Friday, November 5, 2004

Don’t Blame the Queers

Joan Walsh writes in about San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom taking the rap for Bush’s re-election.

When I reached Newsom by phone on Thursday, he tried to joke off the criticism. “Hey, I’m responsible for the end of the free world,” he said. “It’s amazing — for those who believe one person can’t make a difference, look at me.” But he sounded battered and tired, and admitted it. “When you defend yourself 400 times, you get defensive. You should see the stack of phone messages I have here. It hurts to be criticized by my party. But this issue began long before I even took office.”

Newsom said it was the November 2003 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court — declaring that its state Constitution sanctioned gay marriage and not merely civil unions — that put the issue on the map. Colorado Rep. Marilyn Musgrave then jumpstarted the backlash with a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. “So there were already plenty of promises by Bush and his administration that this would be a major issue in their campaign,” he said.

There’s been a lot written about why John Kerry lost the election. My dad cited the New York Times poll that said that somewhere near 80% of the people that voted for Bush did so because of “moral values,” whatever the hell that means. So of course it’s easy to turn that around and say, “Ah ha! If only they hadn’t made such a big deal about gay marriage!” Excuse me, but who’s “they?” The Democratic ticket didn’t run by promising to allow gay marriage; far from it. Kerry’s stand on gay marriage was quite clear; he opposes it, but also opposes amending the Constitution. The folks who are all over the map on gay marriage are the Republicans. Cheney apparently wants to leave it up to the states – in contrast to the president. Bush, however, sent signals in the last days of the campaign that he’s in favor of equal rights, sorta. Gee, talk about your flip-flops.

But that didn’t stop the Rove Machine from getting eleven states to vote on a ban on gay marriage, knowing full well that they could get every plastic-haired Jesus-shouter evangelist with a TV show and a church in a shopping mall to back it, and that everyone who voted for such a ban would also vote for Bush. The president didn’t have to come out in favor of the bans; he’d done his bit in February by calling for the amendment, right after he said we were going to Mars. He knew that he could ride that one home based on the legal actions already in place and moving forward in Masschusetts and the nightly photos of the happy gay couples in California.

So there’s going to be the inevitable backlash. Not from the Right; they don’t need to do it. It’s going to come from the Democrats desperate for someone to blame. And through no fault of their own except for having the nerve to wish to be accorded the same rights as every other citizen in this country, the gay and lesbian community is going to take the rap.

Well, I’m not going to fall for it, and if anyone tells me that the gay community needs to back off their desires to be included in the American dream, I will have a firm suggestion as to what to do with their head, regardless of the anatomical impossibility. It is not our fault that narrow-minded people can’t get past the idea of two people, regardless of gender, falling in love, wanting to make a life together and sharing the responsibilities that come with it.

The gay-rights movement will go forward and succeed. It’s inevitable, regardless of the roadblocks that the Religious Reich will put up. In historical perspective, we’re at the same place the civil rights movement was in the 1930’s – fighting for basic rights but slowly gaining acceptance in spite of entrenched institutional prejudice. There will come a tipping point, like Rosa Parks on the bus in Montgomery. It may be already happening and we just don’t know it. So it does no good to find excuses or fix the blame for a setback such as the election loss of John Kerry when there were a lot of other elements, real or imagined, true or false, that shaped the outcome. Simply put, being the target doesn’t make you the victim – or the cause.