Someone Else’s Victory: Anti-Gay Legislation Passes

First they ignore you,
then they laugh at you,
then they fight you,
then you win.


(Thanks for that reminder, Jennifer.)

Frank Capley and his partner Joe Alfano hug as they hold signs during a same sex marriage demonstration October 15, 2007. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Twenty-four hours ago, like so many Americans, I was wandering the jubilant streets in a daze. Complete strangers cheered and danced together, wept and embraced. The tension we’d held in our bodies for untold years seemed to flood out through the soles of our feet and into the gutters. It was a historic night for everyone.

But the joyful tears have already evaporated on my cheeks. My heart is still breaking, because at this point, it looks like California’s Prop 8 will pass by a narrow 3-4 point margin. Prop 2 in Florida and Prop 102 in Arizona have been voted in as well. Once again, majority rule has demanded that we inject the most base and despicable kind of bigotry into our constitution.

Don’t get me wrong… those of us who supported Obama’s campaign have many reasons to rejoice right now, and we should. Keep dancing, keep hoping. Please know that I don’t mean to detract from everyone’s happiness today. But the success of three constitutional amendments written explicitly to deny two people who love each other equal rights and recognition under the law is devastating.

Many of you have already seen the footage I posted two weeks ago in Nadya’s Prop 8 thread after being assaulted by a group of Prop 8 demonstrators. Just in case you haven’t, I think it’s worth reposting. Be warned, the screams are deafening. You’ll want to turn the volume down:

The Face of Proposition 8 from Theremina on Vimeo.
Read my full account of the incident here, if you like. I’ll freely admit my bias, but this is not agitprop. Rest assured, their behavior was just as horrific in person.

In the weeks leading up to last night’s election, in my experience and that of millions more activists across the country, this was the true face of Proposition 8. If you can watch it and still insist there’s nothing inherently cruel, disturbing or divisive about the underlying motivations to ban same-sex marriage, forgive me, but I’m not open to discussing the matter further with you. It would be pointless. How could I ever reach affable agreement with anyone who insists on relegating gay Americans to second class citizenship?

Silver lining: the main reason supporters of a ban on same-sex marriage are kicking up such a row is that on some level, they realize they’re a dying breed. That sooner than later, this kind of litigation won’t be any more acceptable than the irrational mob rule endured by other minority groups in the past.

Traditionally and historically, the institution of marriage has been more about security and property than religion, or even love itself. Ironically –given the rage and denial of so many people who claim to follow the teachings of a loving and compassionate Christ– I dare say marriage is never more purely about acknowledging love than in this context. I know that if she were alive today, Mildred Loving would agree. Because keeping folks “separate but equal” never results in equality.

A few more preemptive statements for any H8r who might turn up here to challenge my thoughts on the validity of same sex marriage, or more to the point, to insist that the deep abiding love that can exist between same-sex partners is not comparable –or equal— to that of heterosexual couples:

Pair-bonding between two men or two women is as natural a fact of life as any other. No matter how many tantrums you throw, no matter how many bigoted laws are passed, your hatred will be dwarfed by that love, engulfed by that love, drowned in that love.

No matter what you say, I know in my heart that no one can ever be damned for loving, and that screaming about God’s wrath won’t end love.

The government can’t stop love.

Regardless of whether or not this archaic, cowardly amendment survives, those of us with more open hearts and minds will continue to love who we love. We will not stop celebrating the choices of our family members and friends to declare their love publicly and ceremonially.

Your arbitration is nothing but a bilious speck of spittle flying in the face of that big, beautiful love.

Love, kiddo. If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s almost certainly good enough for you.

Love is all you need.

33 Responses to “Someone Else’s Victory: Anti-Gay Legislation Passes”

  1. Steve C. Says:

    This was really beautiful. I was immensely disappointed to hear these results, even while I was flooded with joy about Obama’s victory. I wasn’t sure what to do. I had a conversation with my brother to this same end last night. One thing we know, is that laws like this cannot live forever. They have swept our country over the last five years, but they will leave again in such a sweep – in time. Barack Obama has been elected president, and that is a major blow to any proponent of hatred and bigotry still out there shaking their fists.
    I’m sharing this post with my friends who have struggled to get to this conclusion this evening. Love is all we need, and we’re getting it rolling.

