Yesterday I wrote that the election of Obama is a victory over the politics of hate. I was wrong. As the dust cleared this morning, it was apparent that Californians had voted to deny basic rights to millions of citizens who just happen to have been born gay.
As a straight man, it is incomprehensible to me why millions of other straight people would be so shamefully hateful to their friends and neighbors.
A good friend of mine, who happens to be black, had called me last week. With the election still in doubt, and a great deal of hateful prejudice being directed in Obama's direction, my friend asked me how so many Americans could be so foolish. Yet, before the conversation was over, he told me that he was having a hard time voting against Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative that would deny rights to millions of Californians.
His argument was rooted in his religion and in some misguided notion that our Constitution somehow argued for traditional beliefs. My argument to him was simple. First, the question was not what his religious convictions were. The question was did he believe that his religious convictions gave him the right to decide for others how they were to live their lives. What happened to judge not, lest ye be judged?
Second, as an African-American, someone who was once defined by our laws as being worth less than a full human being, how could he believe that our traditions were infallible?
I have no idea how he voted but I have good reason to believe that too many people who have been lifelong victims of intolerance, turned around and demonstrated their own brand of intolerance yesterday.
The election of Obama is a wonderful thing for America. But discrimination is still very much a part of Bush's America and, in all likelihood, will continue unabated in Obama's. The fact that Obama had to prove he was Christian and not a Muslim demonstrates how far we have to go. A black man can be president. Great. Can a Muslim? Can a Jew? Can an Atheist? Certainly a gay person can't be.
For the gay community, it's time to get tough. Rights didn't come to African-Americans easily. Every minority in this country has been forced to fight hard to be treated fairly. Civil disobedience was required. Often, violence ensued. Am I suggesting arming yourselves with Molotov cocktails? Of course not. I am suggesting you stop taking this crap lying down. Fight it in the courts. Fight it in the media. And fight it in the streets. But fight, fight, fight. You will find you have many allies.
As to marriage, if it isn't available to all, maybe it should be shunned by all. Perhaps everyone who believes in equality should refuse to have anything to do with an institution which no longer seems relevant when defined in such a narrow minded way.
Follow Bruce Tenenbaum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BruceTalk