Bo Shuff

Our Loss

Filed By Bo Shuff | November 07, 2008 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: California Proposition 8, marriage equality, Prop 8

This post will probably piss some people off, but I am sort of known for that, so here goes.

I am saddled with the feeling that the loss in California is being over-hyped by our side. I am also bothered by a nagging feeling that people have forgotten that many other states have gone through the same thing already.

While I understand that rights were taken away in this case, and that is a significant difference, I am not feeling the emotion of anger or sadness that many on this blog and many others are expressing.

Let me explain.

Yes, rights previously acknowledged by the California Supreme Court were taken away, and this is the first time that has ever happened.

That part of the Prop 8 is disturbing and very worrisome.

However, these are not rights that have been long established in the psyche of the voters. Many of them, in fact, did not buy the argument that rights were being taken away because they didn't believe that they existed in the first place.

Furthermore, from a strictly practical standpoint, no one in California is any worse off than they were in May. All of the couples who were married in the interim are still married. All those who were not, are not.

The "harm" that has been done is simply internal and emotional. I understand that need and that reaction. I understand it because I have lived it. Ohio, where I live, went through this same struggle four years ago, as have many other states along the way. I understand the grieving process that people will need to go through and I empathize with people living in California who are in that process. I believe as well that the length and depth of grief will be amplified because our expectations were that we could win. Emotional reactions to situations occur when our expectations of the situation are not met. I think this emotion is driving far more of the statements being made recently than is the factual and concrete evidence of harm.

My fear, however, is that we will look backwards only and not forward. I am saddened by the finger pointing and name calling that has begun already. I understand that one of the stages of grief is to try to figure out how this could have happened, and it is human tendency to blame the easiest cause we can find. So, it is natural that the first reaction is to blame the closest thing, group, or people we can find.

Therein lays my fear.

Our loss in California is our loss. Our loss in Ohio was our loss. Our losses in Arkansas and Florida and Arizona were our loss. We lost.

It is a difference in vision. Were we victims of others, or do we determine our own destiny.

I refuse to be a victim any longer, and I will own my communities defeats. I am partly responsible for this loss, and the others.

I do so, because the flip side of the coin is what keeps me motivated.

I will not be "given" rights by some other benevolent entity. I will win them. I will claim partial responsibility when I help win them, and the pride of that achievement will carry me forward to the next struggle.

Is the high support for Prop 8 among African Americans their fault? No, it is ours. We did not do enough to win those votes and be present in that community to earn their respect and understanding.

Is the high support from the Mormon Church to blame? No, we knew that this would be an expensive campaign, and the campaign actually raised more money than our opposition. It is our fault that we have not yet reached a point where our narrative outweighs theirs.

What Prop 8, and the approval of it by voters shows me is simply that we are not as far along the road to full equality as we thought we were.

This loss hurts, for sure. Coupled with the other losses, it definitely put a sting into what should have been a great night. A night that saw the election of a man who included the words "gay and lesbian" in his acceptance speech. A night that saw the author of the Federal Marriage Amendment sent packing. A night that saw sweeping change and one of the largest steps forward in the civil rights struggle ushered in. This should have been a night to celebrate on all fronts, and unfortunately it wasn't.

The sky has not fallen, however, and we must remember that.

We must learn from what we have not yet accomplished and figure out how we accomplish it another way. We must stop, step back for a moment, and do a deep analysis on now we progress from here. The responsibility for our civil rights lie with none other than ourselves, and if we don't look in the mirror instead of point a finger, we will continue to repeat the cycle.

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The psychological impact is the thing.

When the proposition was introduced, the majority opposed it. As the other side began to spread lies and half-truths, we saw that change and too late began to fight against it. Now the majority of my people have stood against my basic rights because some people hated me enough to spend their time and money and energy to bring me down.

It damages my faith in humanity, knowing how easily people can be swayed, how gullible they really are. And it has a lasting effect on the fight, on both sides. When Prop. 8 is overturned, the people will resent us and blame "activist judges" and the "homosexual agenda," and we will still hold the pain of knowing that they are against us.

California holds an eighth of the US population and is known far and wide for being liberal. It was so surely in Obama's hands that it was called before the polls closed. This loss means that other states, looking to us, will conclude that the people are truly not ready for equality.

It's also very damaging to the function of the courts, which has historically been that they protect the rights of the minority against the brute force of the majority. If the majority can simply override the courts by amending the constitution, then this protection means nothing.

Out of all the people who have commented on this loss (who I have read) you have made the most sense and gave the best perspective on how we need to view what happened. Like you, I live in a state that sealed our fate when it comes to marriage. Anyone who thinks that overturning a state amendment is a piece of cake, then they don't know politics.

Thank you for the most logical comments to a highly charged emotional issue. We need to move forward. We have a lot of other work to do.

Scott Kaiser Scott Kaiser | November 7, 2008 9:07 PM


Well said. I share some of the same sentiments. I just e-mailed Serena a response to a "getting to the contributors" questionnaire that will soon be appearing on the site where I talk about some of the same things.

