By Popular Vote

Today is the first day that same-sex couples are allowed to get married in the state of Washington.  The legislation permitting same-sex marriage was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Chris Gregoire on February 13, 2012, but it was stayed pending a vote of the people.  In every instance of same-sex marriage going to the vote of the people, it had been voted down.  But the general election of 2012 would turn out to be more interesting than all the years prior.

Washington was not the only state voting on same-sex marriage.  Maryland had also passed by same-sex marriage through its legislature and the people of the state were voting, too.  The people of Minnesota were voting on whether to ban same-sex marriage in their state.  And in the state of Maine, the people were voting to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage which was put in effect in 2009 after same-sex marriage was signed by the the governor earlier that year.  National polls in recent years have showed a shift in favor of same-sex marriage, but that has never played out in state contests.  Earlier this year, North Carolina voted 61%-39% to ban same-sex marriage… becoming the last southern state to put a ban in place.

gay-marriage-debate-thumb-320x240-9845Most eyes on election night were focused on the election of President and which party would control Congress.  But as the night went on, the results of these ballot measures began to come in.  Maine was the first state to announce that the voters had overturned it’s ban on same-sex marriage, making it legal in the state, by a vote of 53%-47%.  With that vote, it became the first state to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage.  In hindsight, it seems only fitting since it was the first state to approve same-sex marriage through the legislature and with the signature of its governor.  It was a risky move since if it had failed, it could have set back the movement in the state for years to come, but the LGBT community was allowed to rejoice.  Maryland would come in next.  By a vote of 52% to 48%, same-sex marriage was again approved by the voters.  This marked the first time a state, which did not have a ban on same-sex marriage in place, approved of gay marriage through a referendum after having it passed by the legislature.  And here’s a quirky bit of history to go with it.  Maryland was the only colony originally set up with Catholicism under the Calvert family.  Seems to be a bit ironic.  The LGBT community held its breath for the state of Minnesota.  Never had a state voted down a referendum to ban same-sex marriage.  Arizona did briefly in 2006 but approved a different one in 2008.  But again, the winds seemed to be pushing forward.  The people voted 51%-47% not to ban same-sex marriage in their state.  It didn’t make it legal, but it left the door open for it to happen one day in the future.

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It was stated at the beginning, more or less, how the state of Washington ended up voting.  The final vote was 53%-47% in favor.  Why might this be important.  I stated earlier that national polls had shown a shift by the people to support same-sex marriage recently.  In a poll conducted from November 16-19, same-sex marriage was supported by 51% with 40% opposed.  This was preceded by another poll, this time conducted by ABC News/Washington Post from November 7-11, found that 51% approved and 47% were opposed to same-sex marriage.  And just to add one more layer onto this, a June 6 CNN/ORC International polls showed that 52% approved same-sex marriage with 42% opposed.  This is a dramatic shift in support as only 25% approved of same-sex marriage in 1996.  By looking at the percentages in the states Maine, Maryland, and Washington, they are pretty much right on the national poll numbers.  The state of Minnesota, voted down their marriage ban by almost the same numbers as well.

Critics of same-sex marriage have always changed their tactics.  When state courts started overturning laws that violated that particular state’s constitution, the opposition started declaring that the legislatures had to approve of such things.  When legislatures started approving same-sex marriages, critics started saying that a vote of the people should make the determination.  Then they would set out on a ‘fear and smear’ campaign to get voters to approve of same-sex marriage bans.  But with some states, victory for equal rights had already been accomplished.  And with the passage of time, people have been able to see the lies that came with the ‘fear and smear’ campaigns of earlier years.  As the years continue to progress, it would seem that same-sex marriage will only garner more and more approval from the people.  States that currently have bans in place might even follow Maine and vote to overturn them.  But one must wonder since referendums in support of same-sex marriage have now been approved by the people, and a referendum banning same-sex marriage has been defeated in the same way, what will be the opposition’s next move?  No matter what it is, history has already dictated what that outcome will be.

Echoes of 2009

Well here we find ourselves…on the final day of 2009.  And as I sit back and look at the past 12-months, all I can say is that it has been quite a year indeed.  It has had its ups and downs and even its turn-arounds.   Yes, 2009 definitely marked a major turning point in the LGBT-movement here in the United States and even in other parts of the world.  And we also had to cope with high unemployment and even a major economic recession but we still managed to push our way through it and come out the other side of it better than we had entered the year.

