Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dealing with Victories and Defeats

by Mark Gerardy

Back on election day 2008, it was a great day - a Democrat president after an eight-year hiatus, a Democrat-majority in the House and Senate, many Democrat governors, almost everything was perfect - except California's anti-gay Proposition 8 narrowly passed.

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to get everything that you want in one full-swoop?

Some elections, it has been good just to get anything that you want. Any victory, anywhere. Rarely, if ever, does anyone get every single thing that they want, either for Christmas or on Election Day. It's life.

Election Day 2010 probably will not be as good as 2008, and there will be fewer presents. I am fairly certain that despite my best efforts, unfortunately one of the Colorado Senate seats will go to openly-homophobic Republican Ken Buck. Between that and less Democrats in the Senate and House, things are not going to look very good for awhile.

There will be some victories, and probably more than just a few defeats. All ready to get started on 2012? Grrrrrr. I don't blame you, I will probably just be recovering from this last election, and will not want to see another negative television advertisement for a long time, and two years will not be long enough.

However after the smoke clears by the morning of Wednesday, November 3rd, we will have what we have. In two years, Barack Obama has appointed over 150 GLBT persons as policy officials, advisers, commission members, and other high-level staff members - more than Bill Clinton appointed in eight years. These may not be at the same level as Senators, but they are currently working as architects for social change.

DADT is like the Texas two-step: forward, now back, now forward three steps, now back three steps, docie-doh. Swing your partner. In-the-closet, out-of-the-closet, in the doorway of the closet, half-in and half-out with a half-assed policy that no one can figure out anymore. One thing is true however - the DADT homophobic beast is near death. It is no longer “if”, it is a question of “when”, but at least we know that it is soon to be another nightmare that is over.

The death of DADT will then open the door to the next GLBT battle that the community and elected officials collectively decide to tackle. That will most likely be repealing DOMA.

I have a lot of respect for Barney Frank, and I think that we should dedicate resources to getting ENDA passed too, however DOMA is the real fight to gear up for real social progress. Like DADT, DOMA is something to repeal, not pass like ENDA; like DADT, DOMA has also been ruled unconstitutional by several lower courts and is making its way through the appeals process.

In theory, the more conservative that a person is politically, the more that they should be pro-marriage, including same-gender marriages. Conservatives abhor both promiscuity yet are also against same-gender marriage, essentially offering nothing except impractical empty rhetoric – cold showers and prayer to their God, and that really does not compare to falling in love and making a home together. They are unwilling to acknowledge that millions of gays and lesbians are not just going to instantly divorce the one that they love, dismantle their homes and families, and magically march single-file back into the closet to appease the delicate sensitivities of the far-right's need for religious self-validation and thus tip-toe around the personal convictions of religious extremists.

As far as personal convictions, such as family, commitment and community go - this is where ultimately more and more moderates will reluctantly begin to at least quietly agree with same gender marriage as acceptable public policy - as long as they maintain their own personal feelings about what works for them personally within their own families, homes and churches. The far right inherently lacks objectivity, on many different levels, as they contradict themselves into a corner of absurdity. They cannot have it both ways: don't be promiscuous because this is irresponsible – but don't be monogamous either and be responsible. The far right's attempts to exert social control over GLBT persons to be relegated as "non-sexual" has already been lost per the Lawrence v. Texas decision.

Eventually the question will become, what values do the American people stand for - that should be applied to everyone equally? This without carving out exceptions when convenient to fulfill a social vendetta against another group.

After DADT fails, then next question to come to us is:

"Should we within the GLBT community consider or accept a National Domestic Partnership law granting federal recognition to civil unions, at least as an interim step?"

Before you resoundingly exclaim "no!" - consider that essentially this is consistent with the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in the wording of the bill that addresses "permanent partners". UAFA actually fits in synch as one small piece within a larger national domestic partnership law.

