that's what it will have to be for now. On a practical level, that's basically the same thing, but it's still disapointing to know that most of the country still thinks like this.

And what's so frustrating is that I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that 10 years from now, not only will gay marriage be fully accepted, but people will be wondering what the big deal was, and these people campaigning against it will look like the same kind of backwards knuckleheads that were against desegregation. Why do these people insist on being on the wrong side of history? Well, here's some words of encouragement from Andrew Sullivan:

But some perspective from someone who has fought this fight as long and as personally as anyone in this country. Twenty years ago, equality of gay couples was a mere idea. Forty years ago, it was a pipe-dream.

In the long arc of inclusion, we will miss our goals along the way from time to time. Today, we have full marriage rights in two states, we have many civil marriages in California that will remain in place as examples of who gay people really are, we have civil unions in many more places, and marriage rights in other parts of the world, as beacons to America. And this is a civil rights movement. It goes forward and it is forced back. The battle to end miscegenation took centuries. These are the rhythms of progress. Sometimes losing, and being shown to lose, shifts something in the minds of those watching as a small group is punished for daring to dream of full civil equality. In this battle we have already had far more defeats than victories. But each time, we have come closer to our goal. And in the hearts and minds and souls of so many, we have changed consciousness for ever.

Even more upsetting is the failure of Prop 5, a beyond-reasonable attempt to ease prison overcrowding by moving non-violent drug offenders into rehab programs instead of jail. Why this is even controversial is beyond me. I'm starting to think that the line about Pennsylvania being Alabama between it's two big cities could just as easily apply to this state. (On a positive note, Prop 5's evil mirror image, the draconian Prop 6, also failed.)

But let's look at the bright side. In California, we passed Prop 2 (by a pretty decisive margin), a bill which brings the standards of animal confinement up to what should be considered the bare minimum for a civilized society. High-speed rail and non-partisan redistricting also passed, as did the city and county initiatives for improving our transportation infrastructure and allowing the construction of more low-income housing.

And in the rest of the country, lots of good news as well. Massachusetts decriminalized posession of under an ounce of pot. Michigan approved medical marijuana. Anti-abortion measures were defeated across the country, most notably a ban on all abortions in South Dakota and an attempt to define a fetus as a person in Colorado, as well as the partental notification initiative in California. So it seems like a progressive agenda is catching on with Americans. They're just still hung up on the gay thing.


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