We were all surprised early on in the year when Iowa legalized same-sex marriage.  This was followed by Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire.   It was quite an exciting few months.  News was just flying all around.  Even New York tried to get into the game, but state politics got in the way there.  New Jersey was trying to get into the mix, but election night hampered that though they did still try before the legislative session ended.  Washington state passed the “everything but marriage” legislation.  It ended up going to the voters, and they narrowly approved it.  Several places throughout the country also added sexual orientation and gender identity to anti-discrimination laws.  We can’t forget that the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes Act was also passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, which included both sexual orientation and gender identity.  The Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) is making its way through Congress…as is legislation for LGBT immigration reform.  And we even brought light to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell…though it got pushed off until next year… with the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) taking a back seat to other things during this economic recession.  It was on election night in November that we all watched the biggest turn-around of the year as Maine, which had approved same-sex marriage through the legislative process, overturned gay marriage with a vote of the people.  It was a major set-back…but one in which we learn our lesson and continue to progress forward.  There will be another day to fight in Maine and to get back the rights that we are entitled to.  With a March on Washington, and even marches in our own communities, we made sure that our elected leaders knew how we felt and that we are citizens, and voters, too…and that we deserve equal rights with everyone else.

It wasn’t just here at home that we saw events unfolding.  Argentina began to make a big turn in LGBT rights…first by letting same-sex couples adopt and then approving same-sex marriage.  Portugal is even considering same-sex marriage at this time.  And just a week or so ago, same-sex marriage was approved in Mexico City.  Australia opted not to allow civil unions…though it wasn’t a vote of the people than it was the decision of Australian Prime Minister.  And then there was horror of 2009…. the first steps toward genocide against the LGBT community in Uganda…with Rwanda working on legislation, as well.  The Uganda bill would bring about the death penalty for someone for being gay and life imprisonment for anyone who knows and doesn’t turn the person in to authorities.  It is the dark cloud upon the horizon and one that threatens to rip the very fabric of our community apart.  It will be like the witch hunts of colonial times ending with something similar to Hitler’s Final Solution.  We have brought our community to stride on this…and are working to make sure that none of this legislation comes to pass.  And as we close 2009, the end result is still not known.

Every great movement has its set-backs, and we must not forget to learn from them so that we can make sure that they aren’t repeated down the road.  With all the ups and downs that have transpired over the past 12-months, 2009 will go down in the history books as a major turning point in the LGBT movement.  Remember this little piece….that in 1776, the year the United States declared its independence from Great Britain, General George Washington lost more battles than he won…and yet, in the end, he was the one that persevered.  So let us not concentrate on our losses but instead continue to move forward and work for a better tomorrow as one people fighting for our glorious and righteous cause.  As we begin 2010, the wind is at our backs and the stars are out to guide us.  So let us not stray from our course but sail directly toward the end, and we shall see what’s in store for us all in 2010.

Flashback

It was only last November when we all watched history unfold on election night.  And then, on that very same night, we watched a truth unfold that brought us to our very knees as we watched Prop 8 in California pass by a significant margin.  It was then that we swore never again would we take underestimate our opponents and refused to let it happen again.  When we learned that we’d be fighting for protections in Kalamazoo, Michigan; domestic partnerships in Washington state; and gay marriage in Maine, we responded by saying that we were up for the task and that we would be victorious.  Our opponents would know the true nature of our resolve.  And we could show them that we have the ability to adapt to their tactics yet again.

On this night, we did win our victories in Kalamazoo, Michigan and in the state of Washington.  But we all knew where the big fight was…where everything was being placed on the table.  It was in the state of Maine where we were fighting for our rights to marry.  And once again, we had to sit here and watch as positive returns turned negative and gay marriage was overturned.

We organized a grassroots campaign.  We out-raised and outspent our opponents.  We called people and talked to them on the streets.  From every demographic, we left no one out and took nothing for granted.  And yet, we somehow lost again.  So is there something that we’re not doing?  Is there something we should be doing differently?

