- 53% of Maine voters voted to reverse the 2009 referendum banning marriage equality.
- 52% of Maryland voters voted to allow a marriage equality law passed in the legislature earlier this year to go into effect.
- 51% of Minnesota voters voted against a constitutional ban on marriage equality.
- 52% of Washington state voters voted to allow a marriage equality law passed earlier this year to go into effect.
This is historic because this election is the first time that marriage equality measures were not defeated when put to a popular vote. It’s amazing to think about how radically public opinions about gay and lesbian people have shifted over the last decade, particularly on the issue of marriage equality. Support for marriage equality has significantly increased among Democrats and independents while remaining steady (and significantly lower) among Republicans.So, what’s next?
What does this election mean as far as strategy goes? In 1996, the US government passed DOMA, which is now being challenged in the course and is likely to be at least partially overturned. Before 2003, the rhetoric against marriage equality was basically “if you don’t like it, take it to the courts and legislatures.” So we did. In 2003, the US Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws and on May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first US state to legalize marriage equality.
Of course, then the Right started complaining about activist judges and demanded that we work through legislatures–the “proper” way to get laws changed. So we did. And as legislatures began passing laws legalizing marriage equality, the rhetoric shifted again. “It really should be up to the people to decide who gets to be married.” 32 ballot initiatives over the course of the first decade of the 2000s saw the defeat of marriage equality at the ballot box. Those on the Right (specifically the FRC and NOM) lauded ballot initiatives based on this history. NOM’s president Brian Brown even went so far as to call people “delusional” who believed that the tide was turning on marriage equality.
Well, last night the people spoke, and they said “fuck you, inequality!” Okay, maybe it wasn’t so strong–it was only around 50% of the voters in all four of those states. But the point is that marriage equality finally won at the ballot box, not just once but four times.
So where do the bigots turn to next? We’ve played their game: we’ve won in courts, we’ve won in legislatures, we’ve won ballot initiatives… Do we take it to the Supreme Court? Already on it. Then what?
It will be interesting to watch over the coming weeks and months how the rhetoric shifts. Speaking of delusional, NOM is already spinning this as no big deal. No big deal? We just demolished one of your talking points and last bastions of hope you had for keeping us down.
But you know what? The spin doesn’t even matter. Marriage equality is happening, and I think it will happen sooner rather than later. The momentum is undeniably building.
So what’s next for LGBT activism? I have some ideas:
- Let’s start focusing on people other than gay white middle- and upper-class gay men and lesbians. We need to really start illuminating for the public other aspects of oppression affect queer lives, including racism, ableism, poverty, and ageism.
- We need to fight harder for the rights of our trans* siblings. We should be demanding the inclusion of trans* people in health insurance coverage and remove the roadblocks that many trans* people face when seeking to transition.
- We need to get ENDA passed, and it needs to be trans* inclusive. Anything else is unacceptable.
- We need to continue speaking out against bullying of all kinds, but specifically bullying based on real or perceived sex, gender, or sexuality differences.
- We need to put more funding into taking care of queer health disparities.
- And, of course, we need to continue to speak out on behalf of our queer siblings all around the globe who are asking for our help. We must be vocal and vigilant in securing basic human rights for all people.
What am I leaving off? What else do we need to start making visible for the general public?