Friday, November 21, 2008

The Piss in My Champagne: Obama Wins, Gay Marriage Loses

I was overjoyed when Barack Obama won the presidency. I had been working at a phone bank for him, calling registered voters, for about 2 months before the election, and before that, I had been busy reposting articles and promoting him on social networking sites like "Facebook" and "My Space."

I was talking on the phone to my girlfriend the night of the election, and I couldn't believe how fast things happened. The polls closed at 8 PM here in California, and by 8:15, CNN was projecting Obama as the winner! McCain conceded around what seemed like 8:30. I couldn't believe it! No big election fraud. No recounts needed (at least not for Obama). No legal wrangling. McCain gave it up in a dignified and gracious speech, and then it was just time to celebrate!

Well . . . except for one niggling little thing. It was starting to look like Proposition 8, which would ban gay marriage in California, was going to pass. By the next day, almost everyone agreed that it had passed, and Los Angeles County stopped issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. That was like piss in my champagne, I have to tell you.

Let me fill you in on a little background: I do not consider myself gay. I have been bisexual all my life, although I tried reeeaaallly hard not to be until I was in my mid-thirties. I had crushes on a few girls, and I mentally and emotionally explored bisexuality, but I didn't do anything about it. I figured: I can live a straight lifestyle with none of the discrimination gay people face. Why borrow trouble? The story of my acceptance of being bisexual, however, is a story for another day. I just wanted to note that I am not, nor have I ever been, a big promoter of the "Gay Agenda," as the right-wing Christians like to call it.

Neither, just for the record, do I want to get married. Not to anyone: male or female or transgendered. Okay, if Angelina Jolie were available, I might consider it, but otherwise. . .

So the banning of gay marriage didn't mess up any of my plans, or the lives or plans of anyone very close to me.

When the original ban against same sex marriage was overturned this spring, though, somehow I started subconsciously thinking that I had the same rights as everyone else. I knew from personal experience that not everyone agreed with gay marriage. Hell, some of my fellow Obama phone bankers disagreed with it. That's their right; this is America, after all, where we are all allowed to have our own opinions.

My personal opinion has been, if you think something is wrong, don't do it. If you think abortion is murder, for God's sake don't have one! If you believe homosexual relationships are sinful, don't have a homosexual relationship. Likewise, if you think -- like the Pope does -- that birth control is wrong, then don't use any (although I do have some ideological problems with world population rates). If you agree that imbibing alcohol or caffeine is against God, like the Church of the Latter Day Saints (AKA the Mormons), then don't imbibe. Christian Scientists think you are going against the will of God if you receive medical care, and the Jehovah's Witnesses say you will go to Hell if you have a blood transfusion. Thankfully, none of these beliefs have been codified into California or national law at this time.

In America, we don't base our laws on our religion. Some of you probably have a different opinion about that too, but as I said, you're entitled to it. Our Founding Fathers (and Mothers) had seen Europe torn apart by religious wars, and wanted to protect our country against that by separating church and state. If you disagree on that one, you are still entitled to express your opinion, but I suggest you find your own damn country if you decide you want to enforce it.

That's one of the things that worries me about the passage of Proposition 8. If it's legal to take away the rights of the minority with a ballot proposition, then the majority can take away the rights of any minority, as long as you can get enough people to vote for it. Fortunately, I don't think you could get a majority of people to vote to overturn inter-racial or inter-religious marriages, or anything that stupid, but it bothers me that it might be legal if you could.

Anyhoo, somehow I'd acquired the crazy notion that if I were out and proud - 24/7 - that I wouldn't encounter a lot of discrimination. You know, I'm talking about wearing the T-shirt and the jewelry, French kissing my girlfriend in public, that sort of thing. Well, that's one illusion brutally ripped away. No, I don't expect to be beaten up or lose my housing because of my same-sex partner, but I'm not completely sure about how it might affect a job or how people might treat me in public. Yes, I've been a wimp. Just like with being bisexual, I've tried to avoid personal discrimination when I could get away with it. I was out to my friends, and by now even my mother has guessed (although we don't actually talk about it), but until now, it was something I thought would be best kept private.

