Eyes on the Prize

I want to write some words of encouragement to my friends in California and across the world who experienced, like me, the very personal defeat of the passage of Proposition 8 last week. While I am disappointed in this result, I remain encouraged in the overarching victory of the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States. While we may have lost some battles that night, including Prop 8, Obama’s election bodes well for LGBT folks. Let’s take the long-term view.

Prop 8 succeeded in large part because of the final ugly push by the pro Prop 8 bigots that preyed on people’s basest fears and prejudices. The Prop 8 folks organized a last-minute effort of robocalls aimed primarily at African Americans and some Democrats who they knew would be supporting Barack Obama. I received one of these calls on Election Night on my cell phone which has a 415 area code (they must not have had in their notes that my wife and I were the second couple married at San Francisco City Hall in 2004). The calls featured an audio quote from Barack Obama where, in his own voice, he says that marriage is between one man and one woman, followed by another voice urging voters to vote yes on Prop 8.

Obama did not give permission for them to use his quote for this purpose, and he adamantly opposed Prop 8.  In response to the robocalls last week, Obama issued this statement:

As the Democratic nominee for President, I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law…And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states. For too long, issues of LGBT rights have been exploited by those seeking to divide us. It’s time to move beyond polarization and live up to our founding promise of equality by treating all our citizens with dignity and respect. This is no less than a core issue about who we are as Democrats and as Americans.

When has any other candidate seeking the Office of the President came out with an unequivocally supportive statement of gay rights like this? And for the first time in history, a President Elect said the word “gay” out loud in his acceptance speech.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled — Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It is a new day, and I am ever hopeful that we will have equal rights one day soon.

Trickle Down Hatred

On Sunday this week, Jim Adkisson saw fit to shoot up a Unitarian church in Knoxville, TN. His motivation? Hatred for liberals and gay people. I believe that this is the fruit of the Right-Wing agenda, promoting intolerance in combination with the right to bear arms and the belief that this is their mission from God.

And my belief is reinforced by the story in the New York Times today, reporting that senior aides to Attorney General Gonzeles broke the law by using politics in their hiring practices.  Monica Goodling, who is at the center of the investigation, was caught awarding Justice Department jobs to less-qualified right-wing political hacks instead of qualified candidates who were believed to be gay or lesbian, or who had political leanings that were not in lock step with the Republican agenda.

The American Family Association has been saying lately that don’t want to be accused of being motivated by hate, as evidenced by their recent boycott of McDonald’s. But when the beliefs they espouse are used to justify actions like Jim Adkisson’s last Sunday, I think it’s fair to call things what they are: Violence against gays motivated by hate that is promoted by the likes of Monica Goodling and the AFA.

The conservative Christian Right-Wing is deliberately spreading fear and hatered towards gays and lesbians, and pushing their anti-choice, pro-death penalty, pro-gun agenda on the rest of the world. I’m not generally a conspiracy theorist, but when I hear about people like Monica Goodling, a graduate of the late Pat Robertson’s Regent University’s Law School blatently discriminating against people because she thinks they might be queer, or she thinks they might be pro-choice, I see a conspiracy afoot.

And its feeding the ideology of people like Jim Adkisson who feels he has some God-given right to go shoot up a church on a Sunday. I hope that justice will be served in both of these cases.

Freedom of Expression

My dad sent the following letter to Oklahoma Representative Sally Kern last week:

Representative Kern.

I just heard your remarks about gays. I am a 76 year old successful business executive who has known many gay persons at work and in society. All of them have been very productive and loving and kind. None of the deserve the hate that you are broadcasting. This is the trouble with this nation. People like you become misinformed and believe what they hear and become divisive. You are in a position of trust where you are supposed to represent all of the people. Gays make up over twelve per cent of the population and their friends and relatives expand that to at least twenty five per cent or more.

Do you feel responsible in your representation when you bash over one fourth of your constituents?

I ask you first to reconsider you hateful position and then become informed so you can represent your constituents properly. I can guarantee that you will be a much happier person as well.

My dad rocks. He’s one of my greatest role models. I thought this was an incredibly generous and hopeful response. My sister wrote to her, too, expressing her love and acceptance of gay people, and expressing her concern about Kern’s views (or more accurately her ignorance) about Islam and Muslims.

I can’t remember exactly what I wrote when I submitted my signature to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund open letter to Kern, but the general point was that I believe that Kern must know that her views are prejudiced, ignorant, and shameful. Otherwise she would not have expressed herself in a private audience where she believed her views wouldn’t be exposed.

My beloved pointed out that Kern is simply exercising her freedom of speech, and she has every right to her opinions. I couldn’t agree more, and I hope that more of her ilk come out into the light and expose themselves as the hate mongers that they are, especially if they are educators and hold public office as she does. People who hold office have a responsibility to represent and protect the rights of all people in their communities, even they don’t like them.