DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed within this editorial are solely the personal opinions of the author and do not reflect the views, opinions, positions, or strategies of the Arcus Foundation.
* * *
Angie Antonelli, the main character in my novel Love Is Enough, is an openly lesbian congresswoman from a district north of Boston. She asked to post under my HuffPost blogger byline about Election Day, which is tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 4. And, really, how could I refuse her?
* * *
I'm Congresswoman Angie Antonelli. I'm doing the best I can to get the word out about the importance of this election. I know it can feel insignificant because we're not electing a president, but there's a lot at stake if we're going to preserve some of the successes we've achieved and prevent some really horrible new things from happening.
It hasn't been easy trying to get anything done in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But at least in the Democrat-controlled Senate, while we haven't been able to move a lot forward, my colleagues in my party have been a bulwark against insane measures like the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and more tax breaks for big corporations. But if we are to believe a lot of the polls out there, that all could change. The Senate is in danger of turning over to the Republicans, which means we'd have Republicans in charge of the entire Congress and only President Obama's veto pen to defend equality and economic justice for working families.
The Right to Vote
Did you know that there was a time when only white male landowners had the right to vote? After black males were granted the vote, Southern states enacted poll taxes and literacy tests to keep them away from the polls. Women couldn't vote until 1920, and Native Americans couldn't vote until 1924. Finally, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act put an end to race-based voting restrictions, an achievement that I thought, until recently, closed the book on our disgraceful past.
But now conservatives have once again raised barriers, this time by imposing onerous identification requirements aimed, they say, at eliminating so-called voter fraud. But this is a solution in search of a problem, since there's very scant evidence of voter fraud. What we have instead are impossibly long lines at the polls in African-American neighborhoods, and ID rules that will confound our transgender brothers and sisters from exercising their right to vote. And what we also have is a Supreme Court decision that took the teeth out of the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, paving the way for more of these restrictions that Attorney General Eric Holder says "cause a greater burden on African Americans, Latinos, and younger voters."
So educate yourself by reading about the issue on websites of civil-rights and LGBT-equality organizations like the NAACP and the National Center for Transgender Equality. And help your family members and friends who may be encountering ID restrictions. But most importantly, get out and vote on Tuesday for the people who will restore everyone's right to unobstructed access the polls.
The Backdoor Plan: 'Religious Liberty'
There's a particularly devious tactic that the opponents of LGBT equality and women's rights have been using to their advantage. What they refer to as "religious liberty" or "religious freedom" is, in actuality, a backdoor attempt to greatly weaken the hard-won rights and freedoms we now enjoy.
Here are some examples of what they are doing.
Our opponents insist that anyone with "sincerely held religious beliefs" -- including florists, caterers, the owners of events spaces, and bakers -- should be free to deny services to same-sex couples planning their weddings.
In addition, they assert that pharmacists with "sincerely held religious beliefs" should be able to refuse to sell the morning-after pill to women.
And they think a student pursuing her graduate degree in counseling should be free to refuse to see a gay client.
Unfortunately, as with voting rights, the Supreme Court has made things difficult, ruling that Hobby Lobby had a right to refuse to follow the new federal requirement that an employer-sponsored health-insurance policy cover certain forms of contraception.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all in favor of sincerely held religious beliefs. I was raised Catholic, and I still attend mass, even though the hierarchy of the church and I don't always agree.
So I come to this issue not from a place of hostility toward people of faith but from the belief that religion should always be on the side of justice and should never sow the seeds of division among people.
I am also a firm believer in separation of church and state, following the precepts set forth by our country's founders. It was Thomas Jefferson himself who first spoke of a wall separating church and state.
Congress has become a battleground on this issue, so we must ensure that our representatives in office follow the principles of Jefferson and his colleagues and not those of the religious right wing.
Our opponents know they have lost the fight on marriage equality and on women's rights. So, in a desperate attempt to whittle away at our freedoms, they have created this new argument about religious freedom. One important way to make sure they do not prevail is to exercise our right to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 4.
I'm now going to tell you about some of the people who'll be on the ballot on Tuesday -- both incumbents and new candidates. These are the people who will continue the progress we have made and will push back against any attempts to stop justice in its tracks.
First and Foremost, the U.S. Senate
The tightest races where your vote is most needed include:
- Georgia: Michelle Nunn
- Louisiana: Mary Landrieu
- Michigan: Gary Peters
- New Hampshire: Jeanne Shaheen
- North Carolina: Kay Hagan
In the House
- Arizona: Krystan Sinema (the only openly bisexual member of Congress and a progressive voice)
- Florida: Gwen Graham (pro-choice, pro-marriage-equality, and facing a tea-party incumbent who voted to defund Planned Parenthood)
- Florida: Charlie Crist
- Maine: Michael Michaud (who is openly gay)
- Wisconsin: Mary Burke
- Texas: Wendy Davis
So get out and vote. So much depends on it!
To learn about more candidates, go to:
To learn more about the fictional congresswoman Angie Antonelli, read my novel Love Is Enough, available on Amazon.