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The Day After

Last week I attended a meeting at Yale and had planned to spend the weekend with Matt and Alex in New York, flying back on Monday (the 3rd). When the opportunity to attend a relevant meeting at MIT today and tomorrow came up, I knew I had two options: vote early or fly back as planned on Monday, vote Tuesday morning and fly back to the east coast Tuesday night. I hate flying, but I’d endure two extra trans-continental flights to make sure my vote was cast. Voting for Obama was important to me because he seemed to offer a significant change from the past eight years, a change I and (apparently) many others are hungry for. But far more important to me was voting No on California Proposition 8.

On the ballot Proposition 8 was titled “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry”. Proponents say that Proposition 8 pushes back against `“activist judges”\_activism`_ who are thwarting the democratic process by ruling in May that same-sex marriage is legal. This of course ignores the fact that the California State Legislature passed legislation with the same effect, only to be vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. Perhaps the problem is activist governors, as well, who also dare to exercise checks as well as balances.

I was able to vote early, and while doing so had a visceral reaction when I marked my ballot No on Proposition 8. It wasn’t until I was there in the voting booth that I really felt “This is about me — this is about whether the love I feel is ‘good enough’. This is about whether I am as welcome in California as I thought.” I was hopeful but anxious over the weekend, and I knew the vote would be close.

So I spent yesterday at the Science Commons’ office, trying to be productive and distract myself from election news, and spent the evening at a colleague’s home watching returns. Good wine, amazing food and good company made the celebratory mood surrounding the presidential returns even better. I left Indiana about 18 months ago and it was with a degree of pride and disbelief that I watched it remain “too close to call” throughout the evening. When I went to bed last night the California polls had been closed for an hour and the election had been called for Obama. An impromptu street party had broken out in the Castro and R was on his way out to participate in the revelry. No word on Proposition 8.

This morning the news was not good. With 99.5% of precincts reporting Proposition 8 looked like it might be successful. Throughout the day I attempted to pay attention to the meeting I was attending, but kept getting drawn back to the Secretary of State’s website to look at the numbers. And the numbers this morning were prescient: Proposition 8 has passed, 52.5% voting in favor, 47.5% voting against, a gulf of just over 500,000 votes.

I could take comfort in the fact that our President elect seems to be more interested in thinking issues through than shooting from the hip. I could take comfort that the vote in favor was 52.5% instead of the 60% who voted for a similar law a decade ago. I could take comfort that Connecticut recently legalized same-sex marriage, which seems to me to point the direction things are moving. But it’s difficult to find the silver lining here.

At the end of the day, this effects me, my relationship, and my friends. The ripples aren’t limited to any romantic relationship, either. Last month I logged on to Facebook to find that a professional acquaintance was marked as “attending Fasting In Support of Proposition 8”. This individual is someone I respect and enjoy collaborating with who does not live in the state of California (he, like many opponents of Proposition 8, lives in Utah). I consider him an educated man. He supported Obama for President and I guess I don’t want to believe that people “on our side” can also be “on their side”. In my faith tradition fasting is what one does when they really want to call down the power of God on their side, and seeing this applied to Proposition 8 was quite discomfiting. In the past I’ve enjoyed my interactions with this person and now I’m not really sure how to engage with him at any level.

So should this individual have opposed Proposition 8 just to preserve our working relationship? Absolutely not. I’m simply pointing out that the ripples are there.

From Cambridge it appears there’s a lot of anger, but I really think this masks a well of hurt and sadness. The “Yes on 8” folks ran a fear-mongering campaign that held up the specter of “the homosexual agenda” being taught in public schools while simultaneously saying gay marriage is unnecessary — that separate is equal. If civil unions or domestic partnerships are de facto “marriage”, what difference do you expect to see in the education system? And for queer people everywhere, this is just another instance where we’re told we’re flawed, imperfect, broken. No matter how many times you pick yourself up, it still hurts to be knocked down.

Right now R is on his way to join a candle light vigil at City Hall. I’m very frustrated to be so far away and unable to participate. As I think about it this just demonstrates why what I have in San Francisco is so important, so special. I have a family of choice that loves and supports me without condition or constraint. It’s important for me to remember this as I grieve yet another rejection, yet another hurt. I guess I can also work on having compassion; it must be terrifying and depressing to live with a world view that believes someone else’s relationship has the power the destroy society. But above all I need to remember that the “Yes on 8” people don’t get to decide who I love or how I express that.