  2. Celeste Says:

    All I can say is that I could not agree with you more. I am truly horrified, disappointed, and appalled that this could happen. I feel naive for thinking that the majority of people in my state were willing and able to look past social prejudices and questionable moral obligations to uphold something as fundamental to our nation as civil rights and equality.

  3. Dave L. Says:

    Suit has already been filed against Prop. 8. And from what I’ve been able to tell, there’s a good chance that it (Prop. 8) might be struck down based on procedure, since its scope places it more in the neighbourhood of a Constitutional Revision than an Amendment.

    Fingers crossed.

  4. Karen Says:

    Thanks, Mer.

  5. Jennifer dG Says:

    Let them fight and rage — they’ll run their course and increasingly reveal how weak their reasoning, how flimsy their moral ground is. I’m so sad and frustrated, but we’re all about love in our side of the fight, just like you say, Mer, and love gives you more lasting strength than hate.

  6. Tequila Says:

    For any of us who have Gay friends or understand the basics of what it means to be Gay and openly Gay, we can see beyond the sexual side of it. Religious fundamentalists refuse too. They see anyone openly Gay as living a sexually deviant lifestyle.

    That’s a hard ignorance to fight. They don’t see themselves as hating gays so much as disapproving a lifestyle choice. Even the violence against Gay’s by people who do honestly HATE Gays is seen as “Well it was their choice to be Gay, so they must live with the dangers that come with it.”

    You can’t reason with people like that on a social level let alone on a political level. These are people who justify abandoning their own if they come out. That’s how committed they are to being against it.

    At this point after all the violence, manipulation by religious institutions, and frankly inability for State governments to understand BASIC HUMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS…it needs to go to a Federal level.

    That means Senators and people higher up the food chain influence wise need to take the risk to make Gay Marriage legal like others did about dissolving segregation and racist laws.

    I’d like to think Love can conquer all…but like that video shows above and countless others online highlight…

    These people don’t know or understand what love is. I’m sure they think they do but even basic human respect seems a foreign idea. They need to be put in their place and bullied back if need be…be it via the law…or other means.

  7. BlueAnchorNatasha Says:

    I woke up early this morning to a text message from my boyfriend, disappointedly informing me that prop 8 had passed. I then tried to ease the anger and nausea rising within to roll over and go back to sleep. As exhausted as I still was, it took over a half an hour to finally fall into a restless slumber. I woke up with a stomach ache. How can I possibly tolerate living in such an ignorant world? A world where prejudice, ignorant, religion-wielding, descriminatory people collectively use outright lies and manipulation to swing votes against something they cant even wrap their narrows minds around? With any luck, with Obama’s standing against prop 8, he may be able to take action against it. Otherwise, I would rather not even live in such an intollerant, ignorant country. It may even be the principle of the thing, but here we go again, Im sick to my stomach.

  8. Jason Juta Says:

    Just look on this miserable affair as a temporary setback my friends…good luck…

  9. DJ Velveteen Says:

    Don’t forget – we live in the past. Hundreds of years from now, our ancestors will look back on us and laaaaaaugh…

  10. maz Says:

    Thanks for picking up on CA 8, FL 2 and AZ 102. The “conventional media” is of course having an Obamagasm and missing some of these hypocrisies in the new, equality-for-all America.

  11. Lydia Says:

    Thank you for this post. Beautiful.

  12. jessu Says:

    I live in Massachusetts, and in 2004 I went to a protest at the state house when the legislature was voting on a similar amendment. The people I was surrounded by… it just broke my heart. Our side was so full of love and light and joy, and we were met with seething hatred.

    Religious groups came by the busload. Children running about screaming the worst insults you ever heard. At one point they put two children on a bus, and had them stand in the window. One wore a devil mask, and one held a ‘God hates fags’ sign while the bus circled the block.
    I could not make this shit up.

    Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then. But I will never forget that day. When I think of the same struggle still happening in CA and thoughout the country, it just kills me.

  13. Shay Says:

    There truly is a sour taste coming from the passage of Prop Hate in this otherwise joyous occasion.

