Joe Solmonese

You can't take this away from me

Filed By Joe Solmonese | November 07, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: California, gay marriage, Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese, marriage equality, Prop 8, Prop. 8, same-sex marriage

Proposition 8 broke our hearts, but it did not end our fight.

Like many in our movement, I found myself in Southern California last weekend. There, I had the opportunity to speak with a man who said that Proposition 8 completely changed the way he saw his own neighborhood. Every "Yes on 8" sign was a slap. For this man, for me, for the 18,000 couples who married in California, to LGBT people and the people who love us, its passage was worse than a slap in the face. It was nothing short of heartbreaking.

But it is not the end. Fifty-two percent of the voters of California voted to deny us our equality on Tuesday, but they did not vote our families or the power of our love out of existence; they did not vote us away.

As free and equal human beings, we were born with the right to equal families. The courts did not give us this right--they simply recognized it. And although California has ceased to grant us marriage licenses, our rights are not subject to anyone's approval. We will keep fighting for them. They are as real and as enduring as the love that moves us to form families in the first place. There are many roads to marriage equality, and no single roadblock will prevent us from ultimately getting there.

And yet there is no denying, as we pick ourselves up after losing this most recent, hard-fought battle, that we've been injured, many of us by neighbors who claim to respect us. We see them in the supermarkets, on the sidewalk, and think "how could you?"

By the same token, we know that we are moving in the right direction. In 2000, California voters passed Proposition 22 by a margin of 61.4% to 38.6%. On Tuesday, fully 48% of Californians rejected Proposition 8. It wasn't enough, but it was a massive shift. Nationally, although two other anti-marriage ballot measures won, Connecticut defeated an effort to hold a constitutional convention ending marriage, New York's state legislature gained the seats necessary to consider a marriage law, and FMA architect Marilyn Musgrave lost her seat in Congress. We also elected a president who supports protecting the entire community from discrimination and who opposes discriminatory amendments.

Yet on Proposition 8 we lost at the ballot box, and I think that says something about this middle place where we find ourselves at this moment. In 2003, twelve states still had sodomy laws on the books, and only one state had civil unions. Four years ago, marriage was used to rile up a right-wing base, and we were branded as a bigger threat than terrorism. In 2008, most people know that we are not a threat. Proposition 8 did not result from a popular groundswell of opposition to our rights, but was the work of a small core of people who fought to get it on the ballot. The anti-LGBT message didn't rally people to the polls, but unfortunately when people got to the polls, too many of them had no problem with hurting us. Faced with an economy in turmoil and two wars, most Californians didn't choose the culture war. But faced with the question--brought to them by a small cadre of anti-LGBT hardliners - of whether our families should be treated differently from theirs, too many said yes.

But even before we do the hard work of deconstructing this campaign and readying for the future, it's clear to me that our continuing mandate is to show our neighbors who we are.

Justice Lewis Powell was the swing vote in Bowers, the case that upheld Georgia's sodomy law and that was reversed by Lawrence v. Texas five years ago. When Bowers was pending, Powell told one of his clerks "I don't believe I've ever met a homosexual." Ironically, that clerk was gay, and had never come out to the Justice. A decade later, Powell admitted his vote to uphold Georgia's sodomy law was a mistake.

Everything we've learned points to one simple fact: people who know us are more likely to support our equality.

In recent years, I've been delivering this positive message: tell your story. Share who you are. And in fact, as our families become more familiar, support for us increases. But make no mistake: I do not think we have to audition for equality. Rather, I believe that each and every one of us who has been hurt by this hateful ballot measure, and each and every one of us who is still fighting to be equal, has to confront the neighbors who hurt us. We have to say to the man with the Yes on 8 sign--you disrespected my humanity, and I am not giving you a pass. I am not giving you a pass for explaining that you tolerate me, while at the same time denying that my family has a right to exist. I do not give you permission to say you have me as a "gay friend" when you cast a vote against my family, and my rights.

Wherever you are, tell a neighbor what the California Supreme Court so wisely affirmed: that you are equal, you are human, and that being denied equality harms you materially. Although I, like our whole community, am shaken by Prop 8's passage, I am not yet ready to believe that anyone who knows us as human beings and understands what is at stake would consciously vote to harm us.

