Wednesday, November 05, 2008

No to Bigotry for Obama

In this same election which celebrates -- and rightfully so -- the election of the first black man to the presidency of the United States we also saw three states (California, Florida and Arkansas) attempt to eliminate the right for people to marry unless they are heterosexual. African Americans and Latinos, who came out in force to support Barack Obama, voted overwhelmingly for this initiative in California, as did a great many white people. Apparently even people who have experienced intense discrimination themselves failed to see this as a civil rights issue.

Despite the intention of the Constitution to uphold a separation of church and state, people in this country still vote based on religious belief and the dominant religion defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. But the state has an interest in marriage, too. And, in fact, a desire to support it to the extent that legal and financial protections are provided to married folks that other people don't receive. To be honest, I think all committed family units (and that doesn't just mean gay couples) should be provided with legal and financial benefits regardless of marital status under the law. Perhaps that would be an easier pill to swallow than gay rights seems to be...but in the meantime the fight is being fought on "moral" and religious grounds and that, I think, creates an excuse for fear-mongering and bigotry to run rampant.

In a strange turn of events, given my frustration with religious organizations who used their financial clout to steer this election, today I received a "celebratory" email from a spiritual-but-not-religious website comparing Obama to Jesus in a supposedly joking manner. The article included managed to be both anti-Semitic and anti-Christian, no small feat if you ask me, and reminded me once again that bigotry really is alive and well in all sorts of forms despite the gains that have been made.

People don't see bigotry the same way when they're not the target of it--I'm sure that spiritual-but-not-religious group meant no harm. I'm sure the Mormon church and other religious organizations that pulled out all the stops to promote "Yes on Proposition 8" meant well. But that's the problem. It's easy to forget what it feels like to be part of a marginalized group when your group isn't the one being targeted.

I'm glad I had a chance to savor this election with everyone last night. I really felt proud of America for voting for change. Today, I guess, it's time to get back to work.

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