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Last night I was in Grant Park, amid the throngs of bursting Chicagoans hoping to get a glimpse of Barack Obama as he made his acceptance speech in what is arguably the most momentous election in our nation’s history. People weeping uncontrollably, hugging strangers, choreographed dancing and singing in the kind of camaraderie I’ve never seen in this segregated city. Police officers in riot gear took off their helmets and put down their shields, as waves upon waves of people took to the streets in celebration, flooding downtown city streets in a mass of human heat that made the alienation and the loneliness of America’s third largest city unrecognizable. I didn’t cry though. Not last night. Even though the chorus of “yes we cans” hummed in my ears and a warmth unlike any November in Chicago pressed down upon my skin.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “But tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.”
In the excitement of it all, I momentarily forgot how truly divided we are as a country because the next morning I woke up and read the following:
Proposition 8 in California: Passed. Banning same-sex marriage for the second time.
Amendment 2 in Florida: Passed. Yet another gay marriage ban.
Proposition 102 in Arizona: Passed. Arizona became the first state in the nation to reject an anti-gay marriage amendment in 2006, passed the measure this year, now that it has been stripped of language that also denied domestic partnership benefits to hetero couples.
Act 1 in Arkansas: Passed. Now gay couples are unable to adopt or foster-parent children. This from a state with 3700 children in the foster-care system, and only 1000 foster homes.
I’m trying not to be bitter about this, but it’s extraordinarily difficult to view Obama’s victory with triumph and exaltation when it comes at the expense of its marginalized citizens.
AND, insult to irony: every pro-choice initiative passed, as well as the decriminalization of marijuana in Massachusetts and the approved use of medical marijuana in Michigan.
I’ve never been wildly excited about marriage – I’ve taken too many women’s studies classes to not have reservations about the institution as a whole and the government being in any way involved with my vagina. But Ellie and I were at a wedding recently (in California, of course) and one of the caterers asked us if we were married. That gesture alone made me really happy. The thought that I COULD get married to someone I love very much made me mildly euphoric. Say what you will about marriage rights – the thousand-some-odd privileges one incurs solely by being married – but when it comes down to it, this is a civil rights issue. And when we vote to take away someone’s rights, it’s hugely demoralizing. And the reasons that anti-gay supporters are using to back up this discrimination are even more insulting.
My relationship is a threat to their children. Remarkably, murder, assault, drugs, poverty and lack of education all tied for second.
My life is destroying the moral fabric of society. Especially when reality shows like The Bachelor have made a mockery out of marriage long before drag queens could ever get their acrylic nails on it. And let’s not forget the Mormon Church, Prop 8′s biggest financial supporter. The irony of a religion with polygamous roots and ideals supporting a ONE man, ONE woman law is the icing on this bitch-slap cake.
Then there’s the ridiculous public education argument – that gay marriage will be taught in schools. When has marriage ever been taught in schools? Forgive me, I went to public school, was that after the unit on how Columbus invented America? Or was that Al Gore…?
I’m sickened that, in what is perhaps the most progressive election of our time, we are still moving one step forward, one step back. I’m sickened at the thought that Arkansas has now denied gay couples (and straight, unmarried couples) the right to adopt children. I’m outraged at Arizona, but I have been for a long time, so that’s pretty tepid at this point. But mostly I am sickened by the fact that yesterday I had such faith in the American people, naively sure, but now I am just deflated. The hate legislation has rained all over my damn parade and it sucks. It just sucks.