Today is not a day to be sad. Anger is a different story. We have a lot to be angry about with our community's razor-thin defeat in Maine. Its a hard pill to swallow. I've given quite a bit of my cash and time to LGBT causes over the years, but I've never given as much cash to an organization as No On One Maine. I am proud to say that I think they spent every penny carefully and deliberately, and worked their butts off to avoid mistakes of the past.
However, despite all that we gave in Maine, all the time we all took, Maine went the other way. When our relationships are voted on, this is not a normal political loss. When losing elections before, I always felt as if it were something akin to losing a really important baseball game--like the time in High School when we were stopped at States by Blissfield (I'm still convinced those Umps were biased). There's a lot of cussing and throwing things, then you move past it. It generally doesn't rock you to the core of everything you are.
There's more to what happened last night, though, than Maine. More after the jump.
2004's big losses, Prop 8 and now this do very much rock me to the very core of my being. It makes my blood boil that a group of Americans want to do that to another group of Americans. I'm not accepting my second class status in this country, and we are going to take our righteous anger and fight starting today. In fact Queers United are trying to collect a list of actions you can attend to express your outrage this week--some starting as early as today! Remember its not enough to just protest, though. Use this as an opportunity to change hearts and minds. Newspaper opinion-editorials and in-district lobbying of your local, state and national lawmakers is going to be key to turning this around--one to change public opinion, and the other to push action.
Speaking of 2004, however, by focusing on our loss in Maine we are ignoring the significance of the night. We are forgetting that yesterday was an almost complete vindication of election night 2004 when a dozen states wrote discrimination into their constitutions at once (as an activist in Michigan at the time, I had to live the horror first hand--that same horror Maine activists must be going through right now).
Last night was a night of victories all around! Our first bit of good news came out of Kalamazoo, Michigan as the citizens there approved an inclusive LGBT non-discrimination ordinance by a landslide. Before the County was officially reporting results from the precincts we already knew we had it in the bag there--despite the vehement and poisonous anti-transgender ad campaign launched by the opposition.
As results began to trickle in from the all mail-in ballots in Washington, we received a clear picture of Victory on Referendum 71. Washington voters overwhelmingly approved of same-sex couples rights and voted to keep their 'everything but marriage' Domestic Partnership system, despite warnings that it would "destroy the family."
In fact, it was a good day to be a gay candidate as well. In most of the elections I was following the LGBT candidates finished first, or nearly tied with first in the case of Simone Bell, who will now go on to a run-off election for the Georgia state house. In my hometown of Detroit, Michigan, openly gay former news anchor, Charles Pugh finished first in the City Council election, making him the president of City Council. Over in Kalamazoo again, Terry Kuseske--the first openly gay candidate for City Council there--won handily.
Down in Akron, Ohio, openly gay Sandra Kurt will take a seat on the City Council. Up in little Maplewood Minnesotta, racist and homophobic marketing couldn't keep James Llanas from taking victory there. In Texas, Annise Parker took first place in the race for mayor, which will now go into a run-off she is likely to win. Canton Ohio will have an openly gay school board member, Joe Lacey--who will hopefully make anti-bullying a priority.
San Francisco elected an openly gay treasurer in Jose Cisneros, and E. Denise Simmons, America's first openly lesbian African American mayor, kept her seat on the City Council and keeps her title as mayor. Add to that list the election of openly gay Steve Kornell to St. Petersburg, Florida's City Council.
One of my favorite victories of the night was the election of openly gay (and slightly cute) Mark Kleinschmidt as Chapel Hill, North Carolina mayor. Long-time Chapel Hill leader, Kleinschmidt will no doubt be a name we need to get familiar with. These are just a few of the more than fifty victories openly gay candidates had last night.
Much of what happened last night was amazing. We have a lot to be upset about, but I believe there's much more to be excited about. Last night most of America sent a message that a person's sexuality is not a factor in their ability to lead. Lets turn around and take that momentum further. Let's overturn Prop 8 soon, and lets over turn Question 1 in Maine too. We're going to absorb this loss and turn it into a victory. Just you wait. And soon our brothers and sisters in Maine can cheer along with us!