You'd think finding out that 52% of my fellow Californians found something objectionable about the idea of my marrying another woman would make me even meeker, but you'd be wrong. Nope, I've broken out the Freedom Rings, and have worn those puppies out in public. Even to the phone bank, although not to job interviews. And I've joined a whole bunch of gay online communities, and have no problem identifying myself as a gay person, even though, like I said, technically I'm bisexual. Somehow the passage of Proposition 8 radicalized me instead of making me want to lay down and die.

Now, do I want to take a flame thrower to the Mormon Temples? No (though I sure had the urge to tear down those stupid "Yes on Prop. 8" signs posted on public property, like freeway entrance ramps!). I don't even blame the Mormon Church itself. Not all Mormons supported "Yes on 8," after all, or even voted for it. Same for Catholics. Nor can we ethically blame a racial minority questionably identified in a small exit poll (70% of African Americans voted for Prop. 8? Really? Are you sure?).

I'm blaming the people who put this proposition on the ballot, donated money for it, and put on those despicable TV ads saying the not passing proposition 8 would mean homosexuality and gay marriage would be taught in schools, churches would lose their non-profit status, and people would be sued over their personal beliefs. Gee, I thought lying was as much a sin as homosexuality. Now, none of those things had happened since the ban had been overturned in the Spring, but most of those people probably actually believed what they said. Their ads told people that gay marriage threatened kids in school, and straight Californians freaked out. I wish they hadn't, but I can understand why they did.

So, do I hate the "Yes on 8" people? No, nor do I believe that most of them hate me. I believe that most people who voted yes on Proposition 8 don't believe they voted against my civil rights. Most of them - even some of the people who put the proposition on the ballot - don't believe they are being hateful and don't understand why we feel so hurt and oppressed. They honestly believe we are somehow trying to force our own beliefs on them, and they don't like it. Welcome to the club, folks!

Recently some of the Prop. 8 supporters made an announcement that gay marriage proponents were attacking them physically and attacking Mormons emotionally by demonstrating in front of Temples, which LDS followers consider to be very sacred. Someone anonymously sent unidentified powder to a couple of the temples, and while it turned out to be non-toxic, I'm sure it scared the people who received it to death. Maybe the people who received it didn't even believe in Prop. 8. Now we are being called terrorists.

I also want to add that gay people probably believe their marriages are just as sacred as the religious right people do, and they feel just as attacked by "Yes on 8" as the Mormons do by the demonstrators.

Some people have posted lists of people and businesses who contributed to Prop. 8 online, complete with website addresses, street addresses and phone numbers. I really hope that does not encourage same-sex-marriage supporters to act hatefully against Prop. 8 supporters. Speaking of which, have you ever noticed how hateful people always look so awful on TV? The calm, rational people always come off better? If not, watch of tape of today's Dr. Phil show about gay marriage.

Public protest is fair game, and writing respectful letters to businesses and public people is fine. Boycotting companies is legal and ethical. Outing private people to their employers is not, and neither is protesting at someone's house, saying or writing disrespectful things to them, or taunting their kids at school. Violence against people or buildings or cars or whatever is completely unacceptable, as are threats.

If we act in a hateful, immature, intolerant way - calling names, yelling, throwing eggs - we will prove to our detractors that we are the Godless, immoral, unlawful people they believe us to be.

If we treat them the way we want to be treated, with tolerance, civility, and maturity, we will show them the better angels of our natures, and the normal, everyday love we have for our families.

I do not intend to have my rights taken away without fighting for them, but I think our best chance to win is with love, communication, tolerance and fellowship. Obama has recently showed us how hope can win over fear. Let us show our fellow Californians - and the world - that love can win over hate.