WARNING: This post is long, political and may cause you to de-friend me (or vice versa). This is primarily to straight friends who support Mitt Romney, but I know there are a few gay friends out there who plan on voting for him as well. Also, those of you who know me well know that I don’t use profanity very often. I do here (although just a little). I don’t write any of this lightly. I’ve been writing it in my head for several months and it’s been weighing on me for several years actually. I’m not expecting anyone who’s offended or taken-aback to actually respond, but the things I write, I stand by 100% and I don’t hide under the safety blanket of the internet. Some of it is harsh, but all rooted in the truth. I will gladly discuss it in person or on the phone. I will discuss it anytime, anywhere. I’m not afraid of ideas, feelings and words.
I actually think Obama is going to win re-election. I could have easily waited until after the election and only posted if Romney won. Why unnecessarily upset the apple cart, right? I have a really great life with an amazing family and great friends. But what’s been weighing on me is that I’ve come to realize that throughout a lot of gay people’s lives, we have been so desperate to fit in and not draw attention to the fact that we are different, we will often let bias and acceptance of discrimination slide by as long as we aren’t faced with overt hatred and bigotry on a daily basis. What’s been crystallized by this election is THAT’S NO LONGER GOOD ENOUGH. I can’t compartmentalize the fact that I’m treated differently just because I’ve led a good life. Would you?
If you have a short attention span and don’t want to read the whole thing, it boils down to this: It isn’t about whether you like President Obama or the Democrats. I’m not asking you to donate to his campaign or stick an Obama 2012 sign in your yard. It’s about whether you make no bones about your support for Republicans or “like” Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan or other politicians that far right on the political spectrum. What I need you to know is seeing that stuff makes me have the same reaction as if I was African American and saw you driving by with a Confederate flag bumper sticker on your car or casually used the “N” word (because deep-down, you’re really not racist). I literally get a little sick to my stomach because there is someone I like, love, or otherwise respect who supports an agenda which in no small part seeks to prevent me from realizing all the rights enjoyed by most other Americans. To be friends in that situation requires some major cognitive dissonance. It’s stressful, exhausting and sad.
But first, two paragraphs to get something out of the way. The most common critique of a social issues-oriented argument for voting based on something like gay rights is that the opinion-holder is not seeing the big picture – in this case, the economy. They’re not thinking about all Americans, only a few. Well, in this case, gay rights are partially about economic issues AND, if you really think Obama is the anti-Christ or a communist then there is no use reasoning with you anyway. If Obama is a socialist (not the same thing as a communist), then Ronald Reagan is Karl Marx. The taxation and regulation of last 4 years is further away from a socialist state than it was during the 80s and 90s. No, really, Glenn Beck, we’re not France. I’ve spent a lot of time in places like France, Spain and China. We are nowhere near them. The U.S. is not even as close to being as socialist as the United Kingdom and you never hear the Brits being tossed around as the latest bogeyman. Both political parties can be dogmatic and use scare tactics to try to gain power, but there are some versions of the truth that are closer to reality than others.
And as for the economy itself, it’s cyclical. It’s coming back regardless of who the president is. Both political parties pander on this, but Europe, China and gridlock in Congress have a much more significant impact on growth and GDP than what any president says and does. During the last recession, there have been more fundamental, secular changes in the economy as a result of the housing market and the types of job being created, but again, the president really can’t impact those things. And don’t even broach the subject of the ginned up drama over the debt and deficit. It’s only going to get addressed through compromise from both sides – defense budgets, higher retirement ages, benefits means testing and Grover Norquist be damned.
Ok, on to what I really want to talk about: Facebook “friendships,” real world relationships and politics. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and I will not begrudge anyone voting with heart or logic and hopefully both. It’s their right. And it’s a basic right that even if you don’t take it for granted, you probably don’t give it a lot of thought. With gay rights, that is not the case. Our lack of rights touches upon the profound and the mundane almost each and every day.
That’s not to say things haven’t improved. There have been huge gains in public opinion and acceptance over the last 10 years of “being” gay, but that is not the same as progress on “rights.” Forward-thinking companies have led the way and they are applauded by the gay community. The government, our government, MY government has lagged behind. Both parties have dragged their feet out of cowardice, ignorance, bigotry or hate. Sometimes, it’s all of the above. However, huge strides have been made in the last couple of years, from the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the executive branch refusing to defend DOMA, the courts striking down anti-gay legislation, to the President of the United States saying that gay American should be able to marry the person they love.
If you have been told all your life that you are not equal, you are not worthy, you don’t deserve the same basic rights as your straight friends, neighbors, family, co-workers and then suddenly, the leader of the free world says, “Yes, you do,” it’s an indescribable feeling of relief. You have no idea what that means in terms of validation and a sense that things are truly changing for the better.
But the lack of rights still not afforded to gay people is staggering. Marriage equality is just the most politically visible fight. There are hundreds of rights and benefits granted by federal and state governments that are not afforded to gay people. A lot of these can be extended piecemeal through policy and legislation, but a lot of them are brought to heterosexuals en masse simply through the act of marriage. As an example, hospital visitation rights were not guaranteed for non-married, gay people nationwide until Obamacare was enacted. If it’s repealed, that right will be taken away. It’ll be up to states and hospitals (healthcare corporations or religious organizations) to decide whether or not David could visit me in the hospital if I was sick. Mitt Romney has specifically said that this is a “benefit” and not a right. It’s up to the states.
