Now we have the hard evidence. Those of us who are members of the GLBT community have known at least as long as we have known our sexual orientation, that we live in a highly discriminatory country, which practices bigotry with self-righteous authority.
We have seen it, and now see it with increasing vividness, in the way vast numbers of American patriots, most dramatically anchored and vigorously led by their political, religious, and media leaders vote proudly against our equality. The polls keep confirming that the "masses" follow their lead and vote with enthusiasm and pride. Those who vote to discriminate against gay and lesbian Americans and deprive us of the SPECIAL RIGHTS that are accorded heterosexuals through the vice grip of laws that shower privilege and opportunity and decency only on those who are married. This is a country in which spin backed with big money works. Craft the message carefully, include lies and distortions that strike fear in the hearts of good people and hoards will follow.
Our community errs, however, in talking about the "hate-driven" discrimination. It is not hate that drives America; it is belief and slavish devotion to a religion driven ideology. When I came out to my family, their response (to spare the repetition of yet one more personal soap opera) was basically that of the "good people" who are creating gay apartheid. When challenged, my very loving, evangelical Mother, who literally has never experienced hate in her 93 years, said, "We just love you!" My response was, "If this is love, spare me." What I also said to them was, "You need to understand that you need to make a choice between your belief system and having a relationship with me. I will not enter a room where I am demeaned, condescended to, felt sorry for -- even if it is ostensibly covered over and is only covert and you think it is something else." I meant it: and my family knew that. In a way that makes her a literal hero to me my Mother has struggled with finding a way to continue reading her Bible every day and yet relate to me the only way I am willing to be related to -- with real love, total validation, genuine admiration, deep respect, and total equality.
In reality we marginalized people know all about the "underbelly" of America. We saw it in relation to the struggle for civil rights, which is partly why so many of us were involved in that fight. We still see racism and anti-Semitism and misogyny and classism and more. The beginning of the country being "outed" as supporting gay apartheid surfaced when the gay community was hit was the pandemic of AIDS. The President, the Congress, and much of the nation spoke their truth with their actions, as voters are doing today. The message was loud and clear: "It is only happening to gay people and they are not us. We need to do nothing with a crisis that is, in fact, closer to a solution."
The Clinton administration, with "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" and the "Defense of America Act" started the dramatic "outing" of the truth of accepted American bigotry. The Bush administration, of course, with the Federal amendment to the Constitution and the push to make gay marriage the unifying issue has, in fact, led to proving George Bush to be "the great uniter" he claimed to be.
Maine, like Proposition 8, is yet one more demonstration that the vast numbers of people in this country who don't believe in Gay Apartheid are simply not sufficiently motivated to come out in sufficient numbers to oppose it. At the same time, great numbers of our community seem largely unwilling to deliver the message I delivered to my Mother: if you align with your beliefs and discriminate against me, there will be consequences which you will not have wanted to create. This message has to be delivered to families, to our political party and our parties, and to America as a whole.
During the March for Equality my favorite sign was: "THE GAY ATM MACHINE IS CLOSED UNTIL WE HAVE FULL EQUALITY".
We gay people hold up a mirror to America and allow our citizens to get beyond their denial and discover they are not the loving, compassionate people following a mystically powerful Constitution we appear to be. We can reveal to them much of what causes the rest of the world to see us in "negative" ways: this country is not what it says it is or believes itself to be. We do not reference the Civil Rights movement because we think being gay is the same as being Black. It is because the gay struggle for equality puts the spotlight on the same denied aspect of America that the Civil Rights era did.
The Civil Rights Act did not end racism but it took a significant step in turning around its institutionalization and its role in our national identity. David Mixner and Cleve Jones explained the purpose of the National March for Equality as coming from our now knowing that a state by state strategy cannot be the only approach when our rights can be given and taken away with abandon. We now have yet more evidence. This country cannot be relied on to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority.
Until the Federal government acts, gay and lesbian Americans live in a condition of apartheid. That includes those in states that allow same sex marriage since they have none of the over 1100 special rights and privileges accorded by Federal statute to married people.