Last night, at the very last minute, at the end of the legislative session in the Illinois legislature, a decision was made by Rep. Greg Harris, the chief sponsor of a same-sex marriage bill, to not bring it to the floor for a vote.
Harris says several lawmakers “asked for time to talk to their constituents and reach out to their minds and hearts,” before deciding how to vote. He promised to bring the bill back in November.
Had the bill been debated and voted on, maybe we would have won, maybe not.
First, let me apologize for what I’m about to say, because I know it will hurt some people, but I think it needs to be said.
I am disgusted and offended with the response to what happened in Illinois yesterday.
On social media I saw a few incidents of outright racism and even the “n” word being used immediately after it was announced there would not be a vote.
Others blamed the Black Caucus. Some blamed Black religious leaders.
That is unacceptable. And it is exactly what NOM, the National Organization For Marriage, wants to happen. Remember? It’s their corporate directive. And some were foolish enough to fall for it.
Even without overt or implied racism, I saw many activists, or those carefully watching the results, so angry that we “lost.”
We didn’t lose, there was not a vote.
And there wasn’t a vote because we as a community were not sufficiently organized.
I have seen this happen too many times.
Overall — certainly this is not directed at everyone — we get greedy. We get lazy. We think because we deserve these rights we don’t have to work for them. And when we have successes, we think the work is done and the rest of the battles will be automatic wins. (Martha Coakley, who lost to Scott Brown in Massachusetts keeps coming to mind. So does our marriage loss in Maine a few years ago.)
And the last thing we do, as progressives and as an LGBT community, is blame ourselves.
It’s always someone else’s fault.
Sometimes, like in last night, the fault is also ours.
And when “we” — individuals, media, activists, etc. — go around blaming others, when we issue press releases calling it “disgraceful,” or “abject betrayal,” and make comments on Twitter, blaming Black people, or Hispanics and Latinos, we all look bad, childish, and ugly.
The votes weren’t there in this case because we didn’t work hard enough.
And we realized that too late.
From the outside, looking in, this was not a well-organized campaign. For whatever reason. And I know that statement hurts those directly involved, and I’m sorry, but it’s very obvious.
We didn’t sit down with enough people, we didn’t do our homework, we waited until the last minute to pick up the phone.
We didn’t have the votes lined up because we didn’t work hard enough to get them. And calling for someone’s head is not the answer.
It’s time we took responsibility and stopped blaming others.
It’s time we stopped acting like because we deserve something we should automatically get it.
It’s time we built bridges with other communities instead of trying to deflect blame onto them.
It’s time for our community to recognize all the wins we’ve had over the past four years, and start extending a hand to others, (think: immigration reform,) and maybe we’ll see more hands extending back.
It’s time to be true civil rights activists, and recognize our fight has to extend beyond our personal issues.
It’s time to recognize that in some cases, like in Illinois, we have to do a better job of laying the groundwork, knocking on doors, helping people want to vote for marriage, instead of acting like just because we deserve it, just because it’s the right thing to do, we don’t have to work our asses off to get it.
As a community, we didn’t in Illinois.
But we’ll go back and get it done.
And we will win, because we’re smart and we know how to make this happen.
In the mean time, let’s remember that this lesson also applies to 2014.
Liberals, progressives, and Democrats cannot afford to not work harder than ever to take back the House and keep the Senate.
Overall, as a community, we’ve lost momentum and we’ve stopped (or at least, relaxed) fighting.
Conservatives, in case you didn’t notice, are fighting harder than ever — and are more willing than ever, to fight dirty, and to lie.
Let’s take Illinois as a heads-up.
Let’s remember what it felt like when George Bush won. Twice.
Let’s remember what it felt like when Prop 8 passed.
Let’s stop blaming others.
Let’s get back to work.
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