No Hope For Gay Rights

Barack Obama and Joe Biden are the President and Vice President-elects of the United States of America. What does this mean for the rights of sexual minorities? Not much, yet. As a gay political junkie too young to vote, I must begin by saying that gay rights are primarily states’ issues and that I am not a one-issue voter. However, November 4 was still Christmas-come-early for me, because my biggest concerns are healthcare reform and withdrawing from Iraq. Tuesday, in California and the rest of the nation, civil rights and the spirit of our Constitution were hijacked once again. California’s Proposition 8, a gay marriage ban in response to the May 2008 California Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, was on the ballot. The Human Rights Campaign fought opposite “family values” groups. Private citizens and celebrities contributed significantly on both sides. The vote was very close, but in the end, Prop. 8 was passed. On November 4, more bitterly fought battles for gay rights fell by the wayside in Southern states. In Arizona and Florida, gay marriage was banned (without the prompt of a court decision) by margins of 12 and 24 percentage points, respectively. Voters in Arkansas banned adoption of children by gay couples by a margin of 14 points. Of the winners in the 11 gubernatorial races, only incumbents Christine Gregoire (D-WA) and John Lynch (D-NH) recognized GLB rights as issues. After brutal returns in the states, we shift focus to the national level. Although both running-mates are against redefining marriage, President-elect Obama said in his victory speech that gay and straight voters alike stood up for a truly unified America and Senator Biden poured out his heart to the millions of queer Americans fighting for their rights during the single vice-presidential debate. Small comfort is found in Obama’s and Biden’s past support of the inclusion of sexual orientation as a federally protected status on the grounds of which employment cannot be denied, but more pressing issues will keep this off Congress’s agenda for quite some time. As for the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” armed services policy, withdrawal from Iraq will either bring this issue to light or take it off the table, and it is even more unlikely to be up for discussion anytime soon. The gay rights movement suffered devastating blows to its momentum this Election Day, and the new administration will be of no great aid. While Obama’s victory thrills me and much of the nation, especially as a colossal milestone of a different civil rights movement, I write with stony and cynical disappointment that political expedience stops our government from taking a stand and doing the right thing. Sexual minorities and our allies can do nothing now but redouble our efforts and remember that this too shall pass. Dominic Dejesus is a three-year Upper from Lowell, Mass. and the Director of Events for the Gay-Straight Alliance.