    To reflect a minute, there’s something interesting going on here from a socio-linguistic point of view. The notion that you discuss – that people marry out of love – is a relatively new idea injected into a very old practice, in part to conform with more modern conventions of nuclear family and women’s lib.
    The social contract had changed so much from its original social-religious meaning, that people who partake in a wholly different form of relationship wished for their union to fall under the same category. With good reason, particularly due to the various official changes in social status and government benefits that turned what was once a contract with religious undertones into a venerable rites de passage that most every person believed they deserved for themselves.
    Then come conservatives, who wish either from bigoted hatred to the new group or from a fundamental concern with the persistence of what they perceive as a religious term to forbid these so-called newcomers from falling under the same category.

    Look what’s happening here; The fight is over a word; the extension of a term.

    I remember reading Mormon scifi author Orson Scott Card argue that there is no ban on gay marriage; They can get married, under the term he considers to have always meant ‘marriage’ – that is a union of man and woman. All he wants is for us liberals to leave his words alone, and not make his ‘holy’ unions coextensive with what he perceives as ‘sanctimonious’ unions of same-sex partners.

    The libertarian in me says “fuck it”, government shouldn’t interfere in these personal and religious matters and should anyway abolish its recognition of marriage as an official status, preferring a ‘civil union’ category if we decide that such a union is a social good. Religious weddings could be a form of civil union, or perhaps anyone going into wedlock would need to go to cityhall anyway. Either way, with the removal of the semantic problem, it becomes a purely a matter of civil rights without forcing religious people to accept a change in their terminology they find offensive.

    But then the atheist (and, okay, the realist too) in me kicks in, and says another “fuck it” for good measure, followed by the rhetoric that offending people is none of my concern. If the word ‘marriage’ today commonly means the official union between loved ones, then the religious people can sod off, its anyway a matter of civil rights, and anyone with a semantic argument would need to demonstrate how the term marriage has always meant what they believe it meant – which it clearly has not – and that it is somehow a social good for the evolving term not to include these same sex unions – without resorting to religious-based arguments – which they also clearly cannot.

    [… Wow I should copypasta this to my blog, I’m on a roll here.]

    Leaving only bigoted hatred, and that, my friends can be fought, with unity and determination.

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi

  14. Al Embic Says:

    The romanticist in me wants to say that marriage is a word, and nothing more. I want to believe that two people in love need nothing other than that love in order to be happy. The humanist in me realizes that marriage is an idea that we are brought up believing in. We imagine that sacred bond that will tie us together through good and bad, an adamantine thread making one from two. The cynic in me knows that the same people who rally against besmirching the sanctity of marriage abandon it more often than not.

    The twice-tested divorcee in me can tell you with dread certainty that marriage is not magical, nor relational panacea. It is neither a day full of cake and flowers nor happily ever after. It is messy, complicated and full of wild and powerful emotions. Maybe that’s why this is such a turbulent issue. It will fill your heart to breaking if only you are willing to make it work. I would argue that anyone willing to make the sacrifices, and endless efforts deserves praise regardless of the gender of themselves or their mate.

    The child-like optimist in me hopes that some day we can live up to our promises, and live by the simple lessons we learn before we are taught the ugliness of the world. Live and let live. Love and be loved.

  15. Vivacious G Says:

    I love Gandhi.

    And we will.

  16. Rex Parker Says:

    The legality of gay marriage in most of the US is practically an inevitability. Not that we should quit fighting – just that all these anti-gay props are simply evidence that so many people now actually have no problem with gay people having the same rights as straights. This is what terrifies the religious right.

    Attempts to enshrine disenfranchisement in constitutional form have never, ever worked. The anti-gay side of this issue is fueled only by ignorance and irrationality, and tenacious as those things are, they won’t hold up in the face of long-term cultural shifts in attitude. In the end, legislation won’t change things. People will have too much direct exposure to gay people to hold any ill will toward them, and that will be that. To quote Homer SImpson, reading incorrectly from the cover of a right-wing comedy album, “This things I believe!”


  17. Ashley Says:

    Thank you for writing this. your beautiful post has reignited my wavering hope.
    long time reader/lurker.

  18. Kris Says:

    I just can’t believe that is this day and age there is so much turmoil about wanting to love who you love, and be with that person. I wish more people in the world had an out-look as inspiring as you do, maybe then it wouldn’t be such a dark, and terrifying place to be.

  19. The Language of Bigotry | Total Eclipse Says:

    […] response to a post on Coilhouse concerning the passing of Proposition 8 in California to end gay marriages in the state, I wrote […]

  20. clare ck Says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for voicing these ideas in a really beautiful and respectful way. I have been wrestling with being torn between the thrill of victory for our newest president, and the agony of defeat for our basic human rights.

