A civil rights slaughter, stopped in its tracks

Fluttershy: "Yay."
It’s over. Finally.

Now that the first sitting president to endorse marriage equality has been re-elected, after a campaign that was unbearably tense and exhausting, we can relax and stop spending all day worrying about how every little development will affect his chances of victory. It’s done. We did it.

And that’s not all. In Florida, we managed to defeat Amendments 1 (which would have prevented any penalties against individuals or businesses that refuse to comply with a health care mandate), 6 (which would have barred public funds from being used for abortion services) and 8 (which would have repealed the ban on giving public funding to religions). We also retained three Supreme Court justices who had come under attack by the Republican Party and Americans for Prosperity for being too “liberal”.

Elsewhere, Tammy Baldwin became the nation’s first openly gay senator. Elizabeth Warren defeated Scott Brown, following his ridiculous claims that he could determine her Native American heritage or lack thereof by sight. Todd Akin, who said that women’s bodies would somehow prevent pregnancy in the case of “legitimate rape”, lost to Claire McCaskill – after alleging that her campaign was “trying to make me look like some kind of a weirdo or something” and “thinks you should vote based on what people say” (nah, really?). Richard Mourdock, who considered pregnancy from rape a “gift from God”, was also defeated. And Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins survived efforts by anti-gay groups to oust him following his ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in 2009. This is especially notable because three of the other justices had previously been removed by a similar campaign.

But the other really big story of the night? Marriage equality measures in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

State-level gay marriage bans have a long, ugly, depressing history. Until now, the result was completely predictable whenever it was put to a popular vote: we lost. 30 to 0. Then 31 to 0. Then 32 to 0. It had become a crushing regularity for us, and our opponents knew it. This became their talking point: “every time same-sex marriage is on the ballot, the people vote against it.” And it hurt because of how true it was. It wasn’t entirely unexpected when North Carolina and Maine were the most recent states to vote against equality. But when California passed Proposition 8, that really stunned us. If even the people of California wouldn’t vote in favor of gay marriage, then who would?

Quite honestly, it was looking pretty hopeless. State marriage measures had become something many of us dreaded, because we just knew in the back of our heads that we were almost certainly going to lose, no matter how hard we fought. There was always the quiet dread as we watched the poll numbers, initially in our favor, plummet in the days before the vote when anti-gay groups packed the airwaves with ads claiming we were going to teach children how to be gay. And then there was nothing to do but wait for the inevitable blow to land. I stopped getting my hopes up, and so did many others. It was too painful to be that emotionally invested.

We knew that public opinion was trending upward for us, and that the day had to come when this would be reflected in the popular vote, and we would be the victorious ones at the polls. As I said in 2009 after Maine voted to repeal marriage equality:

The margins are narrowing, and the support for gay marriage is still growing. There was a time when it was unthinkable that 47% of any state would stand up for gay marriage. We’ve come this far.

I knew that day would come, but I didn’t quite believe it – I couldn’t let myself. I’m still not sure I believe it.

But yesterday was that day.

In Maine, LGBT rights groups succeeded in placing a same-sex marriage referendum on the ballot. This time, we were the ones on the offense, taking the initiative to seize our equal rights. And in a state which only 3 years earlier had voted against our equality 53-47, we won – 53% to 47%. Marriage equality is the law of the land in Maine by the people’s vote.

In Maryland, a statute legalizing gay marriage was put on hold after anti-gay groups petitioned to put it to a referendum. And last night, we won, 52-48. Marriage equality is now law in Maryland, by popular vote.

In Minnesota, a constitutional ban on gay marriage was proposed, in addition to the statutory ban already in place. The failure of this amendment wouldn’t mean allowing same-sex marriage – its proponents simply wanted to make it even more difficult to repeal the ban, in what was nothing more than a bitter and spiteful thumbing of their nose to future citizens who would overturn their bigotry. And while same-sex marriage is still not legal in Minnesota, voters rejected this amendment 51% to 48%. Enacting marriage equality will now be that much easier.

And in Washington, a marriage equality law was likewise delayed as our opponents worked to force it onto the ballot. While the final results won’t be in for some time due to mail-in ballots that still need to be counted, it’s currently looking good for equality, and CNN has called it for same-sex marriage.

I really was not expecting this. I figured that, if we won any of these, it would have been in Washington. That alone would have been phenomenal – our first victory at the ballot box. But I had no idea we would win all of them. I didn’t think it was possible. And while I steeled myself for defeat, I completely neglected to prepare for victory. I just don’t know what to think, and the reality of it is still soaking in.

For the first time – ever – they’re the ones who are left reeling the day after. They’re the ones who will have to struggle to explain how they lost. They’re the ones who were rejected by the people. And we’re the ones who can rejoice. Their winning streak is over, and so is our losing streak. Their talking point is dead – marriage equality doesn’t lose at the ballot box every time. They can’t take state-level victories for granted anymore, and we can’t take our defeat for granted either. They told us the only poll that matters is the one on election day. Well, here it is.

Make no mistake, the opponents of LGBT rights gave this their all. They said marriage equality was a step on the road to communism. They said “the future of the family” is at stake and “our religious liberty is in jeopardy”. They said “this issue will destroy and undermine the church”, and marriage would “disintegrate”. AND THEY LOST.

The Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, and NOM donated millions of dollars to the campaigns against equality. A reverend described homosexuality as “worthy of death” at an official Maryland Marriage Alliance event. A Catholic archbishop went so far as to tell the mother of a gay son that her “eternal salvation” depends on believing homosexuality is a sin. AND THEY LOST.

A former Maine bishop said that Catholics “cannot justify a vote for a candidate or referendum question that opposes the teachings of the Church”. A Maine representative used his own gay brother’s death as an opportunity to claim that “we have no right to redefine marriage”. Minnesota students posted dozens of pictures of themselves citing the exclusively religious reasons for why they voted against our equality. AND THEY LOST.

Their ads featured a man who considers homosexuality a disease,  compared families with gay parents to gangs, claimed schools are teaching children “how to sodomize”, and said “the heart of transgenderism is a lie”. AND THEY LOST. They compared gay rights activists to Hitler. AND THEY LOST. They called homosexuality “highly promiscuous”, “centered around anonymous sexual encounters”, “largely predatory”, and that “many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse”. And they lost.

They lost. Homophobia lost. Racism lost. Sexism lost. Ignorance lost. Bigotry lost.

We won. And so did our country.

A civil rights slaughter, stopped in its tracks

16 thoughts on “A civil rights slaughter, stopped in its tracks

  1. 3

    effing awesome is what it is! thanks for this article! str8 against h8 here! let’s keep it up! can’t wait for SCOTUS to bury Prop 8 in the compost pile! then watch all the other bigoted crap legislation fall to legal challenge one after the other! BOOYAH!!

  2. 5

    Holy hells, this post is inspiring. I mean, I was already extremely pleased with the way the votes went – but this just ramped me up much higher. I love the bit about their major talking point being destroyed – that had occurred to me, but I hadn’t realized its full import. Superb!

    Excellently written. Thanks for writing it.

  3. 6

    I live in Maine, and I am so happy that we finally managed to make this happen. I may have taken us two tries, but we managed to get this one right. Now we just have to hold on, because the opponents of this are going to be pushing even harder after this.

  4. 7

    They said “the future of the family” is at stake and “our religious liberty is in jeopardy”. They said “this issue will destroy and undermine the church”, and marriage would “disintegrate”.

    The thing that always gets me about these claims is the bigots make them but never explain how marriage would “disintegrate,” etc.

  5. 9

    Loved the article as always.

    I didn’t realize it but the Marriage ban in Minnesota was the one that had me concerned the most. Even after Obama I watched until I knew that one was defeated.

    It just didn’t make sense. I grew up with Minnesota Nice, to come back to this completely baffling vote for something that was already on the books.

    I hope we are one step closer to the state recognizing gay marriage. A few town in preparation for it’s passing have stood against it, including my home town of Mankato which.

    It may take us until the 2016 but I seriously am wishing for us to be the next to legalize it completely.

  6. 10

    This is simply awesome! Congratulations Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington!

    Btw. this:

    Now that the first sitting president to endorse marriage equality has been re-elected…

    reminded me of this:
    No incumbent who spoke in favour of marriage equality has ever lost. I hope that precedent lasts a good long while!

  7. 11

    The following is how I feel right now:

    I am so, so proud of Florida. Now 2014 needs to get here so we can pick up Rick Scott and throw him out on his ass.

    That will be a very happy day.

    Also, I’m watching Colorado and Washington state very, very closely. Their total legalization of marijuana is a fascinating development. I am so in favor of this for the entire country, so I can’t wait to see how the Obama Administration reacts to this.

    1. 11.1

      If I were Obama I would stop pot from going in or out of Colorado, but ignore homegrown. The authority to regulate drugs comes from the interstate commerce clause. No interstate commerce, no federal enforcement. But I would still bust up people bringing pot to Colorado just to please the law and order crowd. There you go, a law and order stance that still respects the constitutional basis for the drug laws.

      Sadly, Obama’s not been quite so careful about respecting rights. But he does have some precedents. Obama seems to have completely ignored the Federal DOMA concerning gay marriage. Maybe he can get the Justice Department to ignore the Mary Jane traded internally in Colorado.

      And don’t we now have a lesbian Senator? Awesome! And I thought it was cool that Houston elected a lesbian mayor twice. I don’t think Mayor Parker could have a chance at the US Senate here in Texas, but there are a couple of House seats she could try for.

  8. 12

    Great article. It was a great night to be a liberal. Besides the marriage equality victories, I was really thrilled to see all the initiatives you mentioned in Florida go down in flames. Every one of those were on the ballot to try to pump up the conservative and fundamentalist turnout, just like all the anti-marriage equality inititatives in 2004. The country has really changed.

  9. F

    Hooray! Now for getting back the civil rights everyone has been losing at an accelerated pace since Bush Jr. and Obama have been in office. Also, moar recognition of rights everywhere for LGTBQ, women, PoC, and anyone I’m not explicitly mentioning, and the social freedom to exercise those rights without challenge.

    I’m liking what is happening now, but I defer to the opinions of those with less privilege than I.

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