I have talked with many people across the country, and the average American cannot separate personal convictions from public policy. For many, they cannot separate secular civil marriage from a religious marriage and spiritual bond. Their knowledge of the Constitution is extremely limited. Christine O’Donnell, who is running for Senate representing Delaware, actually did not know about the First Article of the Constitution that establishes separation of church and state. Even after getting an education by her opponent, Democrat Chris Coons, she had the audacity to publicly exclaim that she gave him an education and thus claimed victory in the debate - despite being almost laughed out of the room by law students.

I believe that we can get 70% of what we want by taking the interim step through a national domestic partnership law granting federal recognition to civil unions, especially one that includes immigration. Certainly the best situation of all is to repeal DOMA, but I question how possible this will be with Anthony Kennedy as centrist in the middle, who ideologically probably is on our side, but is also a practical man, too. The far right already shrieks "Judicial Activism" to the point that a 5-4 GLBT victory overturning DOMA by SCOTUS also might cause civil unrest and a resulting bloodbath. Kennedy is not stupid, he knows this. The question for Kennedy becomes “is it worth it to enshrine your legacy as being on the right side of history, eventually, but at the cost of starting a small scale civil war”?

Texas and South Carolina have already saber-rattled in the past about succeeding from the Union - a victory of this magnitude might just cause a militia movement and a homophobic backlash that actually begins to parallel the 1960s civil unrest with marching in the streets, riots, beatings and water hoses. This might sound like a lot of fun to the angry GLBT crowd, until you hear the words "permanent disability", “pain” or "death". As angry as you are, there will always be someone else who is angrier, bigger, and/or has a bigger weapon than you and is seething with homophobia - and civil unrest is not worth the drama. Moderates who are caught in the crossfire could easily blame all of the mayhem on gays wanting too much too quickly – and then side with the far right. Martyrdom is overrated too - the love within our families and commitments are more important than fighting hate out in the streets. The ends do not justify the means.

Next time you lament about how progress is so slow, consider the above. As the next two years might take us past DADT and into DOMA/UAFA territory, perhaps it is a reasonable discussion to consider not asking for the whole enchilada just yet. There is a pragmatic aspect to compromise, and one is bringing our own foreign-born partners home or being able to keep them here with us in our homes through a quicker process to sponsorship as an auxiliary benefit to a national domestic partnership law.

Selling out? Perhaps, but the deal is not over, and will not be until we get the whole enchilada, but just like Christmas, you don't always get everything that you want. We won't on Tuesday, November 3rd and it takes time. If you want to get your loved one back in your arms quicker because you only have so much time left in your life, then maybe it is legitimate to be practical and get the dialog restarted within the GLBT community about a national domestic partnership law that includes immigration benefits.

So, if early November gives you the chills after the elections, consider that there are still opportunities out there. We may need to just think more about coming together in the middle. It may result in us being able to accomplish something more than we expected.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

You're right, many Americans have no idea what the constitution says, actually believes we were founded as a "Christian nation" and can't separate their religion and what they personally believe as "right and wrong" from what should be actual civil law. I have too have talked to many people that buy into the "protecting traditional family" garbage and a good percentage of them will say "I'm fine with civil unions, but not marriage, because the bible says homosexuality is wrong and marriages are a church function". You can point out all you want that separation of church and state is already law, not just some "agenda" and that people getting married in Vegas to people they've just met in front of elvis impersonators isn't sanctified by the church but it's still legal, and people just won't let it sink in. If we fought hard for civil unions right now, stopped talking about marriage for the time being, and said all the things we say now about marriage for why we need it, I think it would pass fairly quickly. Polls show over 60% of Americans approve of gay marriage, if the question were civil unions that would probably jump to 80%. Let America get used to that, let FRC, NOM, AFA, et al become obsolete organizations that no one knows about anymore, and then push again to rename it marriage. It's really just semantics. As much as we don't want to admit it "separate but equal" came before desegregation and probably had to, that's how Americans think as disgusting as that is. I would rather have the rights now and argue terminology later. My wife and I are not getting any younger, and we can't wait forever.