Editors' Note: Guest blogger Will Kohler is a freelance writer and activist from Cincinnati, Ohio. Will blogs at Back2Stonewall.com.
As we sit here waiting to see if same sex marriage will become a reality in New York, let's remember that it was 34 years ago this month that Anita Bryant and her "Save The Children Campaign" (Inc.) caused the lesbian and gay citizens of Dade County, Florida to lose their rights and protections in what had to be the first case of putting gay rights up to a vote of the people.
Thirty-five years! How far we have and have not come in such a long period of time.
Bryant, like the National Organization for Marriage, did everything in her power to crusade against us and still does to this day as she speaks at GOP groups and Tea Party meetings preaching the same message of hate. You see, hate against us never dies and despite what we hear, we can never change everyone's "hearts and minds."
In 1997 Bryant, who used many of the talking points and strategy's that today's anti-gay hate groups like NOM, FRC and the AFA use, also quoted Leviticus 20:13 and called us "abominations" and waged a "holy war" against us. In 1977, as today, the Roman Catholic Church stood side by side with Bryant denouncing our rights and dehumanizing us. And 34 years ago the White House stood against them and said "There is a guarantee of every person in this nation to be treated with dignity," just like the White stands behind us today but does very little make our full equality a reality.
So in 35 years how much has really changed?
Only 13 states plus the District of Columbia have laws that protect against discrimination in all employment due to sexual orientation and gender identity, and only another seven seven states have laws that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity. That is less than half of the country - only 20 states in total. ENDA, which was introduced in 1994, sits comatose in Congress, and only one representative has ever broached the most obvious (and smartest) alternate path of including LGBT persons into the protections granted to other minorities under the Civil Rights Act.
We need to look at the past - not only to remember but to learn. We are all over the map fighting for marriage equality state by state and LGBT protections on city and state levels. It is easier to stop any movement forward there because the other side insists on putting civil rights issues up for a vote.
It's taken 34 years for 20 states to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation. ENDA has been bat around for almost 20 years. And it's taken 14 years for five states and the District of Columbia to recognize gay marriage. You don't have to be a math genius to realize that we are fighting the wrong way and the long way.
How many more generations of the LGBT community must live and die as second class citizens? How many generations of bigots will have to wait to die out before our community achieves equality? Where is our sense of urgency, and where is our sense of self respect that we allow ourselves to be abused like this? Is this really the only road that we want to take?
We need to take a step back and regroup. We also need to bring this fight fully to the federal level - through the courts.
We can continue fighting state by state as a back up just in case we lose. If we do lose, we wait 10 years and try again through the courts. By then, even with struggling at the state level and despite the "timelines" you have heard of in the past (that is already past due), we wouldn't be anywhere near our goal.
Let's look at the past, learn and move forward.
That's what history is there for after all.