Recommended readings: TerranceDC at Pam's House Blend makes the point that on Tuesday, the nation elected a president whose parents' marriage would have been illegal forty years ago, and yet at the same time voted to make and keep his marriage illegal. Also at PHB, Autumn informs us that the legal challenges to Prop 8 have already begun. Thomas, a guest-blogger at Feministe, blogs about the sense of bittersweet victory many of us are sharing in No We Can't.
In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a little focused on the fact that, as historical as Obama's victory is, as wonderful as it will be to have a President who is not actively seeking to regress the country into the Dark Ages...for many of us, Tuesday was only half a victory. Yet again we have had it shown to us why the rights of a minority can never be entrusted to a vote of the majority. 52% of my home state declared their willingness to deliberately recreate second-class status for a group of citizens who had, albeit briefly, been fully equal citizens under the law.
The effort to pass Prop 8 was largely funded by extremely strong and well-organized religious organizations; notably, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It's estimated that up to a third of the total funding for Yes on Prop 8 came from the Mormon church. According to LDS members, impassioned appeals during church services told members that their souls were in jeopardy if they did not donate. You may remember the 40-day "relay fast" for Prop 8, as well. One of the "scare points" of the Yes on 8 campaign was the lie that churches would lose their tax status and pastors could be prosecuted for preaching against homosexuality. The irony, of course, is that in the aftermath, No on 8 groups are calling for the LDS church to lose their tax exemption, since they poured so much of their tax-exempt funds into a specifically political cause.
That may provide an explanation for why we lost. We fought on the basis of fairness, justice, and equality. They fought on the basis of fear. Where our ads showed nice, photogenic gay couples and teens talking about "our human rights", their ads outright lied about the scary effects legal same-sex marriage would have, like churches being prosecuted and children being taught tolerance and open-mindedness against their parents' will. (I know, it sounds horrible, doesn't it? "How dare you teach my child to be tolerant! We will not have that kind of accepting language in my house, young man.") We like to think that people are good, that they will do the right thing when given the opportunity to. But when you can successfully frighten people, fairness and equality go out the window. People who are afraid for their souls, who fear attack on their churches and church leaders and children, aren't going to care about doing the right thing.
If we had addressed those issues more directly, if our ads had confronted head-on the lies and fearmongering, we might have been able to edge a win. But as it stands, a religion of fear managed to write their discriminatory beliefs into our laws. And for so long as that is true, I cannot celebrate with a whole heart.