Fight or Flight?
Josh Aterovis is the author of the Killian Kendall Mystery Series as well as numerous columns and articles. Visit his site at http://www.steliko.com/bleedinghearts
Fight or Flight
By Josh Aterovis
November 5, 2004
Tuesday night, after an extremely tense day and an even more anxious evening of watching neck-and-neck election results, I went to bed still not knowing who the next president would be, but fearing the worst. It was looking like a replay of the 2000 election. All night long, I tossed and turned, having nightmares about headlines declaring Bush the winner. I awoke Wednesday morning to the disheartening news that my nightmares were in fact reality. Not only did Kerry concede defeat to Bush, but the Republicans had gained a larger majority in Congress. As if that wasn't enough, I also learned that all eleven states with anti-gay marriage amendments on the ballot passed the measures, with only Oregon even being a close race. I've had a dull ache in my head ever since.
My biggest hope is now that he has achieved his goal of reelection, Bush will back off on pandering to his far-right extremist base, but based on the last four years that is a slim hope at best. No, I'm afraid the next four years will not be kind to the LGBT community—or, for that matter, anyone who does not adhere to his strict brand of conservative religiosity.
I'm still trying to absorb the idea that we're stuck with Bush for another four years. It just doesn't seem possible. How could this have happened? There's no telling how much damage he can do in that time. Now that the elections are over, he may ease up on pushing for the federal marriage amendment, but a Republican Congress will keep reintroducing it and he definitely will not oppose it. In addition, a Republican controlled Congress almost guarantees the continuing failure of measures like the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) and hate crime legislation. The most frightening prospect is that Bush will almost certainly get to appoint several Supreme Court justices during his next term. Based on his past judicial picks, we can expect his choices to be of the extreme conservative variety. Those appointments will leave ripples of repercussions for generations to come.
With these realizations, my first thought was to start packing for Canada. Then I realized I'd be abandoning my country in its time of need. I would never do that to a friend, how could I do that to the country I love despite its obvious flaws? So if flight isn't an option that only leaves fight.
The time has come to take off the gloves. We can no longer afford to play nice. We can not simply roll over and play dead for the next four years. Now more than ever, the LGBT community will have to stand up and demand equality and justice. We will have to continue the fight for rights that should already be ours in courts of law, in our states, in our communities, in our schools, in our workplace, and even in our families. If you're not already out, then the first step you can take in the fight is to fling open the closet doors and join the forces. You can't defend yourself or others from the closet. As Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland, said in his letter of encouragement on Wednesday, "Our visibility is our power."
The Oregon marriage amendment battle proved that visibility and education do make a difference. While Oregon's anti-gay marriage amendment did pass, it only just barely managed to do so. When the Oregon campaign started, polls said the amendment would carry by twenty-seven points. According to projections, the final tally will be 54% to 46%, a difference of a mere eight points. That means the effort to defeat the amendment moved the electorate by nineteen points in less than three months. "The Oregon results clearly show that we can win hearts and votes when we have the resources to reach voters and speak to them directly about marriage and why it matters to gay people," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF).
Visibility is a key element in the struggle for equality, as is education, but with an antagonistic government actively working to ensure discrimination against the LGBT community, we will have to fight for our rights. We may have lost a major battle, but the war is far from over.
While the bad news seems to be overshadowing all else, not all news from Tuesday's election was dismal. Cincinnati, Ohio citizens repealed an anti-gay law that has prevented the city from passing any legislation to protect gays and lesbians for the last ten years. Three states — North Carolina, Idaho and Missouri — elected an openly gay official to the state legislature for the first time. The election of Barack Obama in Illinois and Ken Salazar in Colorado — both openly against the federal marriage amendment — was a victory against opponents who used marriage equality as a wedge issue in the campaign. In states from Illinois to Indiana to Connecticut, House seats were claimed or retained by legislators who fought candidates using the marriage issue as a wedge in the campaign.
The three openly gay members of Congress — Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and the only gay Republican in the House, Jim Kolbe of Arizona — all easily won reelection.
In Massachusetts, the fifty incumbent legislators who opposed the state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage were all reelected. Plus, pro-equality candidates won six of the eight open seats where the opponent was in favor of the constitutional amendment.
Even in the marriage amendment cases, all is not lost. Many of the state marriage amendments that passed will now be challenged in courts of law, as was Louisiana's passed earlier this year. A judge threw out Louisiana's amendment calling it unconstitutional just three weeks after it was passed. Some of the other amendments passed on Tuesday may yet be defeated in court. Challenges are already being mounted in Georgia.
Clearly, there is hope. We truly can make a difference if we join together to fight for a common cause—equality for all. In order to make a difference, however, we have to be prepared to sacrifice for that cause. Let's use this setback as an opportunity to regroup, come together like never before, and re-launch our battle with new and improved strategies. The choice is yours: fight or flight.