Editors' Note: Guest blogger Vic Basile was the first executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, a co-founder of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and currently advocating through lgbtforobama.com.
It is hard to imagine an election more important to the future of our community than the one we face in November. That is why we must do all that we can to prevent our families and friends from voting for candidates who oppose our equality. They must be made to understand that how they vote affects our lives in the most fundamental ways possible; that when they vote for homophobes, they damage our shared bonds of love, trust and friendship
The reality is that they can't truly love or respect us, and knowingly vote for candidates who would deny us the same equality and freedoms they enjoy. The two are simply incompatible. While they may be unaware of their candidates' positions on these most basic human rights issues and are supporting them for completely unrelated reasons, they are nevertheless complicit in a political struggle that seeks to deny us our full equality
Those who see themselves as our friends and yet vote for opponents of our equality need to understand that friends treat each other with respect and dignity, and as equals. They need to know this is not an act of friendship and certainly not one of love. The same is true for family members.
Friends and family can disagree about the economy, national security, taxes and the environment, and still genuinely care about each other. Can the same be said when one participates, however passively, in the oppression of the other? It doesn't really matter whether the issue is race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. The behavior is shameful and excruciatingly painful. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, the greatest injustice "is not the strident clamor of bad people, but the appalling silence of good people."
Most Americans today would not knowingly vote for someone they thought to be racist, anti-Semitic or misogynistic, yet they don't think twice about voting for homophobes. They just don't make the connection and we let their actions go unchallenged. Shame on us! Friends tell me about their Bush/McCain-supporting Republican parents, but go on to say how accepting they are of them. When I ask how that is possible, how loving parents could support someone who wants to hurt their child, I get a blank look or a glib comment about how "that's just the way they are." It isn't the way they are - they just don't know any better and it is our job to teach them.
Sometimes I hear (and sadly, this often comes from gay people) "they aren't single issue voters and consider many issues when deciding how to vote." What does it say about our sense of self worth when we accept from our parents the explanation that taxes are more important than our dignity, safety and equality? Why are we are so reluctant to challenge them when their behavior so adversely affects our lives? Ending our silence is the only way to educate the people we cherish most that our equality is important and that it requires respect. Love and friendship demand nothing less.
Imagine our electoral power when we, our families, friends and us, vote as a bloc. The 2008 election promises to be a cliffhanger, providing us with the opportunity to determine the outcome. Never have the stakes been higher or the issues clearer.
If we fail to put a friend in the White House, if we fail to elect a more GLBT Congress, if we allow the far right to select the next Supreme Court justices, our long battle for equality will be stalled for decades. This threat is horrifyingly real. We have come too far at too great a cost to be silent now. Let's do our part to make certain that our families and friends have our equality in mind when they enter the voting booth.