This is not over. In California, our legal rights have been lost, but our human rights endure, and we will continue to fight for them.


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Please don't let it happen again. We expect better of Projectors.

Joe, I'm not going to bash you or HRC here (that stuff's all been said and to rehash it here would be redundant). However, I will point out one thing that I believe strikes to the very heart of the issues so many of us have with you and HRC:

"But make no mistake: I do not think we have to audition for equality. Rather, I believe that each and every one of us who has been hurt by this hateful ballot measure, and each and every one of us who is still fighting to be equal, has to confront the neighbors who hurt us. We have to say to the man with the Yes on 8 sign--you disrespected my humanity, and I am not giving you a pass. I am not giving you a pass for explaining that you tolerate me, while at the same time denying that my family has a right to exist. I do not give you permission to say you have me as a "gay friend" when you cast a vote against my family, and my rights."

Take this statement and apply it to ENDA and the right of transpeople to be protected in the workplace instead of marriage and you'll have a very clear picture why transfolks and our allies feel the way we do about you folks.

Thanks, Joe. You said it as well or perhaps even better than any of us ever could.

Note from Bil: This comment has been removed for Terms of Service violation. From the comment policy below:

While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Please don't let it happen again. We expect better of Projectors.

I agree with Becky. It doesn't feel so good when others are trying to invalidate YOUR humanity. Remember this moment in time, because when ENDA comes back, you don't want to be eating these words. Laptops are hard to digest.

I got a fifth of Southern Comfort for you. Drink it in good health.

Angela Brightfeather | November 7, 2008 1:40 PM

Dear Joe,

For a 63 year old activist in the GLBT community, to see the happiness, sense of togetherness and affirmation of equality that was on the faces of millions of Black Americans on Wednesday, not only confirms what us older activists were screaming about many years ago when it was "love and peace" we wanted for all Americans. But it makes us aware of what we have been hoping for all GLBT people for all those years. Some us would also like to share in that glowing feeling inside that confirms that we are free to live our lives equally also.

Damn the defeats like Prop 8 for the way that they make us feel, and fight on for what we know is right and just in achieving love and peace for all Americans. Love and peace are so valuable.

But I am glad that Prop 8 has shown us one thing besides the fact that we are far from done yet. It made people peel the same way that I did whne it was announced that we would not be included in HR 2015 last year.

That same rage you feel about Prop 8 is how I felt about HR 2015. It's like a measurable loss of a spiritual thing inside you that feeds your soul and makes you empty and deceived. While at the same time it makes you feel vulnerable and exposed to hatred from some people.

I would like to ask you a personal question about how you felt last year when meeting with Barney Frank and being told by him that HR 2015 would not pass if it protected Trans rights also and that it had to be removed?

I know that you were not as affected as most every Trans activist. That is to be expected. But I would like to know exactly how you felt about it when confronted with the fact that you would be a part of dividing the GLBT community at such a crucial time in our history.

You were in a very unique position slightly over a year ago to positively affect a group of people, which might be compared to how the head of the Mormon church might have felt when James Dobson asked him if his church would help to contribute millions of dollars to the passage of Prop 8.

What does it take for people in that position to make the conscious effort to commit to limiting the rights of other people with a deliberate and measured decision?

I appreciate your posting to this blog with your feelings about Prop 8, which I share with you. I hope that you can in turn share with me, the feelings that you felt last year and if they impacted you and what you learned from them.

We share the desire for love and peace in the GLBT Community because it is and always has been our right.

Angela and other trans-activists seeing this as "karma" for us;

Nearly every other LGBT or any combination of those initials organisation opposed a non-inclusive ENDA. Lambda Legal stood up against it.

The fundies are turning upon the New York State legislature next. Our state recognises same-sex marriage. My friend of operative history, legally a woman, the partner of a woman, will lose the rights that she has gained by our state's court decisions and by the actions of our governor.

Does she deserve to lose rights?
Does Anyone?

