Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Historic, Dizzying Night; A Bright, New Day

Some Perspective on The Big Win and Our Own Painful Losses

Last night was electrifying and historic to say the least. To have an end to Republican rule and a Democrat back in the White House after all our hard work -- and to see Democratic control of the Congress expanded -- is a magnificent feeling in and of itself. But to have the first African-American president is something above and beyond that in terms of what we, the people, have done.

We have also beat down Colorado Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, the face of antigay bigotry in the House, the sponsor of the federal marriage amendment, who lost her race last night. And we have elected another openly gay man to Congress -- from Musgrave's state -- as Jared Polis joins Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin next year. There are other, less obvious victories that we should cheer, and I'll be talking about them as we go on. It's a time of celebration.

But it is bittersweet for many of us because of the losses we have incurred on ballot measures in several states. We lost Florida, where proponents of Amendment 2 needed 60% of voters to win; they got 62. We lost Prop 102 in Arizona. We lost the gay adoption measure in Arkansas. And Prop 8 in California looks really bad right now. Over 90% of the vote is in as of this morning and we are losing by a thin margin. We could pull it out, but it doesn't look likely.

It's devastating for us all and heart-breaking for those who worked so hard in the fight. But we've been down before and we have picked ourselves up. We will do that again. We must realize that our movement is young -- much younger certainly than the black civil rights movement -- and we are going to have losses, sometimes very big ones, and there is no easy way to full civil rights and equality. We have also made mistakes, and there's got to be a lot of soul-searching about tactics and strategy. Many of you know I've said that for a while with regard to these ballot measures, and you better believe I'll continue to do so.

And yes, prominent politicians -- our Democratic allies among them, including the next president -- have a contradictory position on marriage for gays and lesbians and we must demand they change it if they want our support. It has hurt us. We can no longer put up with their conflicted positions.

In truth, however, there is still a lot of hate and misunderstanding out there, and that is really at the bottom of what happened last night. We have our work cut out for us in battling that hatred and ignorance. And we are certainly much better off doing that in the new Barack Obama era, having come out of the ugly Republican era that has dominated this country for so long and has been at the heart of what we've been confronting for many years. That's certainly a huge step forward, for the whole country but particularly for LGBT rights in the long run, and we must keep that in mind. It is something we should be ecstatic, proud and thankful about, moving forward to take on the very big challenges ahead.