Rachel Bunting

election follow up

So hells yeah, we elected Obama.

I’m ecstatic about that, and so were the 15 or so friends gathered in my living room watching tv. We were tuned in to Comedy Central’s Indecision 2008 when Jon Stewart interrupted Steven Colbert to say, “At 11 o’clock Eastern time, the President of the United States is Barack Obama.”

We were stunned, and not quite ready to believe it – so we tuned to MSNBC, where we were greeted with the live feed from Grant Park, Chicago – Obama’s supporters were going nuts.

But my excitement turned to frustration when I woke up the next morning and saw these results.

There were 4 ballot initiatives across the country that were set to impact the GLBT community. In Arizona, Florida and California, if passed, the initiatives would ban gay marriage. In Arkansas, the ballot initiative would ban gay couples from adopting children.

At this point, all 4 initiatives have passed. California hasn’t quite finished counting their ballots yet, but the difference is slim – only about 400,000 votes, (and it seems to grow incrementally as the votes get counted) and I’m just not sure it will come through.

It’s difficult for me to remain excited about Obama now, on the second post-election day. For months leading up to November 4th, Obama proclaimed himself an agent of change. And I believed it. Still do, in fact. But I think I got caught up in the magic, the fairy tale of it – and I had a slap in the face Wednesday morning when I realized that some things really aren’t going to change any time soon. It’s hard for me to not feel like I got cheated.

There are still a lot of things I don’t understand about the civil rights movements that have taken place in this country, such as why anyone feels the desire (and the entitlement) to keep another person from succeeding or having the same as everyone else. I’m not sure I understand why it’s considered acceptable, appropriate and expected for one person to decide what’s best for another person. I’m definitely sure I don’t understand why the religious movement in this country has made this fight a crusade, and I’m definitely sure I don’t understand why so many people buy into their propaganda and rhetoric.

Look, I don’t even like marriage. I think it’s stupid. I did it once, when I was way too young to understand what I was getting in to, and it’s taken me several years to extract myself from the situation. If New Jersey legalized same-sex marriage tomorrow, I certainly would not be running out to the nearest justice of the peace to tie the knot all over again. I think marriage is a discriminatory institution defined by archaic rituals that creates a set of expectations for two people that is nearly impossible to live up to. I think it’s an institution that creates unequal relationships, and defines one set of values as more “right” than another. Any person – male or female – will be hard pressed to get me to enter that chokehold again.

But I don’t understand why anyone else feels that it’s their right and duty to make that decision for me.

I have never believed that gay marriage was the most important gay issue at hand – I’ve felt for a while that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is something far more important to repeal. (I don’t think we can, as a nation, say, “Yah, great, all you gays can get married – oh, except for you, over there in uniform. You still can’t talk about it.”) But I thought that California – which has captured a small piece of my heart over the past eight years – would have come through on this one.

I’m not surprised about Florida, Arizona or Arkansas – not surprised, but really disappointed. I don’t think I will ever be able to understand why so many people feel so strongly about an issue they are entirely unable to understand.

My brother is optimistic – “I have a hard time believing this will stick,” he says. “It’s not constitutional,” he says. I hope he’s right.

And as for the ban on same-sex couple adoptions: if a couple can provide love and support to the child, why does it matter if they’re gay?

My friends and family are good people – they mean well, and I know most of them will agree that it’s a terrible thing. But I’m not even sure I can talk about this with them. None of them are going to be affected by these ballot initiatives. Their lives aren’t more or less difficult because of them, and their lives don’t change at all because of them. It’s easy for them to nod and agree with me – after all, they do have gay friends. But not many of them are going to call me or Donna and ask what they can do to help change things. And that’s a little frustrating too.

And finally, this.

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