After the presidential race, the most closely-watched election in America is Proposition 8, the California Constitutional Amendment which would eliminate the right to marry for same-sex couples. For the gay and lesbian community, the lap-dogs of the Democratic Party for decades, the debate over how to direct its limited resources is about to come to a head.
A few weeks ago, it became clear that for the first time, Proposition 8 had a genuine chance of passing in November when we learned the measure’s proponents had raised $25 million to the opponents’ $15 million. But that same day, the Barack Obama for President Campaign announced a $5000-per-plate fundraiser with Joe Biden in the heart of West Hollywood. It’s set for this week.
Immediately conversation at the debate-watching parties switched from conversation about the dullest presidential debate in memory to a new, hotter topic: What should be more important to gay Americans, electing Democrat Obama or defeating Proposition 8?
I, for one, was shocked to even hear there was a debate. The Religious Right, and especially the Mormon church, decided long ago that buying the election in California and defeating Prop. 8 was more important than sending John McCain and Sarah Palin to the White House. They’ve put their money where their mouths are.
But in gay enclaves like West Hollywood, the answer for many gay and lesbian Americans isn’t so clear. The reaction to Biden’s visit has fallen into two camps: those who argue that Obama will do more good for gay and lesbian equality if he is elected, and those who want to say, “Please, Joe, Don’t Go!”
By scheduling a big-ticket fundraiser in the heart of the Golden State just week’s before the election, the Obama campaign has turned the debate over civil rights for gays and lesbians into a zero-sum game. Should the $5,000 contributions be going out-of-state to elect Barack Obama? Or should they be going to buy television ads to protect the freedom to marry?
Sending Biden to West Hollywood in the heat of the battle over Proposition 8 is either a tone deaf decision or a stroke of genius. Either way, it’s a signal that Democrats thoroughly understand the political aspirations of America’s gay and lesbian community – and are going to take full and complete advantage of their long-time supporters.
In her debate with Biden, Republican Governor Sarah Palin adopted Barack Obama’s position of supporting hospital visitation rights. Contrast that to Biden’s saying he was opposed to marriage equality for same-sex couples, and that he believed that domestic partnerships can be constitutionally equal. By contrast, those like me who oppose Proposition 8 and are working actively to defeat it, are making the argument that marriage does matter – socially and in the eyes of the law.
The choice for gay and lesbian Californians should be clear. Do they want to remain full citizens of California with full equality under the law, or would they prefer to elect a Democrat to the White House who promises little more than what some communities have been offering for more than two decades, the right to “register” their partnerships at city hall?
To anyone thinking of writing that $5,000 check without doubling or tripling the amount to stand up for their own rights first, I have one comment: “Say it Ain’t So!”