Thursday, November 6, 2008

Peaceful thoughts after Proposition 8

In the aftermath of the 2008 elections, I and many of my friends and coworkers have been stunned, saddened, and definitely angered by Proposition 8 passing. It's an incredibly divisive issue, and we are so passionate about it - on both Pro and Anti sides. Many of my close friends are Married/Partnered Queer couples of many flavours and I am *staunchly* supportive of this and their families. I stay embedded in very liberal and mostly Queer communities, as I really enjoy the contact and familiarity and our common grounds, and I love showing that I am part of their lives.

I was present in British Columbia when canadian federal law passed the Gay Marriage approval for the entire country, I've seen many european countries follow suit, I've watched how things have turned out in MA and CA, and complacently assumed that I would see this spread rapidly through the US as the fundies were proven wrong, and that the feared hellfire & damnation and "damage to traditional marriage" are not the aftermath of gay marriage, just a long litany of bad bridesmaid dresses and the Chicken Dance. I assumed California would defend its position with ease, and I was wrong. 3 states passed anti-gay marriage or partnership propositions, and AK banned gay adoption. The voice of Conservative America has spoken emphatically.

With proposition 8 passing before our unbelieving eyes, I've found myself agreeing with angry twitters and blog posts from my friends, and then today I was humbled by a great post from Wil Wheaton which I've dubbed "Quaker Wil", and I was reminded of my own humanity, my own tendencies to anger, and my promise to always work to bring people together, not to exacerbate the divide. We must have empathy and understanding and kindness to solve this problem, not angry confrontation. The people who passed Proposition 8 are not our Enemy, they are our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, our employers, and our friends. I didn't speak up when my friends called it "Proposition Hate", and that was wrong of me. This was not passed because of hatred, or bigotry. My neighbours are not evil people. They may be ignorant, and swayed by voices motivated by questionable perspectives, but they are good people, and worthy of my respect. I must listen to their perspective, with honesty and humility.

The ignorance of our previously nationalized racial bigotry was not solved by riots, but by reaching out to each other, getting past our fears and prejudices on *all* sides, and recognizing that we are all the same people, regardless of colour. It takes time and honesty and getting to know each other, and does NOT require assimilation, just understanding. We still have chinese culture, black culture, polish culture and italian culture all throughout every major city in the US. The same can happen with Heteronormative Conservative Culture and us Queer folk as well.

One of the many reasons that Prop8 passed was the common story that "gay domestic partnerships already give you the same legal rights as a marriage". This is patently false, and this is a discussion that you can have rationally, with dignity, in any circumstance with both proponents and opponents of this measure. People need to know the facts, and an honest discussion with the facts well in hand can be the answer. Americans with any sense of recent history will understand that "Separate but Equal" is not Equality, and we can have hundreds of thousands of real voices sharing the powerful truth. Be respectful, but be persistent, and direct. Share your truth, and that of your neighbours, your family, and your friends.

I suggest we start with the 1,138 rights that are federally mandated for Marriages that are not extended to Partnerships, if we ever travel domestically with our families. Share the real stories of your family and your friends, who have been or will be affected by these real laws. Having real citations for this is critical - millions of people truly believe otherwise and they need to face the indisputable truth about people they know, face-to-face. We have families being kept apart during medical emergencies, paying a "Queer Tax" by being unable to file jointly, unable to leave inheritance to their chosen Spouse, and thousands of other day-to-day realities that Married couples can understand. The truth can set us free.

More on this later.