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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Election Day Nov. 4: The Urgency of Now

By Steve Charing

During every presidential election cycle we’re told that the current one is the most important election in our lifetime. And the fact is, it’s usually true—especially the past few elections. But without the hyperbole, I really believe that November 4 will be not only pivotal for our country, but also to the LGBT community.

The Obama-McCain contest is surely critical. For our nation, an Obama victory will mark a dramatic shift from the atrocious economic, social, environmental, and foreign policies of the past eight years. And with an overwhelming majority in both houses of Congress, Obama’s progressive and common sense agenda will find an easier path to success.

The contrast between Obama and McCain on issues that are important to the lgbt community couldn’t be more stark. While Barack Obama does not favor same-sex marriage, it must be noted that no other major candidate for president ever has to this point. But both Obama and his vice-presidential running mate, Joe Biden, oppose California’s Proposition 8 (more on that later).
Obama does openly support some form of civil union or domestic partnership arrangement whereby hospital visitation and economic benefits could be extended to same-sex couples. For his part, John McCain flatly opposes domestic partnerships, same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

Both candidates do not favor a Federal Marriage Amendment though McCain’s stance is rooted in the proper use of the Constitution rather than any inclination towards fairness. Nonetheless, VP candidate Sarah Palin supports a constitutional amendment that would enshrine discrimination into the law of the land.

The two disagree on ENDA, the Federal Employment Discrimination Act, which has been languishing in Congress for decades that would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace. Obama supports it; McCain does not. The same scenario would apply to hate crimes legislation: Obama favors it; McCain opposes it.

The military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy is also an area where both candidates dissent. Obama favors repealing the vile law based on fairness and the fact it does not work. McCain would rely on the commanders on the ground for advice on that matter, and you know where it would go at that point—nowhere.

John McCain likes to call himself a "maverick" for the frequent times he crossed up his own party to sign onto bipartisan legislation. The current version of John McCain, however, is so firmly tied to the far right wing of the GOP that if he is elected, any chances for lgbt progress will evaporate. And Sarah Palin is even more socially conservative.

Besides the presidential race we must look carefully at what’s going on in California. Following that state’s Supreme Court’s ruling that paved the way for same-sex marriage, anti-gay opponents succeeded in placing the definition of marriage on the ballot in November that would define marriage as between one man and one woman. That referendum is called Proposition 8.

Even though this battle is taking place on the other side of the country, it should very much matter to us. "Maryland is still one of a handful of states that can achieve marriage equality in the United States in the near future," says Equality Maryland’s Executive Director Dan Furmansky. "But the outcome of the vote on Prop. 8 in California will directly impact our timeline here. If legislators see that the tide has truly turned on this issue, they will be more willing to put themselves on the line for what we all know is truly equality for same-sex couples."

Indeed this is crucial. Being outraised by nearly two to one, equality activists who oppose Prop. 8 are seeing their support in the polls slip as the proponents have used TV ads to scare the voters.

And that should matter to us. Furmansky points out, "An electoral loss in California would no doubt negatively impact our efforts to achieve marriage equality in Maryland, to what extent, we can't fully be sure. But it would make us more reliant on legislative wins in states like New York and New Jersey to convince legislators that the time has come for our state as well."

A loss would also embolden opponents of same-sex marriage in Maryland to push harder to have the matter put to a popular vote. That’s a slippery slope with uncertain consequences. If voters in a state like California can roll back the clock, that is not a good sign for Maryland.

To help level the playing field, money, as always, is the best way to defeat Prop. 8. Please visit here to learn how you can help and now!

With a favorable election outcome, both nationally and in California, LGBT Marylanders may finally see the light at the end of a tunnel. If not, the tunnel gets longer and darker.

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