From Kate Kendell – NCLR – National Center for Lesbian Rights
This has been a very trying, challenging, and exhilarating 10 days. We have witnessed history that raises our hopes and defeats which almost crush our spirit. The reaction to the passage of Prop 8, and other anti-LGBT measures in Florida, Arkansas, and Arizona has been unlike anything we have ever seen in our community. The energy and commitment and vow to fight on has been awe-inspiring. In the midst of these rallies and marches—tomorrow there will be over 130 across the country—we have come back from these defeats resolved to make them a relic of the past.
In the midst of these rallies and marches, there have also been a handful of acts that can only set us further back. The most powerful antidote to hate and misunderstanding is love and compassion and dignity. The attached letter has been generated from colleagues around California. It calls on all of us to indeed fight back, to not slink away and accept these defeats, but it also, rightly, calls on us to not, in our anger or pain, drive a wedge between our future allies. The scapegoating of African-Americans in particular, has the potential to do us real damage in the long run. A sad fact is that the often-quoted number of 70%—the figure by which black voters passed Prop 8—is terribly exaggerated and the figure is likely much closer to 57%, which is consistent with all earlier polling. We are charting a course to a new day—if we show who we really are, we will have many more on that path with us.
We are on the cusp of a new era as our country has elected its first African-American president, Barack Obama. We hope this unprecedented event will usher in a new chapter in our nation’s history.
This past week has been a difficult time. With the passage of Proposition 8 in California to change the state constitution to eliminate the right to marry, our community has experienced a difficult defeat. We are angry and upset by the passage of Proposition 8 and the betrayal of the promise of equality that has been the hallmark of the Golden State. Yet, we know that this is only a setback in—not the end of—our journey toward full equality for the LGBT community.
It is natural to analyze what went wrong. But in recent days there has been a tendency to assign blame to specific communities, in particular, the African American community. The fact is, 52 percent of all Californians, the vast majority of whom were not African Americans, voted against us. In addition, the most recent analysis of the exit poll that drove much of this speculation determined that it was too small to draw any conclusion on the African American vote, and further polling shows that the margin was much closer than first reported. Most importantly, though, none of this discourse changes the outcome of the vote. It only serves to divide our community and hinder our ability to create a stronger and more diverse coalition to help us overturn Proposition 8 and restore full equality and human rights to LGBT people. It also deflects responsibility from the group that is responsible for this miscarriage of justice: The Yes on 8 campaign. They waged a deceitful and immoral campaign that brought about this violation of our human rights and dignity.
We as a community have come so far. Let’s not lose sight of this. Since Proposition 22 passed eight years ago by 22 percentage points, we have made our case to the people of California. We have talked to our families, co-workers and friends about what true equality looks like. In so doing, we have narrowed the gap substantially since that time. And, in the last week, we have continued to move forward with a great wave of non-violent protest and a strong and powerful legal case put together by some of the keenest legal minds, supported by the governor, our senators and many other elected officials in our state. Moreover, we have seen a great national movement growing in support of equal rights for the LGBT community as a result of our actions in California.
We are hopeful the election of Barack Obama signals a new spirit of collaboration among diverse groups of people. There are many allied communities—straight, African-American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander, people of faith, and secular people—who are energized to join with us as never before. This is progress! LGBT people are a part of all those communities, and with the support of our straight allies, we know that justice will prevail.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: “The arc of moral justice is long, but it bends toward justice.” Now is the time to come together as one community working together toward human rights and full equality. We are confident that with our growing coalition we will ultimately win this fight.
Ron Buckmire – Barbara Jordan/Bayard Rustin Coalition
Rea Carey – Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Jennifer Chrisler – Executive Director, Family Equality Council
Oscar De La O – President & CEO, Bienestar
John Duran – Member, West Hollywood City Council
Rabbi Denise L. Eger – Congregation Kol Ami
Lorri L. Jean – CEO, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
Kate Kendell – Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights
Geoff Kors – Executive Director, Equality California
Francine Ramsey – Executive Director, Zuna Institute
Rev. Susan Russell and Rev. Ed Bacon – All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena
Rodney Scott – President, Christopher Street West/LA Pride
Joe Solmonese – President, Human Rights Campaign
Rev. Dr. Neil G. Thomas – Metropolitan Community Church/LA
Vallerie D. Wagner – National Black Justice Coalition
Marshall Wong Co-Chair, API Equality—L.A.