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National LGBT leaders respond to 2004 election

By |2004-11-18T09:00:00-05:00November 18th, 2004|Uncategorized|

The outcome of the 2004 election was not what the LGBT community was hoping for. Eleven states passed anti-gay marriage amendments to their constitutions. In addition, an administration hostile to LGBT rights received another four year term.
It has been widely reported that exit polls found “moral values” to be a factor in the campaign. Many voters who cited “moral values” as their primary concern voted for Bush.
“It’s sickening and fascinating that when one in five voters said ‘moral values’ was the most important issue for them, pundits immediately equated that with gay marriage alone,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Months ago, we all knew that if George Bush was re-elected, ‘gay marriage’ would be blamed. A scapegoat is required. Offer up the gays.”
Pinning the loss on the issue of gay marriage, however, is a mistake, according to Foreman. “Frankly, the right did a better job in turning out their vote in key places. They’ve been building their machine – illegally, unethically, or both – through churches for 30 years. They have seized and occupied ‘moral values’ for years. Our side is not going to make up these deficiencies in one cycle.”
Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign, sharply criticized the results of votes on constitutional amendments in 11 states that deny marriage to same-sex couples, as well as civil unions and domestic partnership rights in some states.
“These amendments protect no one but instead discriminate against millions of American families. These amendments were put on the ballot to divide people during the heat of the campaign. We need a thoughtful conversation about ensuring that every family has the same rights and responsibilities. Fair-minded Americans know that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are their friends, their families, their co-workers and we deserve equal protection under law.”
On Nov. 2, said Matt Coles, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, “We took a step back. Eleven states changed the very charters that establish our society to try to keep same-sex couples out of that society forever. But we have to keep what happened in perspective. Most of these were states where we have hardly begun the discussion about the role of same-sex couples in American life.”
In the face of the amendments there some bright spots. “The closest margin on the amendments was in Oregon, where thousands of same-sex couples there are married. These families – like millions of other Americans – educated their neighbors, families, friends and co-workers about the importance of fairness,” said Jacques.
“These key conversations happened across the nation and helped us secure an extremely important victory in Cincinnati, Ohio, beating back a mean-spirited and discriminatory law on the books. The voters there repealed a law that banned the city from enacting non-discrimination laws for gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens.”
While the results represent a setback, national LGBT leaders remain resolute and hopeful, positive that the movement for full civil rights for LGBT people is a matter of when, not if.
“GLBT Americans and our allies are more united than ever before,” said Jacques. “Since the beginning of this fight, we knew it would be a long journey. We are committed and we will not give up. In challenging times, America has grappled with and ultimately stood on the side of fairness, and we will repeat this proud experience. History is on our side.”
“No movement for freedom has ever had a smooth path to progress, and the movement to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is no different,” said Coles.
The results of the election ended nothing, Coles said. “Lawsuits to end the exclusion will go forward in New York, California, Washington, Maryland and New Jersey. Lawsuits to get equal treatment will continue in Alaska and Montana, New Jersey, Florida, Connecticut, and Indiana. And if the fight for equality in Oregon may take a little longer, it is hardly over. We will continue to fight for equal treatment through the courts. Moreover, we believe the day when the people of Oregon will reverse the decision they made yesterday is not far off.
“Same-sex couples will marry, and become fully a part of the American landscape. The promise of equality in our constitution demands no less. And sooner or later, that promise will be kept.”

About the Author:

D'Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.
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