Bullshit! Do you agree with that? Are you saying that the jackasses in Topeka or Jefferson City get to decide if David could come see me if I was laying in a coma in some hospital?
Is it up to states to decide that women can vote? Is it up to states to decide whether people deserve a jury trial or a woman can be fired from a job simply because she gets pregnant? Is it up to the states to decide whether a black man and a white woman can get married? No, no, no and no. So what’s the difference?
If your response is that you or a large number of Americans are morally-opposed to gay marriage, the love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin argument, then are you saying that an opinion trumps my ability to receive the rights of most other Americans? The same types of “moral” arguments were made against woman’s suffrage, inter-racial marriage and slavery.
That’s where this particular election comes into play. Not only has Mitt Romney said he would support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, he will most likely get to appoint at least 2 Supreme Court justices. If he serves two terms, maybe more justices. DOMA and California Prop 8 appeals now headed to the Supreme Court could all be reversed or not even heard. The progress of the last several years will come to a screeching halt. On top of that, the religious right will be emboldened and encouraged. Groups like Focus on the Family and National Organization for Marriage will have greater political influence.
While it was looking like federal gay marriage was on a trajectory to be a reality in the next several years, it would suddenly be feasible that it wouldn’t happen for 20 years or more and then just be state-by-state adoption, not federal recognition.
If you support Mitt Romney and far-right politicians, you are basically saying that you don’t care about my rights AND the aspects of my life that are impacted by discrimination. You are saying that there are parts of my life that are so meaningless that it’s ok to put them on hold for a generation.
Well I don’t have 20 or 30 years to wait around. Why should I have to wait until I’m in my 60s to be able to get married, if at all? And why should I be friends with anyone who thinks that’s perfectly acceptable? If you think so little of me, why would you want to engage with me? If you think so little my relationship with David, why would I want to share other parts of my life with you?
When you post a picture of your wedding or anniversary, why should I be happy for you when you have publicly stated you support someone who would prevent me from doing the same? You’re likely to get a “Screw your ugly wedding dress and cheesy bridesmaids dresses. Oh, and fuck your marriage certificate. It means about as much to me as the paper towel I just used to pick up dog shit.” You might not want that posted on your wall.
When you ask for prayers because a spouse or family member is in the hospital, why should you get my sympathy when you cheer on a man who thinks that me being able to see the most important family member in my life in the hospital is a benefit left to the discretion of the state? You’re likely to get a “So? What’s the big deal?” That might not be what you want to see on your wall when you’re already under stress.
When other people are offering you condolences for a death in your family, you probably don’t want me posting, “Big whoop; get over it.” Because when my non-legally-recognized-life-partner dies, I’m going to be hit with huge estate taxes and have to fight for control over the house I already own because I’m just a “friend” and I won’t get his Social Security or any other benefits – all because you supported a bunch of asshole hate-mongers. Again, you probably aren’t going to appreciate a posting of “Yawn” or something worse when you’re grieving.
When you post how your kid is a genius/star athlete/future comedian…ok, I’m not going to insult your kids. I think you get the picture…why should I revel in your joy over parenthood, if you think it is ok that that you voted for man who as a “moderate” governor thought it was perfectly fine to throw up all sorts of barriers for gay people to be parents?
I do actually love learning about my friends’ triumphs and happiness. My heart breaks when they have to face sorrow. I like seeing funny pictures of their pets and kids (however, I do not really care about what you had for dinner). BUT, why should I care about any of that if you actively support a candidate, a party and an agenda that would deny me the ability to experience the same kinds of happiness and then put up roadblocks and add insult to injury when I experience the inevitable darker days of life?
You might think all of that is harsh and over-the-top. You might be thinking, “we’re all nice people and we have so many other things in common, can’t we just all get along?” No, we really can’t. You may actually agree that I should have all the rights I’ve been rattling off, but if you vote for someone who would prevent me from having them, you’re really not that nice a person. Not in my book. Actions speak louder than words or intentions.
You might think that you have good reasons to support the current batch of Republicans. Maybe gun rights, banning abortion or tax cuts for the rich are more important to you. That’s your prerogative. It doesn’t make it right. If you think that those issues are more important than full and equal protection under the law for me and millions of others, it means that our values are so far apart on how to treat individuals with dignity and respect and what it means to be an American, that we have no business being friends. You might think that it’s possible, but you have the luxury of not having to suffer the humiliation of being told that you’re not equal.
Some people think politics is just like sports and people supporting rival teams can be friends at the end of the day. Well politics isn’t sports and it’s not just differing views on a policy, process or position. We’re talking about a playing field that is not even level. That transcends politics and gets to the very heart of democracy itself.
I know that your vote would be just one of millions cast in favor of Mitt Romney, but you either think I’m a human being and deserve all the rights of other Americans, or you don’t. If Romney wins, you will have had a hand in government-sanctioned discrimination and I will be hurt economically, socially, personally. It’s not worth it to spend time and energy putting up that firewall in my brain that allows me to forget that you don’t mind that I’m not treated just like you.