Will History Be Made or Will an Ugly Precedent Prevail?

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Rainbow-flagNo matter what happens today, November 3, 2009 will be an important day in the history of the queer equality movement. No matter what happens today, we will push harder for our equality, but it will be either because we have to or because we can.

If Question 1 in Maine passes, it will be a reprise of last year’s Proposition 8. It will be a reminder that we haven’t done enough in the past year. We’ve allowed the same ugly tactics to prevail over the hearts and minds of Americans. For the second time in American history, a popular vote will have rescinded the rights of fellow citizens.

If Referendum 71 fails in Washington, I worry that it would be a serious setback for the movement. It would be clear evidence that “traditional marriage” is a scapegoat argument for people who are intent on gay and lesbian citizens not having rights. The “marriage” question is not on the table there; only the rights. Again, this would be another spectacular denial of rights and protections by popular vote.

If the Kalamazoo Discrimination Protection for Gays Referendum fails, it will hearken back to the days of Anita Bryant and spell out the real challenges of passing an inclusive ENDA on the national level. It will demonstrate that people are still susceptible to the completely bogus lies about bathrooms and lockerrooms. Its failure would be a transphobic transgression by an entire community.

And unfortunately, we have reason to be concerned. President Obama’s “support” of these issues was paltry at best. In fact, David Mixner reminds us today through the remarks of Attorney General Eric Holder that the administration “had no position on the ballot measure.” Add to that a disturbing report today from AMERICAblog that the Democratic National Committee offered absolutely no support for the issues on the table, ignoring Question 1 and asking Maine voters to support the election in New Jersey instead.

To all those who think everything is peachy for LGBT Americans, look again. We’re out here on our own fighting for our rights.

Of course, today could be our beacon of hope. Today could be the day when a popular vote affirmed the equality of the queer community for the first time in the history of our nation.

Maine voters could join their New England neighbors and support same-sex marriage by a No vote on Question 1. Such an affirmative vote would be groundbreaking and gamechanging for the movement. Washington voters could do the same by approving Ref. 71, even if the word “marriage” isn’t there. Kalamazoo voters could demonstrate that they won’t be intimidated by transphobic paranoia and stand up for protections for their friends and neighbors.

If any of those occur, it will be a sign our movement is making progress. Such evidence should be an indicator we have to keep doing what we are doing as opposed to getting lax again. It would confirm momentum from the National Equality March, momentum we must pursue with as much energy and fervor as ever.

More importantly, it would demonstrate the strength of the movement. It would show that we don’t need a President or a political party to stand up for us and that we are stronger when we don’t waste our time and money trying to convince them to support us. We can appeal to our fellow citizens’ sense of compassion and educate them about our identities on our own.

Whatever happens today, we work harder tomorrow. As Howard Zinn reminds us, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” The equality train might be slowed down today, but it keeps moving forward.

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