Yesterday I put up a post lamenting GLAD's decision to challenge DOMA in federal court. Sara Whitman put up a post celebrating the decision. The two posts make nice bookends for the issue of marriage equality and provide unique perspectives; I'd encourage you to read both.
One of the beauties of Bilerico Project is the diversity of opinion - you'll find several people who will agree with you and just as many more who won't. Life's a challenge; our blog should be too. One challenge came from the comments section of Sara's post. Part of what Sam Ritchie wrote that I wanted to highlight is this:
Eventually, we'll all owe our ability to marry to Massachusetts. In the meantime, it sucks a whole lot in a whole lot of places. I was going to say "I wish there was something I could do..." but I guess I should ask instead:
What can folks in the progressive states do to make things suck less for those in the reactionary ones? I mean, no one is going to stop fighting for more rights where we are, but certainly there must be things we can add to that to help move us all forward. Aren't there?
Kudos to Sam for taking our conversation one step further. Its a discussion so interesting it got it's own post. My answer after the jump.
There are numerous ways to help those of us in flyover country that doesn't require east and west coast activists stop pushing the ball forward in their own states.
Acknowledge There Is a Price To Your Success
Nothing in life is free. While I congratulate and celebrate with those LGBT folk who have been able to get married, it needs to be clear that there was a price.
When Hawaii looked poised to gain same-sex marriage, states all over the country rushed to "protect marriage." The majority of states passed legislation banning same-sex marriage.
When Vermont got civil unions and Massachusetts gained marriage, the pack of rightwing fundie nutjobs bayed for blood. The places those hounds bit were the South, the Midwest, and Western states. Many of those states took it even further and passed amendments to their state constitutions outlawing gay marriages and, in some cases, civil unions and domestic partner benefits.
For all those Massachusetts, California and Connecticut queer couples that have taken been able to exercise their right to get married, thousands of us in the rest of the country have lived with constitutional amendments, failed LGBT-friendly legislation, and fighting battles brought to us when we weren't financially or organizationally capable of defending ourselves.
Walk a Day In Our Shoes
Obviously, someone who has always lived in New York City and someone who's always lived in Winchester, Indiana will have different life experiences. The series of events that have unfolded to form my life couldn't have happened if I'd lived in a gay ghetto. Harvey Milk probably wouldn't have become a political leader and LGBT martyr if he'd moved to San Antonio instead of San Francisco. Our surroundings shape our lives.
I, personally, have faced employment discrimination, housing discrimination and hate crimes. Just me. I'm 36, so we're not talking about the 50's or even 60's. While things have improved in Indiana as time has gone on, we've not seen the dramatic changes like more progressive states.
Our reasons for shying away are valid. Who wouldn't step back to avoid getting slapped in the face once more? We're not cowards. We're not closet cases. We're not homophobic. We're not stupid for not moving to New York or San Fran.
There is nothing more infuriating though, than feeling as if those who haven't had to face the consequences of their actions are flippant towards those of us who have. We want some respect for paying with our hopes, our blood and our safety. Walk a day in our shoes. Learn how far ahead you are and how far behind we are.
Help Us Get New Shoes
Once you've seen how much our rights lag behind, help us to catch up. Our organizations are still fairly small; they're fundraising doesn't even touch the amount raised by coastal or national groups. The capabilities just aren't there.
It's not often I give HRC kudos, but I never fail to mention that they were the only national organization to provide hands-on help to pass the Indianapolis human rights ordinance that included both sexual orientation and gender identity. They sent Bo Shuff, another Bilerico contributor.
Once that campaign was over and Bo had left for another job, HRC continued to have a presence with Stu Rosenburg, an organizing and political guru. Stu helped us make sure Indiana's state house was completely controlled by Republicans - effectively stopping our marriage amendment.
Neither HRC staffer lived in Indiana. Both were based out of DC and covered multiple states. But they were available for us and knew how to get stuff done. They weren't figureheads - they got their hands dirty. Stu and Bo both used their expertise to help - without taking over the show like we were a bunch of country bumpkins.
The two of them earned HRC its respect in Indiana and from me. Other events have shaken that respect, but the two of them made a direct difference in the lives of Hoosiers and I'll never forget it. It wasn't the money they spent (which wasn't much), it was the support they've provided.
What I'm Asking
I'm not asking for other states to stop moving forward or even slow down. I'm asking them to reach behind and offer us their hand to help bring us along too.
I'm not asking for national organizations to stop fundraising thousands of dollars out of Indiana while our state groups struggle to pay basic bills with no paid staff. I'm asking them to share some the resources they can afford but we can't: technological assistance, political expertise, connections to other resources and, if possible, the occasional injection of cash for our battles with the rightwing nutjobs.
I'm not asking that we drop marriage as an issue important to our community. I'm asking that we not focus on it so exclusively that it hinders the rest of us from achieving basic rights.
And I'm not just asking for these things on my own behalf. I'm asking for all of us still living without employment protections, hate crimes laws, housing protections, credit protections, marriage equality, or the right to adopt/foster parent or even keep our own children.
We deserve our rights too.