Unlike California, it's hard to argue with the efforts of the pro-marriage campaign in Maine. Perhaps nouveau Mainer KG will chime in, but from a distance it looks like they did everything right: strongly grassroots, an emphasis on personalized, door-to-door activism, as much engagement with faith leaders as possible, the works. And in Maine you certainly can't blame the defeat on imaginary black homophobes!
Which makes the defeat all the more disheartening. It's one thing to find fault in your own activism, but it is actually much sadder to find fault in your fellow citizenry. Like everyone else I take some solace in the results of the youth vote, and in the fact that after all, almost half of the population voted affirmatively for gay marriage. Can you even have imagine such a thing five years ago? But as much solace as that is, it is not enough. I don't want to stop there. I don't actually want older people, and religious people, and even conservatives to be defeated at the polls. I want them to be on my side. And, because I'm greedy, I don't actually want to win equal rights because of a libertarian, live and let live attitude. Sure, I would appreciate the material political gains that can be made because of that attitude, but it's not enough; "live and let live" is another term for segregation. I don't just want toleration, I want full communion. Call me greedy, but why is it so radical to want that?
Where from here? Unlike some of my brethren on the left, I do actually think that the right to marriage is an important right, and worthy of our attention and work. But since find ourselves now at a lull in that battle, I would respectfully point out all the other battles that have been gathering dust these past few years. Like, what happened to ENDA? Last time it came up, it died a quiet death in the Senate. Now that we have a more solid majority, could it pass? I think it could, and in a rigorous, trans-inclusive form. The right not to be discriminated against in employment and in housing is just as fundamental as the right to marry, and in fact applies to a much wider cross-section of our community than marriage. And as Lisa Duggan pointed out in her important article from last summer on the fight for gay rights in Utah, this is an excellent moment for such legislation. After all, the anti-gay marriage people go out of their way to say that their position is just about the institution of marriage, not about civic equality. All right then, let's see them back that argument up by supporting the rest of the equality equation!
And on a similar note, I'll tell you what battle could use a queer voice--health care reform. The queer community needs health care reform just as much as everyone else, if not more so, from the disproportionate number of gay kids living homeless on the streets, to those unable to get insurance because of the inability to marry, to the special and very expensive medical needs of many transgendered people. True, robust health care reform is a cause that can build bridges even between the NGLTF and the Catholic Church, and we need as many bridges as we can get.
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