At long last the campaigning is over, we’ve cast our votes and stand at the dawn of a new day, not just for our country and world politics, but in the evolution of human society.
With 64 percent of registered voters nationally participating in this election, the largest percentage since 1908, the results are as close to a mandate from the people than we’ve seen in many, many years. We have a new president and many see, in the election of Barak Obama, the realization of King’s dream of a nation where we would be judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.
Despite pundits’ queries regarding America’s readiness to elect a black man, millions of Americans left race outside the voting booth and made a decision for the future of the country – over 130 million people voting for one thing – change.
This election was all about change; a new direction. After eight years of lies, divisive politics, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, failed economic policies leaving millions of Americans unemployed, without adequate health care and facing foreclosure, and a monumental collapse of financial institutions, who did not want change?
But it wasn’t about change for the sake of change; new faces administering the same outdated policies. The economic hardships crossed all boundaries and trumped biases. We were all hurting and feeling like one nation “under the gun.” We needed hope. We wanted change. And on Nov. 4, President-elect Obama proclaimed that this was “our victory.”
But some things did not change.
Although Obama opposes gay marriage, he supports civil union and gay equality. He is on record stating his belief that “gay couples should be able to visit each other in the hospital and share health care benefits… . They should be treated with dignity and have their privacy respected by the federal government.” Obama opposed the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in California and received overwhelming support from the LGBT community. While we cheered the election of Obama alongside other supporters, dancing in the streets, celebrating the victory of change and the promise of tomorrow, LGBT Americans’ celebration was bittersweet.
Our joy was tempered with the realization that the same voters who heard Obama’s message of inclusion chose to deny us our rights in Florida, Arizona and Arkansas, by overturning the human rights ordinance in Hamtramck and, perhaps the most heartbreaking of all, with the passage of California’s Proposition 8.
Despite electing what promises to be the most LGBT-friendly administration ever, the same voters still believed the scare tactics and lies regarding the LGBT community. On a day when all Americans should have been rejoicing, the stark reality of inequality and injustice reared its ugly head saying to tens of thousand of loving, committed gay couples and their families “not now, not today.”
Despite these setbacks, LGBT leaders remind us that there has been an unprecedented positive shift in public attitudes toward LGBT rights. But at a time of such jubilation, in an election that was fought so hard, with the promise of a new president who is right on our issues, this is little consolation.
Where is our Obama, our mavericks – LGBT leaders who think independently, not solely politically or strategically, not willing to make compromises for the sake of political expediency?
Maverick. The word hasn’t been bandied about so much since Bret, Bart and their English cousin Beau rode across the west dandily dressed, drifting from town to town looking for a good game of poker in the ’60s western flick of the same name.
McCain and Palin tried to don the mantel of maverick and although they did drift from town to town and Palin did have that spiffy $150,000 wardrobe – they weren’t real mavericks.
If you want to find real mavericks you have only to look at our history – gay history. Harvey Milk, the Stonewall Revolutionists, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, Frank Kameny, Andy Marra, Sylvia Rhule, Donna Rose, Wanda Alston and the tens of thousands of out LGBT Americans who have and are living their lives, refusing to go quietly into the night, demanding full inclusion in ENDA and other LGBT legislation – independent, non-conformist, never settling, always fighting for full equality.
This election was all about change. It might seem, with the results in Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, California and Hamtramck, that some would want to exclude LGBT Americans from this new era of change. But we are, and always will be, Americans. We can not let them deny us this victory or full participation in the transformation of this country. The real mavericks are back and we will not go quietly into the night.
In his election night speech, President-elect Barack Obama said that his election was “the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America.”
This is our moment. This is our victory. A new day and a new direction. A change. Yes we did. Yes we can. And, yes we must.