Celebration is indeed in order. The health of our society, our democracy, hinges on equality, not just for some but for all. However, the ink isn't even dry on Judge Walker's decision to undo the wrong passed by California voters and already we're onto how weak Obama and Democrats are on gay marriage.
Obama may have brought this one on himself. There was really no need to rain on the gay marriage parade with a statement about not supporting gay marriage. And I suppose, there is a lot he and Democrats could do. If Obama believes in civil unions so wholeheartedly, he could have someone draft legislation or call for a vote on legislation that would give civil unions the equal rights and protections of marriage. He could also do what he does best and give a big eloquent speech on equality for all and how it is unconscionable to demand gays and lesbians pay taxes while denying them the full liberties granted in our Constitution. He could do this from any national monument or from the oval office on television, on the day of the big march for gay marriage. He could do this, except for one small thing, there is no big march for gay marriage!
With all the criticism being lobbed at the embattled president and embattled Democrats, one would think it was 1988 and ACTUP! was in full protest mode taking over Pennsylvania Avenue. But that is not the case. Maybe it's just a new way of doing things. These days you don't have to get "out loud and proud"! Maybe a quiet email campaign and good lawyers is all it takes. If that's the case, reserving your outrage for Obama and Democrats makes perfect sense. Especially, if you believe comment posts like a whopping 87% of the American population supports an end to DADT. There's no need to rally if you believe as Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry that there isn't a single voter that Obama and Dems would lose if they openly embraced freedom to marry instead of everything but marriage. However, if you're noticing the culture clash going on out there, and candidates like Sharon Angle and Sarah Palin's 76% approval rating scare the sh*t out of you, you may want to get out of your slippers.
According to a 2006 City University of New York study, Eighty-one percent (81%) of the United States population identifies as Christian: 30% are White Evangelicals; 24% are Catholic; 20% are Liberal Protestants; 8% are African American Protestants; 2% are Jewish; and around 2 Million Americans are Muslim. Over a third of our population attends church regularly.
With these statistics it should come as no shock that there are thirty-one (31) states with state constitutional amendments and statutes banning same sex marriage. They are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Seventeen (17) of these states have bans against same sex unions of any kind. In Arkansas, gay couples are prohibited from adopting children. Even if DOMA was overturned tomorrow, it's more than likely that states would fight to keep these bans under the guise of protecting States' Rights.
The LGBT community does not need to win over every American to secure their rights but with the reality of these numbers, gays and lesbians should hardly realistically expect anyone in government to simply sign their rights into law without them first shifting the country to the tipping point on the issue.
Lincoln tried to legislate freedom and equality for African Americans with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. He was successful at freeing the slaves but not without a bloody Civil War. In 1863 Lincoln instituted Reconstruction, which among other things, granted civil rights protections to African Americans. This was undermined by southern states with the enactment of Jim Crow starting in 1865 and Lincoln's assassination that same year. John F Kennedy might have been thinking about the Emancipation Proclamation when he denied support for passing the Civil Rights Act and its very movement during the first years of his presidency. When Martin Luther King Jr. told him he was going to start marching for the integration of schools, Kennedy asked him not to because the country wasn't ready. Martin Luther King Jr. pressed on and the movement made the nation ready. Kennedy did finally come around, and on June 11, 1963 he even went so far as to send in the National Guard to Alabama to assist in integrating the schools there. Less than six months later, Kennedy was assassinated. The fact that these presidents forced the hand of progress in our country by way of openly supporting civil rights had nothing to do with their murders, according to the history books. It's just rather ironic that both were so incredibly hated by a significant portion of this country for doing so.
The tipping point for gay and lesbian equality is clearly on the horizon but I'm afraid it's going to need a little more activism on the part of gay and lesbian Americans. If you understand Obama is the president of a rather conservative country and not the Gay Civil Rights Leader, you get the need for marriage equality supporters to invest diligently in winning this struggle.
I don't know who is the leader of the gay marriage movement. So far, the Marriage Equality movement has not shown the fortitude of the ACTUP! Movement of the 80's that got stuff done and elected the very compelling Larry Kramer as its spokesman. The Marriage Equality Movement has been about the dignified fight for legal justice. Unfortunately, it may need to become an all-out battle for the hearts and minds of America. You can't legislate acceptance but you can set a society on a course to acceptance by deliberating and directly taking up the issue of equality with voters. It seems this work cannot done by politicians; it is done by people who are demanding their civil rights.
Besides coalition building, probably the biggest success of Martin Luther King Jr, Stokeley Carmichael and the Civil Rights Movement was making their cause something Americans consistently and constantly talked about. While Brown v. Board of Education was making its way through the courts, there was regularly something for Americans to respond to, something to get involved in. There were protests, sit-ins, marches and speeches for the media to run on the 6 o'clock news. Images of police officers turning dogs onto crowds of protestors and beating them with nightsticks, bloodied faces and pictures of activists who had gone missing and later found dead splashed across the television and newspapers. Separate but equal wasn't neat and harmless and it was no longer being portrayed as such. The notion of separate but equal was exposed as pure hatred, a heinous, deadly act.
While the Tea Party Movement presses on full speed ahead, it seems too many in the gay and lesbian community want to leave the activism to the judges and the courts and Rachel Maddow, which begs the question, why? Whatever the answer, gay and lesbians need to understand their not-yet-nationally-acclaimed leaders cannot do it without them. There is no Movement without them. Before we question whether Democrats and Obama are doing enough for the rights of gays and lesbians, we must first ask if gays and lesbians are doing enough for the rights of gays and lesbians?
To get involved with the campaign for marriage equality contact the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force or any other organization in your area that is in the fight. There is still work to be done.