    You said it well. Thanks again.

  21. Luai_lashire Says:

    My family watched prop 8 every bit as closely as we watched the presidential and senatorial elections. I was incredibly disappointed, although not remotely surprised, when it passed.
    Something I’m seeing in the comments here, though, is a focus on a couple’s right to love. And frankly, I think that’s only a very small part of the issue. Legally, marriage is more than just a validation of one’s love; it conveys legal rights and privileges you don’t get otherwise. There’s a tax break, but also a much greater ability to adopt children, and a right to sponsor your spouse for citizenship if they haven’t got it (which I think someone here mentioned on your previous post about prop 8). So it is actually even more of an offensive and cruel violation of human rights that it would be if it were just about love.

    To finish this comment, I’d like to ask you all to read something. It’s long, but it’s very well-written, and although it’s not specifically about gay rights, it’s about the same human impulse being felt by these anti-gay bigots. Because a lot of the time, it’s not actually about hate and fear. It’s about ego. Many of these people- not the ones screaming insults, but the ones who are worried that their kids might be taught about gay marriage in school, etc.- are just unable to accept that they have to give up this tiny little privilege so someone else can have basic human rights. They perceive it as an attack on themselves. Anyway, the author explains it far better than I can, so here it is:
    (You guys should all follow her blog too, it’s brilliant. She blogs about disability and autism rights, ableism, and the dynamics of human interaction)

  22. Mer Says:

    Thanks, all.

    @Luai Of course, I realize the motivations behind fighting for gay marriage are far more complex than just validating love. I think everyone here realizes that, or at least, I hope they do.

    I wanted to specifically focus on that aspect because I’m convinced that rejection of the concept of love between gay partners as being as deep and valid and real as the love between hetero couples is at the very heart of homophobia, and the main reason why propositions like this are even an issue.

    Also, because I’m a maudlin sap. ;)

    Incidentally, I’m a longtime follower of Amanda’s Ballasexistenz blog. She’s a remarkable lady. I’ve been meaning to get in touch with her for aeons to arrange a Coilhouse interview. Thank you for that reminder, and for linking to her here.

  23. Jon Munger Says:

    The last hurrah of a dying breed. They had to spend literally millions and millions of dollars to terrify ignorant people into voting it down. Think about that: they HAD to spend that money, because otherwise they’d lose.

    We get up, wipe the blood off our noses, and realize this was their best shot.

    Now it’s the time for sanity, reason, and compassion to win. I have faith in that, for once in a long time.

  24. Skerror Says:

    Petition that shit!

  25. Ashbet Says:

    I heard about the Proposition 8 results when I was in the bosom of my chosen family, celebrating the presidential election. It hurts so much to know that my beloved girlfriend couldn’t marry me if she wanted to (aside from the fact that we’re both, er, married to other people — long story there, but it’s a wonderful and warm and complex story.)

    The idea of drowning their hate in the power of real, true, and enduring love very much resonates with me. Here’s hoping that, in the next four years, we can bring the country back into some degree of sanity, and that we can get rid of the second-class citizenship currently accorded to same-sex partners.

    I’m just sick about how the LDS Church rigged the Prop. 8 vote, especially since they’ve been a persecuted group in the past. I don’t understand how they can deliberately oppress someone else when they’ve experienced the same level of government intervention in their relationships.


    Here’s hoping.

  26. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Excellent post, this.

  27. anonymous Says:

    I would like to take a moment of your time to ask you to please not be upset with the minorities. It was not our fault that prop 8 passed.
    I know that finding a scapegoat happens. I believe that the no on 8 campaign is going to solidify into a strong enough movement to defeat the hatred of the LDS and such.

    But you have to understand that the Latino vote in particular was actually split almost like the overall vote. 53% in favor. This is really an incredible achievement over the previous proposition where support was higher.

    Yes it is perhaps true that hispanics are majority Catholic, yet it is also true that in Latin America there is a prevalence of the more liberal leaning liberation theology backgrounds.

    I point you to the fact in many of the more cosmopolitan regions of Ibero-America there is legally recognized gay marriage Mexico DF, Spain, Argentina. Uruguay and Ecuador have civil unions.