This one victory tonight for our opponents will emboldened them yet again to challenge us and our rights in another state.  Sure, we might have won two out of the three contests, but the one we lost was the biggest of the three.  And when it comes to gay marriage, something seems to mobilize our opponents even more.  We must, as a unite community, adapt to their tactics and prevent this from happening again somewhere else.  We have made great strides in 2009, and it is sad that as the year comes to a close, it could not have had a momentous celebration for equality.  But we must not allow these strides to be reversed in the coming year.

I think we did learn our lesson with Prop 8 in California.  We did everything we were supposed to do in Maine.  We just somehow came up short with the votes.  We should make a note that it wasn’t a simple victory for our opponents as it was last year.  This time, it was close.  We can see that our society is changing.  We have to work to keep progressing it.  A slight bump might have been hit, but it has not stopped us or our momentum.  We will continue our drive, we will continue our progress, and we will succeed in the end.

They say that history favors the bold.  Well, there’s nothing bolder than fighting for equality for all citizens…for all people.  Continue to stand strong, continue to fight on and be persistent, and continue to rise up and persevere.  The future will always be in our hands…and is on our side.  Remember that we did manage to post a couple of victories tonight that would have seemed next to impossible just four years ago.  A minor set back tonight can be changed with an even greater victory tomorrow.  So let us not lose hope for we will fight again another day.  I’m reminded of the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Fire from Heaven

It was on February 15, 1898, when the US battleship, the USS Maine, exploded suddenly as it sat in Havana Harbor in Havana, Cuba.  The result of this explosion was the start of the Spanish-American War…and the rallying cry “Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain!”  But now, a different Maine is on the brink of exploding onto the front pages of history.  And the consequences of this could be disastrous.  The state of Maine, through the republican processes upon which this nation was founded, passed a law that legalized same-sex marriages earlier this year.  It was the fifth state to do so and was a monumental victory for equality.  But the opposition wasn’t about to take this lightly.  Instead, they gathered their signatures and are once again turning this into a situation where majority rules over minority rights.  And why shouldn’t they?  After all, we all watched as Prop 8 passed in California in November 2008, when a majority stripped away equal rights.

In 2009, we have made great strides in equality from coast to coast.  From New England to the Midwest to the Northwest, there have been good people who have been willing to stand up for the greater good of all citizens.  But yet again, all of these strides are under attack from those narrow-minded individuals that think that just because they believe in something that we all should, too.  We sat back and watched Prop 8 pass thinking and believing that it wouldn’t.  This time around we must not be so idle.  We must not take any step for granted.  We must be willing to stand and fight.  These rights are for us and for all those generations that come after us.  We must be willing to put up a defensive position and hold our ground.  We must prove to our opponents that We Can and We Will adapt to their new tactics again and that we will fight for our futures.  A new rallying cry shall come forth…”Remember Prop 8 before it’s too late!”

We are going to fight in Maine!  We are going to fight in Washington!  We are going to fight in Iowa!  We are going to fight in Wisconsin!  Prom coast to coast, we are going to gather in force to hold our ground…to hold our rights…and to push the opposition back to halls from which they came from.  No longer will we allow them to walk all over us.  No longer will we allow them to control our Future and our Destiny.  The time has come!  The moment is Now!  The line is drawn here.  It will be 2009 that history will record as the turning point in the equal-rights revolution.

But none of this can be accomplished without all of us working together for our common future.  We must gather in places like Maine, Washington, Iowa, and Wisconsin to ensure that the voting masses are aware of what is at stake and how they can change history.  We will set the world and heavens on fire this November with our fortitude, our determination, and our courage.  We will show that a new age is upon us – one that brings together all ages and all walks of life that can work together for the greater good of all.

There is no other time and no other moment.  This is when we step up.  This will mark our turning point.  I know that I will be in my place fighting for my rights and yours.  The question you must ask yourself is where will you be?  Are you willing to answer the call of the beating drum to battle?  Are you willing to stand up and fight for your rights?  It is My future…It is Your future…It is All our futures that we are fighting for!  And now let us mobilize – let us defend – let us shock the heavens for ourselves and for our future!

Remember Prop 8 before it’s too late!!

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