No on Prop 8: Two Views from the Same Side

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How could the Religious Wrong possibly be ahead in the polls regarding California’s anti-gay Proposition 8?

How? If that dangerous, divisive bill is passed, it would render Ellen DeGeneres’ marriage – and thousands of other legal marriages — null and void. Now, some will say that the hate-mongering, religion-motivated measure is leading in surveys because of the money flooding into the state from non-California right-wing churches. Some will say it’s because of the incendiary, fear-inducing, television-shown lies they call ads.

Both are true: But there is also this question: Are GLBT people and their allies doing enough to engage people outside their own circles?

I saw two different views on, of all places, the entertainment news site Jossip. Both of these people rightly oppose Proposition 8, which would limit civil marriage to one man and one woman, and both put some of the blame for the campaign so far on gays and lesbians themselves.

View 1

We are losing on Prop. 8, here in California, in part because so much of the gay community has capitulated to both fear and the expectation of those around us to be, ultimately, respectful. So, even long time “partners”–those together for 20+ years, refuse to bring up their relationships to their families, they don’t hold hands across a table at a restaurant or in a shopping mall, and certainly they (out of respect) often avoid small displays of affection in front of the extended members of their family.

This works well enough, for we are largely unseen for whom we really are, even to the folks who are closest to us–or who we believe to be closest to us. I understand that I may be speaking to a demographic of the gay community that is marked by age or region, but I think that largely, this holds true. We fade at family dinners, while dining at restaurants, and even when walking down the street….because social conservatives ask us to.

This is a struggle for legitimacy–both the gay rights struggle, as well as the struggle to get the liberal political agenda some air time. If silence prevails on the side of liberals, the GOP’s voice will be a singular one, making the pushing of their own agenda ever so much easier to do.

View 2

I think we’re losing on Prop 8 here because so much of the gay community is so inwardly focused and ultimately interested only in their individual life experiences. The result is that they don’t knock on doors or do phone banks, they don’t send money, and they don’t rabble-rouse. It’s not because they’re being “polite”, it’s because our community is not so much a group of individuals with a sense of collective interest as a collection of individuals interested primarily in themselves.

The civil rights movement of the 60s worked because more members of the African-American community could see beyond their individual lives and support a collective right; we can’t seem to get outside our bedrooms–show a gay man a photo of an attractive shirtless athlete and all thoughts of propositions, voting, phone banks, and social movements disappear altogether in the face of an appealing fantasy.

Ironically, the appeal of the fantasy life (the expectation that a better guy is right around the corner, that we’ll look like underwear models if we switch to lowfat latte) is driven in large part (I think) by the unappealing social realities of gay life: inequality, intolerance, “tolerance” itself (I mean, give me a break – you’re gonna tolerate me?? Gee thanks), legal and social inequities – all of that make it more appealing to escape into coffee shops and bars and chatrooms.

So the Mormons and the rightwingnuts are motivated in common cause against the insidious sodomite, and the GLBT “community” (which isn’t really a unified voice, as is proven time and time again, as much as a bunch of bickering, self-interested individuals barely connected by a sort of sexual outsider-ness) dither and waffles and gets distracted by shiny objects. I loves me my gay guys, but sometimes we can be so self-destructive, and so oddly find complaining about defeat and oppression more comfortable than doing something to achieve victory.

Both are interesting points of view, and as a member of the GLBT community, I suspect there are elements of truth in each. The problem is that the threat exists now. We don’t have the luxury of time for processing and dealing with our psychic wounds or for bad-mouthing those who would put fantasy before a real, tangible danger. It’s time to wake up, grow up, and do what needs to be done to win something GLBT people have never had — equality under law.

This is about equality. America promises equality to all but does not deliver it to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens. If you want to get religious about it, that fact is a sin. If this hateful bill wins, equality in California doesn’t exist. Ellen’s marriage will be over. And a deep chill will run through an entire nation of people desperate to be equal under law for the first time in their lives.

GLBT people and allies need to go directly to those who support the bigoted bill and point out the inaccuracies in the opposition’s ads. We need to talk about our families, our longstanding relationships, the reality of life as a second-class citizen. And we must help the organizations shaping the No on 8 messages hitting the media. There is no time to waste in this. The “Yes” forces are bringing in the big bucks – $25 million at last count, way ahead of the pro-justice side — and telling passels of unanswered lies. It is time to fight and fight hard.

natalie-davis.gifThe bottom line is this: The only poll that counts is the one being taken Nov. 4. Between now and then — three weeks — GLBT people in and out of California, along with their allies and loved ones and anyone who really believes in equality for all to get beyond the converted choir and reach out to naysayers. If they can afford it, they need to give-give-give to No on Prop 8 efforts and counter the deep-pocketed hate squad. It’s the only way we — and equality — have a chance.
by Natalie Davis

Natalie Davis is an award-winning investigative reporter and interviewer who has worked in print and broadcast journalism since 1979. She earned her stripes working for WCVT, WRKA (Louisville), WCBM, CBS-Baltimore, and Sirius Satellite Radio (New York) and as a contributing writer and editor at the Baltimore Alternative and the City Paper alternative weeklies in Baltimore and Washington. Her writings have appeared in publications (print and online) around the world, including the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore Afro, Music Monthly, Out Magazine, Metro Weekly, Bay Windows, Business Credit, Mademoiselle, Institutional Investor, and many more. A committed pacifist, Davis is also a respected progressive-issues activist, organizer, musician, and public speaker. She co-founded and still moderates the Baltimore Activists Coalition and established the still-vital The Armchair Activist effort, which promotes citizen action for peace, GLBT equality, feminism, progressive issues, and human rights. Additonally, she operates Grateful Dread Public Radio, a community service Internet radio station. Her blog, All Facts and Opinions, resides at http://gratefuldread.net.

