I'm still emotionally distraught after last night, so this is mostly going to be about me trying to make sense of everything that's happened over the past 24 hours. I'm going to be writing an article about Prop 8 and change for my school newspaper, but unfortunately, I'll have to censor myself (damn the handful of conservatives lurking at this school), so I'm going to pour everything out here and then trying to organise it into some semblance of a fair, respectful, politically correct editorial.
Let's start at the beginning. A year ago, I didn't care about the election. Five months ago, I was crying over Hillary Clinton's announcement that she was officially conceding. Two months ago, Hillary's speech at the Democratic National Convention convinced me to get the fuck over myself and rally behind Obama, who, despite having no experience, was still a Democrat with the same policies as her. Around the same time, McCain announced that he had chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate, and I decided I would rather bash my head repeatedly into a wall than support a Republican candidate. Thousands of editorials and spoofs, three presidential debates, and one extensive campaign later, I found myself holding my breath for Obama, and then bursting into tears of joy when he was announced the next U.S. president.
I'm thrilled for Obama, I really am. I still have my doubts. I'm not ready to accept his vague, groundless promises of change yet. But in the short time between his winning the primaries and his winning the presidential election, he gave me reason to believe in him and support him, and that says a great deal about his character. He's a good man and a worthy leader. I have faith that he will be a good president, regardless of whether or not he can bring us back to the Clinton days during his term.
Everyone keeps saying Obama's election represents a historical moment. I couldn't agree more. I feel blessed to have been a part of it, even though I couldn't vote. I'm actually proud to be American (well, not officially, but you know what I mean) for the first time since I moved here. Our country's ready acceptance of his leadership despite the colour of his skin gives me so much hope -- hope that we're ready to start climbing out of the hole we dug ourselves into over the course of 8 years of Republican bullshit; hope that true equality is attainable, even if we aren't quite there yet.
On the surface, it certainly seems like we're heading in the right direction. In many respects, we are. But look deeper, and you'll see that intolerance still lurks under the glamorous cover of Obama's win.
The success of Proposition 8 dealt a devastating blow to the progress the gay rights movement has made over the past few years. I can't even put into words how furious and disappointed I was when I found out it had officially been passed and still am. I think about all those gay and lesbian couples who rushed to get 10-minute marriage ceremonies in the hours before the polls closed, and then I think about heterosexuals who can spend tens of thousands of dollars on wedding ceremonies only to get divorced a few months later. How is that fair?
It's not even about rights. It's about our society as a whole acknowledging that the love between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is just as valid as the love between a man and a woman, which it is. There are hundreds of gay and lesbian couples out there who have been together for thirty, forty years. They didn't think they would ever live to get married like a regular couple. They finally saw their chance to when California overturned the same-sex marriage ban this year. Now that it's been taken away, we're back where we started. Discrimination is still entrenched in our supposedly liberal state's law. Sure, the ones who managed to get married in time are lucky. But from here, it's an uphill battle. Legally they're still married, but who says the millions of ignorant people who supported Yes on 8 will recognise them as such?
I'm going to be frank: I don't have much respect for people who knowingly voted yes to overturn same-sex marriage. Whatever their reasoning is, it's shit, and I'll tell you why.
Religion -- these are the people who insist they have gay friends but still secretly believe homosexuals will go to hell for what they do in bed. These people claim they love the sinner but not the sin. They're either closeted homosexuals or bible-thumpers who are too cognitively simple to accept anything their religion doesn't dictate for them.
Churches - these people think churches will be discriminated against if gay marriage is made legal. They argue churches will be taxed more heavily and could very well be sued if they refuse to marry gay couples. That is flat-out BS -- if churches don't have to marry every heterosexual couple that approaches them, why the hell would they be required to marry every gay couple that approaches them?
Marriage -- these people want to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage because it's a religious institution. They argue that same-sex couples already have all the rights they need under civil unions, so why do they even need marriage? In other words, they want to reserve society's highest level of acknowledgment of love for heterosexual couples. They don't think it's right to redefine concepts that have been rooted in society since the beginning of time; i.e. they don't like change (so I would assume they're the people who still pay their bills in paper and write cheques rather than using their cards). See "cognitively simple" under "Religion".
Families -- these people don't think it's healthy for children to be raised by same-sex couples. They believe children need a mother and a father, because apparently two fathers or two mothers aren't appropriate role models or won't be able to love their children enough or *gasp* might turn their children gay. I have two things to say to these people: 1) single parents and 2) this.
Education -- these people don't know anything about Prop 8. They noticed in one of the Yes on Prop 8 campaign's ads that Prop 8 will force teachers to teach their students about gay marriage and take them to gay weddings. (Because yes, teaching kids about tolerance is that destructive. God forbid children become gay because you tell them it's acceptable to be.) Again, that is another flat-out lie -- schools aren't required to teach their students about marriage, and Yes on Prop 8 got in trouble and had to redo their ads.
In other words, I have no sympathy for people who insist they're kind, tolerant people who just happen to support Prop 8.
But it doesn't just end in California. Last night was a bad night for gay rights all over the country, in Arkansas, Arizona, and Florida. Arizona and Florida both passed amendments that would ban same-sex marriage, and Arkansas went so far as to vote yes on a measure that wouldn't allow same-sex couples to adopt or foster children. That's the most sickening, depressing thing I've heard in a long time. The only reason why I'm more upset about Prop 8 is because I expected something so blatantly intolerant from a white trash state like Arkansas, but I thought Californians were above that.
Unfortunately, there's no real conclusion to this note. I've accepted what happened, I guess. Obama said it himself: change is a gradual process. I can't expect too much at once. We're getting there, and I have hope that we will get there eventually. I believe in the open-mindedness of our generation, and I know we'll do the right thing when the power is in our hands.
I promise my piece in the DT will be more coherent and perhaps a little less offensive, so I will post that when it's up :p
I'll leave you with one final quote by gay rights lawyer Evan Wolfson: “There's something deeply wrong with putting the rights of a minority up to a majority vote. If this were being done to almost any other minority, people would see how un-American this is.”