Many of us fought actively for trans inclusion, just as we fought for same-sex marriage.

Many of us defended trans-inclusion, defended it against the more conservative members of our own ranks.

If you prefer not to stand with us, I cannot fault you given the sense of abandonment that seems so prevelant amongst you.

But to revel in our disaccomodation at the hands of the fundies....
You serve your own cause poorly...


You know full well that we didn't wish this on anyone. We supported its defeat like the rest of the community. But some people, like Joe, act as if this was destined to be their moment in the sun, and act as if the equality gods sent down a lighting bolt to their hearts. They felt their humanity devaluated, when they had no problems devaluating mine. The bad karma is theirs and theirs alone. The rest of the supportive community just got screwed, as well as we did.

I'm afraid the lesson of devaluating someone else's humanity will be lost on some gay and lesbian people. Joe has yet to prove he isn't one of them.

And maybe, just maybe, if they approached marriage equality in incremental steps, like they forced on the trans community for other rights, we wouldn't have the mess we have today.

FAIR WARNING:

I've already had to delete three comments for being abusive. I'll remind everyone that Joe is an invited contributor and deserving of the same respect you'd show any other contributor. Personal attacks will not be tolerated nor will abusive comments.

Comments about nothing more than ENDA will be TOSsed as "off-topic." The topic is Prop 8. A few of you have gotten in your licks; that's enough. The point has been made.

I remember when ENDA happened, the trans community was upset that many gays and lesbians took something highly important to trans folk lightly and didn't acknowledge the hurt while only fixating on their own issues. Don't make the same mistake.

Games of "My hurt is worse than yours" won't help anyone in the LGBT community. The past year has shown us more than ever that now is the time to come together rather than picking each other apart.

We don't know if our points have been heard if Joe doesn't comment back. You, yourself, have been frustrated with "post and run" contributors. Will you tolerate that here, with Joe? A "civil" discussion can only take place if both sides talk.

And, his feelings about the loss of Prop 8 IS exactly the same feelings we had with ENDA. Karma can be a bitch sometimes.

Reformed Ascetic | November 7, 2008 2:55 PM

Thanks Joe. Although the pain is real, this is not the time to give up. Although the pain is real, this is not the time to self-destruct. Although the pain is real, this is not the time to suffer in quiet.


"Rather, I believe that each and every one of us who has been hurt by this hateful ballot measure, and each and every one of us who is still fighting to be equal, has to confront the neighbors who hurt us. We have to say to the man with the Yes on 8 sign--you disrespected my humanity, and I am not giving you a pass. I am not giving you a pass for explaining that you tolerate me, while at the same time denying that my family has a right to exist. I do not give you permission to say you have me as a "gay friend" when you cast a vote against my family, and my rights.

Wherever you are, tell a neighbor what the California Supreme Court so wisely affirmed: that you are equal, you are human, and that being denied equality harms you materially."

Joe, I do appreciate your optimism and your efforts to put a positive spin on Tuesday's defeats.

And yet there is no denying, as we pick ourselves up after losing this most recent, hard-fought battle, that we've been injured, many of us by neighbors who claim to respect us. We see them in the supermarkets, on the sidewalk, and think "how could you?"

It's not just our neighbors, Joe. Many of us (myself included) had family members who donated to Yes on 8 and Yes on 102. Many of us had family members who voted for these ballot measures. And many of us have family members who still tell us that our partners are not welcome in their homes. It's easy to forgive the person at the grocery store. How do you go about healing from the pain that your own family has caused you?

Reformed Ascetic | November 7, 2008 3:15 PM

Serena you have beautifully pointed out one of the things that makes the LGBT community unique among minority groups.

It is often the personal connections we are born into that hurt us the most.

Thanks Joe, and the HRC, the volunteers the donators, thanks everyone for all your hard work. This truly was a momentous event and tho we didnt win it did push us forward.

It is a very sad time, we need to mourn and then begin to heal and regroup and keep on going.

Now with a different administration hopefully things will begin to change. I myself am glad that the HRC and so many are poised to play an integral part in this change.

Peace...

Also thanks Bill for all your hard work as well!!!

