The Day After a Hard Night
National Center for Lesbian Rights
Déjà vu is welcome when it flashes us back to a welcome or happy memory. Today déjà vu is not so pleasant. The loss of marriage rights in Maine is a traumatic reminder of our Prop 8 fight in California. On election night one year ago, I spent a sleepless night tormented by every thought of what might have made a difference. My colleagues in Maine spent just such a night. Same-sex couples in Maine have been dealt a dehumanizing setback. And we are all diminished by this loss. But after 12 months to ruminate and recover from what happened in California, I have some insight for them.
One: Yesterday’s loss, while a real setback and a crushing disappointment, is only a temporary setback. We all know the end to this civil rights story–we will win full equality. But it will be a path marked with pain and brutalizing defeats.
Two: It is a travesty of every principle that made this nation great that the rights of a minority group can be put up to a popular vote. There are many ignominious moments in the history of this country, moments of shame that were corrected by Courts or by legislative action. If those great strides, in Women’s rights, in the rights of religious minorities or of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans or American Indians had been put up to popular vote we all know how those votes would have turned out. The shame would have endured. And the taint on our Democracy would have continued.
Third: And there is no polite way to say this–one cannot claim to be fair-minded and still support measures which deny full equality. You either support full justice and civil rights and equality or you don’t. Period. End of side-stepping and excuses.
For my friends and family who support civil unions or domestic partnerships but do not support the full equality of my 16-year relationship and the security of my two children which rests on that full equality–and yes, that means marriage, right now, in this country–you have to get off that fence. We are past the moment when you can claim support of me and other LGBT folks you know and love and yet still stand with those who deny us marriage. To not support marriage equality, right here and right now, means you believe that same-sex couples are less valid, less equal, and less deserving. Such a position is untenable with any claim that one is “fair-minded.”
We are in a difficult moment. This is a hard day. But we can’t lose hope or stop believing in the rightness of our cause. We have the privilege of living in the midst of our own civil rights movement. The cost of that privilege is the same cost it has been in every movement–our humanity and dignity is attacked and undermined and
we stand tall, never give up, and never lose faith. Today is a test, and we must be the measure of it.