Wednesday, November 4, 2009

We'll Be Back, and We'll Win

Waking up this morning to the news that Maine voters narrowly approved a measure overturning the marriage equality law passed by the legislature was a kick in the gut. The memory of California's Prop. 8 last year is still fresh.

My thoughts go out to all the families in Maine who will continue to be denied dignity and equality under the law. Many of us will need time to grieve over the fact that a majority of our fellow citizens would vote to deny lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people their full civil rights.

And yet, I'm also encouraged by what happened in Maine. Just under half of voters — tens of thousands of people — voted for marriage equality. While it wasn't enough, let's not forget that just fifteen years ago, few Americans had even heard of the concept of marriage equality for same-sex couples.

We've come a long way fast. And, despite the heartbreaking setback of yesterday's vote, the momentum is still very much on our side.

I also find hope in the phenomenal campaign that the
No On 1 team ran. They talked one on one with tens of thousands of voters. They put the faces and stories of same-sex couples and families at the forefront. They engaged leaders from local elected officials to the Governor in the fight for marriage equality.

We even had a number of Equality North Carolina supporters who went up to Maine to help out, and many more who made calls to Maine voters from their homes.

Of course, after some time to grieve, we should look at what worked well and what could be done better next time. But I suspect that in the final analysis we'll see that the work No On 1 did won over thousands and thousands of voters to our side.

The state just wasn't quite there yet. But it will be.

A little history: Maine voters went to the polls four times to vote on nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation. The first three times they rejected it. But Equality Maine didn't give up, and the state legislators who believed in fairness didn't give up. Now it's the law of the land.

We've got to keep fighting in Maine and in every state.

Yesterday, voters in Washington state approved comprehensive domestic partnerships, and in Kalamazoo, Michigan, voters rejected vicious attacks on the transgender community to support the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.

New York and New Jersey have a real chance of passing marriage equality legislation this year. The Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect many workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, could become law in the next few months.

All of that's going to take a lot of hard work.

Rest assured, if we do that work, we'll win marriage back in Maine, California, and, eventually we'll win our full civil rights in states like North Carolina and the whole nation. We know how to do it.

I'm in it to win it. Are you?