Swift-Boating Gay Marriage

Swift-Boating Gay Marriage

Pat Gozemba

A look at the election maps for California shows how the LGBT community blew it on Proposition 8.

First of all, we ran TV ads that did not include LGBT people and our families. Jonathan Rauch called us “invisible.” No loving families smiling at each other on their wedding day, at the breakfast table getting their day started, or at their kid’s soccer game. Instead we had straight people from parents to politicians talking about us. Isn’t that what went on before we all came out and spoke for ourselves?

Secondly we forgot to use simple addition in calculating how many African-Americans and Latinos would come out to vote for Barack Obama in his historic candidacy. With all of these folks at the polls, we really needed to prepare them with our view of how important marriage is. Instead of doing this, we allowed bigoted fundamentalist preachers in the Catholic, evangelical, and Mormon churches to psyche these folks up to vote “Yes on Prop 8.”

How did Prop 8 succeed in Los Angeles and San Diego counties? Dismal. These counties are predominantly people of color. They came out to break a hold on another privilege denied all of us, having an African-American President  by voting overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. People who ought to “get it” about being denied civil rights voted to take away ours. They and people of color throughout the state did not vote to uphold our civil right to marriage. They never made the connection between our civil right and their civil right to marriage. We lost big-time in communities of color.

Did anyone on our “No on Prop 8”side, during the campaign, effectively remind people of color that until the California Supreme Court ruled in 1948 in Perez v Sharp that their marriage rights were limited?  They could not marry a white person. The same court that granted people of color that civil right of marriage granted us our right to marriage. Did any of the “No on 8” folks believe that deep organizing in communities of color was crucial? Did we believe that homogenized “No on 8″ ads would appeal to voters of all communities?

There is no question that the time of the campaign was short. But the lack of work that we have done in an ongoing way in communities of color came back to haunt us. We learned again the mistake of taking communities of color for granted.

Here’s what my friend and heterosexual ally Karen Rudolph, who coincidentally is married to a man of color, had to say about this:

“I think that we didn’t get LA and San Diego because of the larger African American and Latino populations.  The next time around we have to focus on them.  We need African American performers speaking in ads on Black radio stations.  We need television ads with Black grandmothers saying how they want their grandchildren’s father to have the right to marry his partner.  We need ads on TeleMundo in Spanish and Spanish language robo calls.  This intellectual stuff in the English language didn’t reach those communities.”

Rudolph went on to say, “I think that we need to let people know that gay marriage doesn’t turn kids gay, that no one is recruiting, that no teacher is forcing children to approve of gay relationships.  We need to let them know that no church will be forced to approve of the morality of gay marriage and no one will be forced to have gay weddings in their churches.  If we don’t confront those slanders head on, we allow ourselves to be swift-boated.”

And swift-boated we were.

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