I don't buy what you said. So I should just be grateful that I can still have civil unions? Sorry separate but equal just won't cut it.
It stings like hell, and we aren't going to take it anymore. I give my gay brothers and sisters in CA credit for protesting. Look what our passiveness has gotten us...diddly squat. No one is going to give us anything unless we demand it, and call out those who are against us.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | November 8, 2008 11:50 AM

And, Dave, where were you before Prop. 8 passed?

Now that it has passed you are and others are letting loose with angry comments on blogs and protests. That energy could have been spent running a smart campaign to defeat Prop. 8.

You are right that passiveness got us nowhere, but waiting until the damage is done also gets us nowhere.


Yes, but ...

We all lost because we were all a part of the California proposition through our contributions and through our letters and actions. Our hopes and dreams were a part of the California proposition, but we failed to make our position understood and we must do better next time. I am now hopeful that California will decide this Civil Rights issue in the Courts and in the Legislature. The majority can not be allowed to snuff out the rights of minority citizens through a popular referendum. Why not just do a Gallup Poll instead. It's so much cheaper than an election.

I recommend the following editorial opinion written by Harvey Fierstein for The Huffington Post:

Harvey Fierstein
Posted November 7, 2008 | 02:35 PM (EST)
Historic for Some, Same Old Shit for the Rest of Us
While we dance in the streets and pat ourselves on the back for being a nation great enough to reach beyond racial divides to elect our first African-American president let us not forget that we remain a nation still proudly practicing prejudice.
I have heard this day described as one of transcendence where Americans came together to prove that we are, above all, a nation of fairness. World witnesses wrote that we rose above ideology, politics and bigotry to achieve a great moment for America. Meanwhile, on this same Election Day, we great Americans passed laws as heinous as any Jim Crow legislation. We great Americans reached out and willfully put our name to language that denies an entire minority group their equal rights.
Of course I am referring to the states of Florida, Arizona and California passing legislation to specifically deny gay people from entering into the contract of marriage. Actually, that's not true. We can still get married, just not to each other. Yes my friends, Florida and California have now made it legal for gay men and lesbians to marry as long as we don't marry our partners. How much sense does that make?
Now, before you rise up on your high horse to holler, "We're not against Civil Unions, just Gay Marriage", let me once again explain that THE SUPREME COURT HAS STATED THAT SEPARATE BUT EQUAL IS NOT EQUAL. And even if it were, civil unions are simply not equal to marriage.
Let me give you a simple example that anyone can follow. John and Jim are registered as domestic partners and so, just like a married couple; Jim is covered by John's employee health care. That's really nice. BUT... since the IRS does not recognize civil unions or domestic partnership Jim has to pay income tax on the value of this coverage. So, unlike a married couple, John and Jim are penalized hundreds of dollars for not being married. That's not fair. That's not in the spirit of the civil union legislation. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of the inequality being offered.
Listen, my fellow Americans, I am only asking that we get sensible about this controversy. Gays are not asking for religious blessings. We are not asking for everyone to come to our weddings. We are not asking the government to force churches and synagogues to perform marriage rituals or even to allow us into their tax-exempt edifices. We are simply and forcefully demanding equal protection under the laws of this nation as tax paying, voting, property owning citizens. I want no more or less protection than granted any heterosexual to control and distribute my holdings.
State sanctioned marriage is a civil contract period. A contract is not a judgment of moral value. It is a legal agreement between two parties that testifies to a meeting of minds between those consenting entities. It is not a religious act or rite and so has nothing to do with Adam and Eve or Steve or even Harvey. I often say that if you want to really want to understand the contract of marriage just ask anyone who has been divorced. The marriage contract is one of property rights. Or maybe you can look in the bible to see what Adam had to say about divorce since Eve was his second wife.
So, while we rightfully celebrate the election of our first African American president, let us take a moment to mourn the passage of three new laws legalizing prejudice. Of course there will be those who claim that voters were only protecting the institution of marriage to whom I would suggest it is just as likely that Obama's supporters were only voting against W. Breaking the lock on my door doesn't make your home any more secure.

For those of us who are married, the removal of our equality, our full citisenship, the protections of our relationships is devestating on more than the psychological level.

For all of you outside of the arrangement, it is far easier to treat this with a more dismissive air.

But for those of us married, or who were married til recently(my poor brothers and sisters of California) this was much more than a psychological hurt.

Yes, Monica is right, we need to move forward. We need to recognise the pain of loss and turn it to energy, to anger , to a true and deep passion for our rights. New Jersey and New York are next. We ned to, we must win there....

Phoenix - I agree with you that there is a psychological impact. That's what I meant with the idea that our "harm" is simply emotional and not factual. It was also what led me to hope that people will make decisions based on reason rather than reaction. I couldn't agree more about the people not being ready for full equality. That's true. That's why we have work to do. This isn't an end - it's a stop. Phoenix - this is about how we rise again from the ashes to be successful.

Dave - passiveness gets us nowhere. True. Most of us have not been passive. Driving without directions and a destination gets us somewhere, but maybe not where we want to be.

Maura - no one had rights removed. Those who had not yet taken advantage of the right to marry in California have lost that opportunity. Those who had, are still married in the eyes of California Law. Furthermore, the validation of my marriage doesn't come from a state. There was no psychological impact on my relationship because it has never been based on if a legal entity thought it was ok.

This is great. There does need to be some perspective here.