    One of the most famous youth pop groups has not an only an openly gay member but a married, openly gay member Christian

    I ask you to please not be angry at certain demographic groups. Not to overlook the vicious and nasty propaganda that the Yes people ran which included a horrible betrayal of the youth by an ex popular actor Eduardo Verastegui
    Please don’t allow the xenophobia to consume the state in your disgusts over the results.

    No group is to blame for the passing of this horrible, disgusting, and cruel law. The deceptive and unfortunately far more efficiently run campaign of the Yes people took advantage of the fears and misunderstandings of MANY kinds of people.

    If the No on 8 people had reached across the boundaries of race and politics to other groups previously persecuted perhaps this could have gone a different way. The beautiful ad that actually mention the very important and relevant issue of miscegenation did not play in the airwaves until far too late.

    In many ways the failure to protect rights was a result of No on 8 campaigners resting in their laurels of a preconceived victory in light of early positive polling.

    A campaign that made big issues out of previous miscegenation laws, out of the issue of rights and also importantly the issue of the economy might have won the day.

    A very important factor in the rise of wedding accessory sales that boosted the local economies should have been used as incentive to approve and accept gay marriage.

    The whole religion thing should have been contained earlier. The lawsuit that was mentioned in Yes on 8 ads was never fully addressed as the sham it was, it had nothing to with the church’s beliefs but the use of public property.

    Hatred can not be defeated with hatred, unfortunately that would be too easy. It can only be defeated with understanding, education, reason and love.

    Do not become upset people but reach out to them and embrace them even in their ignorance, for this is the only way to prove that what they’ve been told is so very wrong.

  28. S3 Says:

    I am completely ashamed to be a Californian right now. Truly. There is something very symbolic though, at least to me, in the lone voice breaking through the loud screeching of the opposition.

  29. Brock McCoy Says:

    Ashamed to be a Californian? At least it went Obama, I assure you there are more hostile places than WeHo for those guys. When I brought Prop 8’s defeat up to one of my more flamboyant friends he blew it off and said, “People get married for the wrong reasons all the time anyway.” The country isn’t perfect, but it’s been worse.

    Don’t be sad, go to the Audrey Kawasaki and Friends Show at Thinkspace in LA!

    A few photo incentives here.

  30. PUREVILE! Says:

    I think Margaret Cho said something like “What kind of government would deny a gay man the right to bridal registry!?!?!?!?”

    Not trying to be flip…but just turning to comedy to mask my anger/frustration…Prop 8 is one of about 5 acts like this to be passed…I think Florida actually passed on that included denying not only same sex but single people from adopting children!!!!!

    As long as sexuality …specifically homosexuality is thought of as a “choice” we will NEVER be legitimized!!!! And HONEY if it WAS a choice I would choose it EVERY TIME!!!!!

    It wasn’t that long ago that inter-racial marriage was illegal…It wasn’t too long a go that all our presdients were WHITE….This too can be overcome…Let’s just not get complacent…We can celebrate and still protest….These are basic human rights we’re talking about…we need to get back to the streets and make our voices heard!!!!!

    Thank you for the support Coilhouse!!!!

  31. Red Scharlach Says:

    Olbermann hits it out of the ballpark:

  32. Jane Don Says:

    Prop 8 will not be overturned. The will of the majority was expressed democratically. So be it.

  33. Mer Says:

    Jane Don is mistaken.

    People made the same short-sided, knee-jerk statement about miscegenation laws. Thankfully, our courts are set up to protect American citizens from majority rulings like this one.

    By the way, Prop 8 is flimsy as hell. It won’t hold up. “Mob rule” like this never does in a truly democratic system.

    Let’s review, shall we:

    • Prop 8 clearly discriminates against gay citizens.
    • Prop 8 has no effect on the tax exemptions of churches.
    • Prop 8 has no effect on teaching or the protection of parental rights already provided by state law.

    That “protect the children” puke was a smokescreen. Absolutely no logic behind it. A scare tactic.

    Flimsy. Unconstitutional. Destined to fail.

    While under the scrutiny of scores of law professors, Prop 8 campaign heads weren’t able to produce one single rational, respectable expert to back up ANYTHING they claimed/intimated to get it passed.

    As long as we’re still in America, something as fundamentally unconstitutional as this is bound to be overturned. It’s only a matter of time.

    “So be it” my fat Aunt Fanny, lady.