Thank you, Joe, for returning to the Bilerico Project. I wasn't around then, but I understand you were ill-treated in the past. I appreciate your willingness to speak with us, despite that history.

Your article makes much sense. I was tempted to down-play my disappointment and frustration over the Prop 8 result (and the damage done by all of the other initiatives). Doing so makes it somewhat easier to cope. But doing so also gives those who voted against us another victory by letting them off the hook. And our silence makes it easier for the oppression to continue.

Americans are fundamentally good people - they just have to see the unnecessary human cost of the current situation.

My heart goes out to you, Joe, and to all those in California who have been abused, discriminated against, and reduced to second class status with the passing of Prop 8.

I agree with you, Dale, about having to show Americans the unnecessary human cost of the current situation. There are many straight Americans who voted for Prop 8, Prop 2 in Florida, or Prop 102 in Arizona because they haven't been properly educated about all the repercussions and consequences of "protecting" a "traditional" marriage.

Like you, Joe, I too believe that the fight isn't over yet. We need to go out and inform more people about the discrimination faced by the LGBT community every day. Only through awareness can we succeed.

Thank you for your honesty and hope, Joe.

All these wonderful sentiments about how Joe felt on this visit to California. Where were all of those sentiments when Joe supported Barney dumping us from ENDA? Oh wait. We're just "those trannies."

Like I said above. Karman can be a bitch sometimes. What comes around, goes around. Just ask Earl, in the NBC show. Don't get me wrong. I'm not smiling one damn bit. Joe didn't deserve what happened to him in CA. But, did we?

I just want to know how many of you have learned any lessons from all of this? We'll see in the near future, I guess.

Monica plese stop...this affected you as well. Cant you be a bit more gracious???

We live in Georgia, or have you forgotten? I don't have a girlfriend and if I did, the chances of me getting married again in my life is near absolute zero. And, if I somwhow did find myself in a position to get married, I'll go to CT, or just have a commitment ceremony.

So, to respond to your assumption, "No. Prop 8, 102 or 2 didn't affect me personally one damn bit." How did it affect you, personally? Did you lose your job, or your business? Did your taxes go up? Did you get in a car accident? Did you die? In what way did it affect your life personally? Emotional affect is N/A.

Actually Monica if you did have a girlfriend you could legally marry her, because the ugly truth is that in the state of GA they recognize you as your birth gender...I think its horrible but its true...So it did affect you...FL affected you AZ affected you every time we (you and I and all GLBT's) are denied our basic civil rights we are affected.

I know you (we all know) you are bitter about ENDA, but guess what? It will come around again and we will support it and try our damnedest to get it passed inclusive of all...

But this is not a haha how do you feel about it now time. From our previous conversations it seems like your kinda glad this happened just so we could "feel" your pain...

Its a sad day, but will be allright. We will pick ourselves up, dust our selves off and keep going...

Peace...

Absolutely. We will keep going.

As far as I'm concerned HRC sold out Florida's and Arizona LGBT's. I will NEVER support HRC again.

I am furious that HRC directed $3.4M to California, a measly $120,000 to Florida and a paltry $50,000 to Arizona. I guess HRC didn't feel that those of us who live in Florida and our lesbian/gay sisters and brothers in Arizona are worth fighting for.

Perhaps I should be happy that voters in Florida have decided I am a second-class citizen as Joe Solomese and HRC have deemed me a 0.035-class citizen.


First-class taxpayer. Second-class citizen.

