Thursday, November 5, 2009

11/3/09 Election News: LGBT Rights Edition

I want to take a moment today to acknowledge the LGBT items that voters decided on recently in Michigan, Maine, and Washington.

1. Michigan

In June 2009, in Kalamazoo, Michigan the city council unanimously approved an ordinance protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodations. An anti-gay group then gathered enough signatures to put the issue up for decision by Kalamazoo voters. November 3, 2009, Kalamazoo 65% of voters approved the ordinance.

2. Maine

Last May, the Maine legislature passed a law that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry. Before the law could take effect, opposition groups gathered enough signatures to put the issue up for decision by Maine voters. While most of the donations on the pro-LGBT side were from individual donors, contributions from the New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage accounted for almost half of Stand for Marriage Maine's budget. November 3, 2009, approximately 53% percent of Maine voters rejected this law, effectively de-legalizing same-sex marriage.

Anti-gay activists are celebratory. Some are even gloating, because really, other than spread hatred and misinformation, that's sort of what they do best on the internet when they "win." Then, because these are little more than contests that have no real impact on their lives, they move on to more important things, like trying to defeat the next pro-LGBT measure. However, I'd like to look on the bright side. Given that only 5-10% of the population is LGBT, the margin of victory could have been much greater. Indeed, as little as 20 years ago, an election this close would have been unthinkable. Their ever-decreasing margins of victory underscores the fact that the anti-gay, anti-equality ideology is slowly, stubbornly dying.

3. Washington

Last but not least, in Washington, the state legislature passed an "everything but marriage" law that expanded the state's domestic partnership law that grants over 200 rights and benefits to domestic partners. A group called Protect Marriage Washington collected enough signatures to, you guessed it, put it on the ballot for a vote. November 3, 2009, voters affirmed the "everything but marriage" law. We won!

And, I certainly do see Washington as a large victory despite the omission of the word "marriage." Personally, I am in favor of "everything but marriage" laws and would accept this as a compromise only if DOMA were repealed and same-sex couples were given all of the federal rights, benefits, and privileges of marriage. For me, the main issue with respect to marriage equality is the issue of equal rights. As long as state governments have singled out this thing called "marriage" and, along with the federal government, is conferring special rights and benefits upon those withing it, those rights and benefits should be open to same-sex couples as well. If having those rights means calling it something else, that is okay with me, because I would call it a marriage anyway in my private life.

However, and this is somewhat of a tangent, the government has no business calling unions "marriage," as that decision should be up to the parties involved and/or religious institutions. Instead, the government should call all benefit-collecting unions "civil unions" and let the individuals within those unions decide what their relationship is called.

To end here, these cases represent an interesting trend with respect to LGBT rights. Historically, when LGBT rights have been won in the courts, opponents cried that the tyranny of Activist Judges (tm) had been imposed upon The People and, therefore, the rights were not legitimately won. Now that LGBT rights are also being won through legislative bodies, anti-gay groups have moved the goalposts further back and now claim that Activist Lawmakers (tm) are imposing upon the will of The People.

When it comes to LGBT rights, apparently only direct democracy in the most literal sense of the word will suffice to grant true legitimacy. That means we have a long road ahead of us and a lot of people to convince.

Bravo to Kalamazoo and Washington voters. Now that The People (tm) are granting rights to LGBT people, and anti-gays are becoming a minority, I wonder what the future cry will be. For, we already know that Tyranny of the Majority is not an injustice with which they are concerned.

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