timberwoof (timberwoof) wrote,

Don't get Discouraged

I lived in Colorado for thirteen years, from the very start of the AIDS epidemic right when I came out until thirteen years ago, when I moved to the Gay Area. I remember the darkest year in 1987, when very few people showed up for the Pride march and the rally at the end was somber. People said all the gay people had died of AIDS. But then things started looking up, and in 1991 Denver passed a civil-rights ordinance that included sexual orientation. In 1992 the GALA Choruses had their convention in Denver and I joined Harmony, a Colorado Chorale.

Some people in Colorado Springs named themselves "Colorado for Family Values" and proposed a state constitutional amendment that would specifically target gays, lesbians, and bisexuals for discrimination. The No on 2 campaign fought neck-and-neck with CFV. The similarities between that campaign and its results to what happened here in California are pretty amazing. Lots of money poured in from out of state to fund the pro- campaign; people voting for it lied to pollsters; the final vote had a margin of 52%-48%; and the pro- side said all kinds of condescending things about not being discriminatory and bla bla bla.

On the night of the election I sang with the choir at the No on 2 victory party, but as the night wore on the mood got increasingly fearful and dark. A bunch of us walked several blocks down Colfax to the Democratic campaign headquarters where we milled about. Some people were chanting "Stonewall, Stonewall..." and others were saying, "No! No!" We wanted Representative Pat Schroeder to talk to us, reassure us, tell us everything would be okay ... but she was soused and no one would let her out in public.

Instead, Governor Roy Romer talked to us. He calmed the crowd down, and then marched with us to the state Capitol a few blocks away. He arranged a meeting where he talked with members of the gay community about the situation and explained what he could and could not do. He was on our side.

The next days I wore my No on 2 button as I walked to work. People looked at me, saw the button, and turned their heads away in shame. I could tell who had voted Yes. They hadn't known anyone personally, and when they came face-to-face with one of their ... victims ... they realized what they had done.

A lawsuit was filed in Denver Superior Court. This made its way slowly but surely up the ladder to the US Supreme Court. Every step along the way A2 was defeated, including a stunning 9-0 vote by the Colorado Supreme Court. On National Coming Out Day in 1996 the US Supreme Court announced their 5-4 decision finding Amendment 2 unconstitutional. (Look up Evans V. Romer. Governor Roy Romer is listed as the defendant, but only in his capacity as Governor. He was personally against A2.)

That's where I come from. I've seen and lived through this sort of thing before.

So here's what to do.

First of all, don't get discouraged! That's what the homophobes want. They want you to act like good little sheeple and bow down to their authority and stop pestering them about your rights. Screw 'em. Stand proud. Wear your No on 8 buttons. Look people in the eye, as I did in the days after A2 passed. I know it's tough to go about your daily life feeling as though half the state would as soon whup you up side the head with a two-by-four as give you the time of day, but your life must go on. Defy them. Don't let them see you turn the other cheek.

Second, don't blame yourself or others for not having donated enough or volunteered enough or talked to enough people. I am not a US citizen, so I am not eligible to vote or give money to campaigns, and I'm too effing busy with an hour-long commute each way to get to work to volunteer. All of that is irrelevant now. There are several lawsuits being filed against Prop. 8. If you feel guilty, ease that guilt by sending money to the legal funds. I can do that legally, so I will.

Third, continue talking, blogging, commenting on news web sites. Read people's arguments; respond gently and logically; and ignore the shit-for-brains homophobes who will never ever change their minds. Learn the issues. Read the Federalist Papers. Understand what democracy in the United States is supposed to be about. Talk with live people ... gently. Stand on your Constitutional principles and open people's minds to what they're really doing and thinking. Never back down. Continue the hard work done by those who came before you. It is a never-ending struggle.

Fourth, look around you and count the number of straight people who are on your side on this! You might not remember Colorado in 1992, but not very many politicians spoke out against A2. The Libertarians soured me on their platform when they refused to take a stand for this issue of liberty. (They did the Right Thing this time around. Maybe I should take them off my shit list.) California in 2008 is very different: Dozens of celebrities and politicians spoke out against Prop. 8. Everybody at work is astonished that Prop 8 passed; they're all concerned about how I feel. (Nobody even said, "You're gay?" It's not an issue. I like this.) In Colorado there was one lawsuit with a handful of individuals, three cities, and a dozen municipalities and state agencies as plaintiffs; two more cities passed civil-rights ordinances in defiance and joined the suit. In California there are at least four lawsuits from at least as many people and agencies. This is going to get very interesting.

It's not the end of the world. You're not going to lose your job; you're not going to get kicked out of your apartment over this. The stakes are only slightly smaller and the odds feel a lot better. Don't get discouraged.

I'm going to close this with the lyrics of the song we sang at the No on 2 victory party ... and which was probably sung again once A2 was finally defeated. We sang this with a full SATB choir of ~144 voices, men and women together, filling a big, big meeting hall with our hopeful song:

Never Turning Back
—Pat Humphries

We’re gonna keep on walking forward
Keep on walking forward (x2)
Never turning back (x2)

Additional Verses:

Gonna keep on walking proudly (x3)
Gonna keep on singing loudly…
Gonna reach across our borders…
Gonna keep on loving boldly…
Gonna work for change together…
Gonna show our children courage…

Okay, now I'm crying. Someone hold me. Don't worry. We'll win this.
Tags: gay marriage
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