Joe I think Serena Freewomyn brought up a very valid point about family.I'd like to take a minute to expand on it and referance the effect of religion on it and the loss of gay marriage rights in what is it now 30 States.Terrance Heath has an excellent post two storys up from yours on historically black homophobia that I would think could apply to many of our experiences in dealing with our familys religious values Black or White or any other ethnicity for that matter while it is set in a college enviroment I've faced similiar at home.In just the last couple of weeks I've had a dad and one Brother tell me directly that their religious beliefs entitle them to dictate to myself and others in the lgbt community at what level and how our relationships should be recognized legally.It earned my brother a punch in the face and my father the knowledge that I'll continue to smack my brother until he gives me the respect I deserve, my Dad's a Baptist Minister and 70 otherwise I might of smacked him to.Somehow we need to find a way to counter the religious argument in a way that takes it head on and lays it to rest.To many lgbt children and teens are trapped in familys that destroy their self esteem with false Christian values that lead them to suicide or running away only to find themselves trapped into prostitution.How many familys think love one out when they get their kids young and adult to repress themselves by participating in focus on the family style programs? How many familys with gay or trans brothers, sister's, uncles, aunts and even fathers and mothers voted in support of prop 8? To win we must find a way to counter the religious family values movement the way abortion has.The only way forward is with not only a united lgbt but with united family members of those who are lgbt.The enda

I'm reminded of Jess Ventura schooling Pat Buchannan on the immorality of putting people civil rights up to a popular vote.

http://crooksandliars.com/2008/05/23/jesse-ventura-schools-pat-buchanan-on-gay-marriage/

VENTURA: Let me throw something out. You can‘t take a civil rights issue and put it up to a vote. If you did that, we might still have slavery if it was allowed to be voted on.

BUCHANAN: Jesse what about -

(CROSS TALK)

VENTURA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) civil rights and let people vote on it.

BUCHANAN: Well, Jesse, what are you talking about? The Civil Rights Act 1964 was voted on. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 voted on by congress.

The Open Housing Act of 1968 was done by LBJ, first went to demonstrations

by Martin Luther King. These were done by representatives -

VENTURA: Exactly.

BUCHANAN: Not by these un-elected judges.

VENTURA: Well, and not by populace itself, Pat. If the elected officials stand up for what‘s right and do what‘s right for civil rights like they did back then, I fully agree with you. But you can‘t put a civil rights issue on the general ballot in a state and let people vote on it because if do you that, in the southern states before you can bet, they would have voted to continue slavery.
===================================

To my transgender sibs here - I would say this is especially sad in California. This state included LGB&T folks in employment, public accommodations & hate crimes legislation before taking on relationship equality.

It (along with NJ and as appossed to MA)was exactly the kind of principled approach we've been asking for from the organization the author represents.

It represents a great loss to all of us.

The Time of Waiting for Gay Equality is OVER!

(Oklahoma City) A recent joint press release from Equality California, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center , and the San Diego Gay and Lesbian Center is counseling that ""We achieve nothing if we isolate the people who did not stand with us in this fight. We only further divide our state if we attempt to blame people of faith, African American voters, rural communities and others for this loss."

I disagree completely. No longer, no longer, no longer must religion be used as the cudgel to separate any person from their legal rights of fair treatment and protection under the law.

I walked by a religious proselytizer today in downtown Oklahoma City. I had seen him yesterday when he made a speech for Gee-sus on the bus I was riding. Today, though, he was on the sidewalk and said to me, "Did you know God loves you?"

I looked him in the eye for a few seconds and replied, "F*** off!", and walked away.

I've never acted that way to a stranger before and depending on the perceived physical danger to me, it won't be the last time I respond to an uninvited encounter with a proselytizer.

Religion has and continues to be the major block to the implementation of rights for gay/lesbian citizens because of what we do in private and who we love in public.

Religion was the chain around the necks of slaves, it's been the chastity belt forced on women's reproductive choice, and it's been the closed book preventing the age-appropriate teaching of responsible sexual information to children.

Religion instructs the empty-headed to fear our differentness, to treat us with disrespect--and with barely concealed contempt--to encourage violence against our property and bodies.

We gays/lesbians are far too complacent, accepting, and willing in our own disenfranchisement from our birth right as citizens.

I welcome the peaceful protests in California and elsewhere that are demanding the protection and benefits of the laws that are applied to others but not to us.

Our self-appointed equality leaders who counsel shyness and acceptance of a later time should act like leaders or get out of our way. The time is long past for coyness and politeness.

Dr. M. L. King said it best in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail", April 16, 1963 with this paragraph:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." (http://www.mlkonline.net/jail.html )

With the immorally presented kangaroo-court vote that passed Prop 8 in California and with other anti-gay measures in Arizona, Florida, and Arkansas, I think we gays/lesbians have waited long enough. Let the marches continue!

