Early in the morning of June 28, 1969, an event took place in New York City that transformed -- no, actually gave birth to -- the LGBT civil rights movement. Police raided the Stonewall Inn, as had been their habit, and the LGBT patronage decided that they had had enough. They fought back. They threw trash cans and boards and stones. Whether or not they beat the arrests of that day, they firmly stood their ground and said, "No more. We have a right to be here."
Late in the evening of Nov. 6, 2012, a similar stance was taken. This time, it was not done by throwing trash cans and overturning police cars. It was done by overturning decades-old misconceptions and assumptions. It was done by showing up tenaciously, even though we had shown up before and lost.
In any war, there is a starter event, one in which a few select representatives of a repressed minority fight back, often with a show of violent civil disobedience. That event lets the world know that it is now at war and that the fight will continue until justice, or complete suppression, prevails. For the LGBT community, that was Stonewall.
Then there comes the most significant turning point in the struggle. It is the big battle where a winner-takes-all atmosphere hangs over the precursor of the event as a warning and a promise. It is an event where every interested party shows up, knowing that only one side will really walk away. In the Civil War that event was the battle at Gettysburg. For the LGBT community, this last Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, was our Gettysburg. (If you think that's not an apt analogy, check out this comparison map of the Civil War factions and today's electoral factions.) And we were the ones who got to walk away with the situation altered... forever.
We all knew it would be that way. The threat that the Republican Party and its anointed one, Mitt Romney, posed was clear. If they won, they intended to roll back many of our civil rights gains and probably attack ones we had not even lost in the first place. We were angry, we asked to be defriended by those who did not respect our lives, and we declared that we were not going to take it anymore. We were ready for the fight.
Now that the smoke has cleared, I would like to offer the argument that this was more than just a "great election for LGBT people." This was a game changer. The game changer. We will never return to the level of indignity that we suffered before, even as we roll with the momentum to resolve the still-existent inequities that plague our lives.
The fight is not over, in fact, some of the fight may get worse before it gets better. The anti-gay fringe will get noisier and more dangerous, because the core of the anti-gay sentiment has been depleted of logic. The fringe has never let a small thing like logic stop them.
Here are the eight reasons why this was the most significant event for us, and a rundown of the opportunities we have as a result:
1. The core of the LGBT community has been transformed. We have been long supported by LGBT interest groups like the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and others. This election season, a new and more grassroots element of our community has emerged thanks to blogs and Facebook. Our voice now goes viral and is interactive and spreads into groups where we now have emerging allies. We are not alone anymore. And our allies vote.
2. The National Organization for Marriage is through. The organization may not be gone, but they've been effectively silenced. Gallagher and Brown can no longer claim that the people have "spoken" against marriage equality and boast that they have popular opinion behind them. It is time for them to re-tool, because -- let's face it -- they are out of arguments.
3. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will continue its path to nonexistence. This election shores up a more friendly judiciary for years to come, and that is where DOMA will play out. The Obama administration has also pledged to no longer defend it, and the House Republicans should follow suit if they have any sense of preservation (which, arguably, they don't). Either way, the ultimate result will be the same.
4. "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) is gone forever. It was unthinkable that Romney really would bring this back, but the threat was there, and his base was pushing for it. If ever a DADT proponent comes to power again, this will be so long gone that it will be a complete non-starter.
5. There will never be a federal constitutional amendment restricting marriage. Had the election gone the other way, the tough road to a federal marriage amendment might have been possible. Over 30 states had essentially passed their own marriage amendments, so a federal one was not a stretch. With a roster of three more pro-equality states, one state whose voters have rejected a marriage amendment, and a host of states that offer civil unions to same-sex couples, the likelihood of a federal marriage amendment ever seeing the light of day has all but evaporated. It will never leave the drawing table.
6. There will be a new and gayer Republican Party. The Log Cabin Republicans, the redheaded stepchildren of pretty much everyone, have the best opportunity of their existence. They were the unsung heroes in the downfall of DADT, and they also were the voice of reason campaigning for a reasonable Republican Party platform. There needs to be a new Republican Party for the party to survive. The Log Cabin Republicans can show up with the biggest "we told you so" sign ever and work to transform the untransformable. This would be one of the hugest contributions to the health of the LGBT community. There is no reason that we should be beholden to one party exclusively. We should be able to trust that our civil rights are respected and choose our individual thoughts on other issues. So go for it, Log Cabin Republicans. While GOProud is out doormatting for Ann Coulter, there is a straight party very much in need of a queer eye.
7. LGBT issues have gone from wedge to advantage. For years, even our best political allies pussyfooted around LGBT issues when the going got tough. The theory was to help them survive first, and then they would help us when they could, often avoiding actually talking about us at all. It was such "help" from our "friends" that got us DADT and DOMA to begin with. No more. We are being credited as a factor in Obama's success. Nobody is calling us "baby" and putting us in a corner.
8. The marriage momentum will continue. The conversation has started for other states, even if the legislative plan hasn't. Facebook has growing sites for Gay marriage USA, Oregon, Illinois, Ohio, the Midwest and others. When DOMA fails, same-sex married couples can move into states that don't recognize their marriages and still have two-thirds legal coverage from their federal protections alone. Marriage equality has left the closet... and we just crossed the summit. It is downhill, in a good way, from here.
I had to quit blogging last week. I could not think of a thing to say, because I could not guess what life would be like just a week later. I knew the LGBT world on Wednesday would be a new one, either a better one or a disastrous one. I am glad we are the ones who can look over our shoulders and see the smoke of Gettysburg behind us. The road ahead is not going to be easy, and often after win for LGBT rights, there is backlash, which means more irrational hate, gay bashing and bullying. Protect yourself and the vulnerable. No, the road ahead will not be easy, but it's ours.
Follow Rob Watson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JandJDad