While the L/G/B/T community in California is adroit at organizing; this year the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Conservative U.S. Christians see California’s gay marriage issue as a defining battle that could set the stage for a national showdown and get the vote out for the Republican Party in the November presidential election especially in California. “People feel like this California fight is for all the marbles,” Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Reuters at the SBC’s annual meeting in Indianapolis.
Remember 2004? Anti Gay Marriage initiatives were on the ballot in many of the states that are considered “swing states” for the Presidential election. They played a role in President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election as they brought Republican conservative religious voters to the polls especially in Ohio – the state that was critical to Mr. Bush’s “success”.
As good and as talented as our community is at getting out the vote and educating the public, the other side is often just as, if not more, successful. That is why a recent conference call the Obama campaign had for some members of the LGBT community worried me.
The call was quickly put together not long after Senator Obama became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party and I thought the call would be a pep rally for Mr. Obama. As a long time supporter of Mr. Obama, I was looking forward to the pep rally; but instead it was a “community healing” call. I knew that there were many in the LGBT community that supported Senator Clinton but I did not realize the extreme passion and the depth of disappointment held by many.
Former Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Elizabeth Birch who led the organization when I served on its Board of Governors spoke about the night when she heard the news that Mr. Obama clinched the nomination. She said that she was in San Francisco having dinner with some of our local power gays when the news came in and she burst into tears. She described her searing disappointment and told those of us on the call that for those in our community that supported Mrs. Clinton in the primary season it would take some time to heal.
In all due respect to Ms. Birch, Senator Clinton’s supporters in our community had better take a crash course in grieving and healing. We have a battle on our hands here in California. If the radical right out organizes us and is successful, it is plausible that not only would we see gay marriage become unconstitutional but we could see California’s Presidential Electoral College Prize of 55 votes go to Mr. McCain. I know that many think that a McCain victory in California is unlikely, but I am concerned that if we feel too secure we could very well be surprised.
Our community doesn’t have a moment to lose, Mrs. Clinton’s supporters need to buck up and become eager participants in this year’s fights for both gay marriage and for an Obama presidency. Moreover, many of my friends living in California who aren’t fans of the two parties- Democratic and Republican- have had the luxury of voting their “conscience” by voting for the Green Party or another “third party” because it is safe to assume that the Democrat will win the state and thus they wouldn’t be inadvertently helping a Republican presidential candidate by their vote. This year that choice is not an option. While we may think California is safe for Mr. Obama, we cannot and should not underestimate the political prowess and organizing skills of the radical religious right.
My partner and I are planning to get married in September at the time of our 20th anniversary as a couple; and for those of us getting married between now and the November election I have a request. Instead of registering at Pottery Barn, have your friends and family make a donation to the umbrella coalition that includes civil rights, faith, choice, labor and community of color organizations that will be leading the fight against the anti-gay amendment initiative- Equality for All (www.equalityforall.com/weddingregistry). There is no better way to celebrate our marriages than by providing a profound legacy for LGBT’s in California and throughout the world.
It is critical that our community, in all of its glorious diversity, be united and be active in this year’s election. The stakes for our community, our state and our nation have never in my lifetime of 50 years seemed so high.