I wrote this just after the Presidential election and the passage of Proposition 8. I’m posting it here, because sadly I feel this piece is still relevant. The fight against Prop. 8 is still on going, and quite frankly, the fight for true equal rights for homosexuals will be an even longer one. Discrimination seems to be a vehicle that never runs out of gas:
Prop. 8: Discrimination Still Strong
The word “change” had been multiplying like overly eager bunnies- too fast even for Sarah Palin to keep in check with her rifle. It had been spoken over and over again, and the thought of it actually getting here was beginning to leave one on the edge of their seats. But then it finally happened. The President most able to wear “change” on the lapel was chosen. Television cameras captured the tears of the speechless. The ones still able to speak were shouting, “Yes, we did!” And a culture simply couldn’t believe one of their own was able to rise up through the ranks and become the leader of a country that had at one point treated them as if they weren’t equal enough to have the same rights as everyone else.
The setting is 44 years into the future, and a homosexual has just become President-Elect.
The time is now, though, and the African American Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, has just won the Presidential election. He ran his campaign on the concept of “change.” And now that he has won, “change” has supposedly come. An African American is the leader of a country which used to enslave blacks.
But has this popular being called “change” ever really arrived? Or have our problems simply changed form?
An amendment to California’s constitution, called Proposition 8, was passed on November 4. A state usually known for its liberal values (i.e. Hollywood) has passed a bill which has put in the trash the ruling of California’s highest court that had legally allowed same sex marriages. Other states similarly adopted the same idea. Arizona and Florida both banned same sex marriage. Arkansas, which doesn’t allow same sex marriage, made it impossible for gays to raise children since a bill was passed there that doesn’t allow any unmarried couples to adopt or become foster parents. Is this what we call change? Take a big Obama step forward only to get a Proposition 8 push back?
Proposition 8 defines marriage as being only between one man and one woman. According to a Yahoo! News article, “Thirty states now have adopted such measures, but the California vote marks the first time a state took away gay marriage after it had been legalized.” Instead of progressing forward toward continued change, change has actually been taken away.
“[Proposition 8] is a form of discrimination,” Diana Montgomery, a lesbian friend of mine, told me.
The argument for Proposition 8 is to protect the institution of marriage. An Americans for Divorce Reform estimate states that “Probably, 40 or possibly even 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if the current trends continue.” That’s as high as it has ever been. It’s as high as President Bush’s approval rating was low (okay, maybe marriage isn’t doing that bad). If anything, it looks like marriage needs to take a good, hard look at itself.
Two of my closest friends are gay. I’ve seen their same sex relationships first hand. I’ve personally seen the holding hands, the loving kisses, the hugs, the constant desire to be around each other, even the tears when things were ending. Now, I may not have coined the word “relationship,” but that sure sounds like one, gay or straight. Something tells me that marriage could use good relationships from wherever it can get them.
The thing that completely baffles me are the people who voted for Proposition 8. Obama had won California. He is a gay rights supporter, although, not a gay marriage supporter. I guess the dirty words to say during an election race are,” I support gay marriage.” (Other no-nos: “Muslim” and “President Bush will be at my rally”). An online San Francisco Chronical article states that the exit polls had showed that 70 percent of African Americans voted for the amendment. It appears that discrimination has a tragic sense of ironic humor. You cannot justly compare the struggle of the civil rights movement to this oppression against the gay community. There haven’t been any known cases of gays being lynched or enslaved, but the idea is still present: the African American community had been seen as less than people, beings who should have no rights. They were seen as fundamentally wrong to what people should look like or act. The gay community is facing the same dilemma. They are facing an oppression of identity.
Homosexuals have for a long time now had to put up with discrimination. Sure California did have that four month period where same sex marriage was legal. Sure there are Massachusetts and Connecticut who still allow it. They are the only two. In PA, you can legally be fired for simply being gay (guess being gay is on level with constantly showing up to work late or stealing). Can you imagine the backlash that last statement would bring if “gay” was replaced with “black” or “woman?” People would claim racism, sexism, and a return to what we would all like to believe is the old, minority way of thought.
What will it take to stop the discrimination? To shut down this engine that just keeps going? Does the gay community need their version of Rosa Parks to stand in the front of a marriage license line and refuse to leave? The real Rosa Parks sat in the front of that bus, reserved for whites only, as if she couldn’t take it anymore. Discrimination, bullying couldn’t even let the simple act of sitting be. That was the last straw. Maybe Proposition 8 will be the last straw for this generation of people who aren’t seen as real people. Maybe the “I have a dream speeches” will come for them. I would like to believe that the real Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would not have wanted an “except for gays” amendment added to his most famous speech. Maybe, in 44 years, we’ll be applauding a President-Elect made of change once more.