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Comments

  1. says

    No worries, Karen (though I heaved a huge sigh of relief). It is easy to mix it up, the way the legislation is worded. I hope the No on 8 publicity makes the difference clear for voters. And you are SO right: What in the heck harm can gay married people do to heterosexual married people? The only thing I can suspect is that the people insisting their religious views into law are insecure in some fashion. But it is most un-Christian of them to be judgmental and unfair. It is most unkind of them to belittle the lives and loves of people walking different paths. And you, Karen… your kids and friends are lucky to have you. It’s a tough world out there…

  2. Karen says

    NR Davis I have a HUGE apology to make. I meant to say vote NO on Prop 8. I guess with this election & all the yes & no’s to make I messed up. I realized my mistake after reading your post & again apologize. I still wish someone would explain what they are afraid of. I have several gay lesbian friends & one daughter who is gay & will not support anything that goes against their lifestyle.

  3. says

    Whoops, sorry Karen… that last paragraph should say “I would never insist on inequality for you.” Let me add this, too: I would defend your rights. I gladly would stand to defend your equality. It’s a pity so many Californians apparently would not return the favor, particularly when we mean no harm and will do no harm to them. Or to you.

  4. says

    Karen, with all due respect, it matters because if everyone isn’t equal under law, no one is. Would you sit still for someone using force of law to diminish and punish you because their religion disapproves of you? Imagine how you would feel knowing that you are legislated as less than because of someone else’s religious beliefs. I have never been equal under law a day in my life. Can you imagine the psychological torture? Do you know how many people do harm to themselves because they can’t bear the strain of being discriminated against by the own country, by their own state? Can you imagine how it feels to walk around each day knowing the law considers you less than by virtue of who you are? Can you imagine how our kids feel (I have two)? You are judging me when you say my relationship isn’t worth the same as yours — can’t you see that? Prop 8 has NO effect on your church — you can continue to discriminate against gays within it. No one is forcing you to have gay weddings in your church. But America is a plurality made up of different sorts of people. We have to accept you and allow you to do what you will within your religious communities and associations; it is only fair to allow others to do as they will. It is morally unconscionable to legislate an entire group of citizens to second-class citizens because of your religion. You’re right: I hate it when others judge others. Vote for Prop 8 and you are a judger. America claims that we are all equal under law. That is a lie, we are not. If you support Prop 8, you say in effect that you oppose equality for all.

    Trust, I do not hate you. But you can see how we feel hated and despised simply for being. Know this: I would never insist on equality for you. I would never insist that your church allow me to marry there. I would never insist that you be second-class under law. How can you do those things to me? That’s what I want to know.

  5. Karen says

    I have asked & asked what the heck it matters if gays are given the same rights as I have. No one has been able to answer me except Bible Thumpers. I hope each & every person votes YES on Prop. 8. What are you who oppose this scared of? This situation really galls me & I am 65 y/old, a grand mother of 6, married & just hate it when others judge others.

  6. says

    Amusing, but again, you’re wrong. I hate no living creature, and, *surprise*, one of the hats I wear is “housewife.” Mom of two, as well. Last I checked, being a housewife (or househusband or housespouse) was a noble pursuit. You are right, however; in my haste a qualifier was neglected: anti-gay, right-wing housewives. The notion of you all plotting to trash other people’s lives to maintain a legal supremacy you don’t deserve… *that* I hate. The difference between you and me, Laura, is that I don’t wish for you to be unequal under law, however vast our disagreement. Even if the hateful proposition you support wins, you get to keep your right to discriminate within your church, which would *not* be forced to marry GLBT people. What you do in your church is your business.

  7. says

    Welcome to America. Housewives have just as much voting power as anyone else. Are you sitting there hating on housewives now? Maybe you need to look at your own level of hate.

  8. says

    Oh, and by the way, this is pretty damned hateful: the Archdiocese of Fresno did remove Father Farrow from his pastoral position. Word is, they’re going to try and defrock him.

    And I am sitting here thinking about housewives sitting in cottage meetings discussing how to keep fellow citizens unequal under secular law. Makes me ill.

  9. says

    Why should you get what you want at my expense? Why should your religion be codified in civil law? Why must I be punished according to what you interpret your god as saying?

    Sorry. Equal is equal. Separate but equal is not. Ask the Supreme Court.

    I appreciate that you don’t hate me. You still want me to be seen under civil, SECULAR law as less than you. The word matters. It’s about equality.

    And sorry, I have dealt with too many anti-gay folks — right now I’m thinking of the guy who punched me in the head and called me “dyke” for no reason in NY years ago, and the guys who murdered Matt Shepard a decade ago — to know that for a lot of you, it is about hate. Sorry to burst your bubble, but your actions IMO are hateful, whatever you feel. It doesn’t cushion the blow to know that fellow citizens want me stigmatized under secular law. And I do hate that.

  10. says

    It is not about hate. It has never been about hate. I understand the desire to get people all fired up, but truly, NO ONE on the Yes on Prop. 8 side hates same-sex attracted people. When we have cottage meetings, or talk to friends about Prop. 8, NO ONE speaks with venom or disgust. And we are not trying to take away civil rights from anyone! Domestic partnerships in the state of CA have all the same rights as traditional marriages. If your significant other is on life-support, you will be able to visit all you want, and you will be able to make the choice of whether to pull the plug or enforce medical heroics to save the life. You can adopt children, for heaven’s sake.
    It is the definition of one little word. Marriage. Same-sex couples are different from hetero couples in one very obvious way. I think you would agree that that difference is the one thing that gay/lesbian people embrace as an identity. So it stands to reason that there should be a different title to same-sex relationships. Same rights, different name. That’s all we want.

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