(San Francisco, CA, November 6, 2004) — by Kate Kendell
Whenever I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have always been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they may seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall.
Think of it: ALWAYS.
– Mahatma Gandhi
And therein lies our hope: our struggle is quite simply about truth and love. We are in a dark national moment. It took less than 24 hours for the recriminations to begin. Our community, our fight for the right to marry and the champions who support us are blamed for the results on November 2. What a bunch of horse hockey. How sad and typical that those who should be standing with us against the very clear and obvious enemies of equality would now blame us for our own oppression.
The question is not: “Was the fight for the right to marry the wrong fight at the wrong time?” The question is not: “Isn’t San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to blame for the passage of the state constitutional amendments?” It is never the right time to press claims for full equality in the face of bigotry and ignorance. But the lesson of every past civil rights struggle is that we must press on in spite of resistance. The real question is: “Why are those who pretend to stand with us so quick to run when courage is required?” The real question is: “Why do we have to again and again compromise our hopes, dreams and fight for full equality to the milquetoast agenda of politicians who will not fight for us?” The real question is: “Why are couples who make decades-long commitments, like Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, denied the right to the security and protection of marriage?” If you can answer those questions, you may be able to discern the real reason the democrats took such a beating on election day.
We are in the midst of a civil and human rights movement. The lesson of every past movement is patience and resolve and principled demands that those who want our support must support us. In the wake of November 2, some of our supposed friends are suggesting that modest support of fairness and equality for lesbians and gay men cost John Kerry the election and thus, for future contests, democrats must distance themselves from our lives and issues. Yes, of course, run from your base, alienate the voters you are most likely to get chasing the votes of those you will never win. Did I mention this tendency may have something to do with why the democrats took such a beating on election day? So let me be perfectly clear: we are in this fight for the long haul.
We will not stop until our lives, our relationships and our families are fully secure, protected and embraced. It’s one thing when our political enemies sacrifice us for rank political gain, it’s another thing entirely when those we have stood with and supported suggest doing the same.
Ten years ago no one would have imagined we would have made the gains and strides we have as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered citizens in this country. These victories happened because we stood tall, fought back and spoke out. We will not go back, we will not retreat and we will not be silenced. More of us than ever before enjoy some measure of legal protection, security and recognition. More of us than ever before are living our lives with personal integrity and authenticity. More of us than ever before have discarded the yoke of internalized homophobia and feel real power, pride and joy in who we are. No one can take this away. Not our enemies and not our “friends.”
The hardest work lies ahead. We must loudly support those who have risked much to stand with us, we must support each other, we must rally even as we are dispirited and disillusioned. It is clear that most voters in this country have no idea who we are. For many of them our lives remain an abstraction at best and a threat at worst.
Our only antidote to this cultural void is personal engagement. Yes, I mean person-to-person conversation and contact. Sharing with fair-minded voters the truth about our lives, the reality of our relationships and families. I know given my Utah roots and upbringing that these can be difficult and frightening conversations, but nothing less than our future as full citizens is at stake. We can make a difference. This is the work we have to do if we are ever to change the minds and turn the hearts of those we must reach.
We have allies in this fight, champions who do have the courage of their convictions to stand with us and so many others who still, even today, hold to a vision of how the world could be. There are many issues and dreams that hang in peril after November 2. From the environment to education, health care, civil liberties and economic opportunity, those of us committed to broad social, racial and economic justice feel like we’ve been steamrolled. All of us must unite to take this country back and we must demand that those who need our support and claim our allegiance actually deserve and earn it. November 2 was a victory based on appeals to the worst sentiments and basest fears. It cannot hold. Truth and love always win. Always.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.