And as we march, let's take our chant from the newly-elected President Obama's campaign--Yes, we can!

I get that folks are angry at the passage of Prop 8, led by members of certain religious groups, but let's remember that lots of religious groups and people were also working to defeat Prop 8. Appeals to religious principles are tools that are used for various political ends. Religion itself is not inherently anti-gay. (It may be true that religion is inherently anti-rational, and that non-rational belief systems are difficult to integrate into plural democracies because you can't engage non-rational beliefs in discourse, but that's another argument.)

Brandi,
I'm glad I finally got to read one of your comments.

Note from Dyssonance: This comment has been averred for Terms of Existing violation. From the comment policy below:

While arguing about an event or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others, even when their concept of respect for you involves lying, cheating, and manipulating. he does her best to be so, as that helps to foster communication without too much acrimony, and she supports the Terms of service of the site.

The Dyssonance will aver a comment that is likely to involve taking multiple sides to talks and fomenting violations of the terms of service, and she finds the situation where the HRC is involved to be untenable. She understands that for GLB folks, they mean well and can often be said to sorta accomplish things. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of her user account, as when she gets on a ter she's unlikely to stop. Please keep in mind that this is one of her online homes; she would not be rude to guests, but either would she invite them if they had run her over three times in 15 years. Indeed, she believes that there is hypocrisy there, when such a guest is invited to her home, even though they have helped others there.

Please don't let it happen again. She expects better of herself and of others who are trying to be her allies.

I really need to spellcheck and proofread...

Joe, thanks for posting here again! LBGT's lost to many rights on election day 2008! We are all hurting! Maybe it is time to regroup and make changes that unite instead of divide the LBGT's? I am still upset about HRC & ENDA and would like to see more acknowledgments from the LBG's that we are a full part of the community. My hope is that the sate governments could be lobbied to over turn those losses and / or a discrimination law suit is filed in as may states as possible! Something has to make it to the Supreme Court for the nation to end the discrimination! We also have to educate the "Religious Fundamentalists" that we are people and not their Satan's. We need to tame the Beast of Intolerance and Prejudice. Joe, HRC has the Money and the resources to do this it is time to, as the Quote goes " Show us the Money!" Regina

Brandi, this statement "where shes not afraid of freedom of speach" was way off base. This site has rules and regulations to create a civil place of discource, you freedoms have not been vialoated by Bil...seriously its his Blog, he can call the shots...

Your angry towards HRC is well noted...

Actually, midtowner, no, it is not well noted.

If it were *truly* well noted, then this post would not have been made.

and the transfolk who frequent bilerico wouldn't feel like they were being reminded they are second class projectors.

Brandi -

The rules are simple and at the bottom of each page. They are in plain English. All you have to do is play by the rules - just like everyone else. You're not special here.

If you don't like the rules, I'd suggest you move on somewhere else. No one is forcing you to comment off-topic or abusively.

And when you can spell "censored," you can complain about it. Otherwise, just give it a break and follow the rules.

Makes me wonder how African Americans were feeling when Prop 208 passed in CA eliminating affirmative action...

BTW, where was HRC on Prop 208?

A few observations......
Prop 8 was important because this time it was not about gaining civil rights but rather actually taking established ones away. Given this I totally understand the decision by HRC to throw the majority of effort towards this.

On censorship here vs. Pam's.......well some of us have reason to see that differently, 'nuff said.

On the browbeating ENDA thing.......marriage is an issue that effects EVERYONE GLB and T. Someday the vocal transie crowd will actually figure this out. Equal marriage laws would mean an end to the debate about which state recognizes the marriages of women and men of operative history too.......and even TGs.

I was very disappointed to see Donna Rose post a blog lecturing Joe on ENDA and marriage. Give it a rest people. Unless of course you want a lengthy blog from me about how TG activism has negatively impacted on the ground civil rights of those of transsexual history with it's "education" that changed the dialogue to the non op over those of us who fit the binary effectively rendering us invisible.