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To The LGBT And Progressive Communities On Our ‘Loss’ In The Illinois Marriage Fight

by David Badash on June 1, 2013

in Marriage,News,Politics

Post image for To The LGBT And Progressive Communities On Our ‘Loss’ In The Illinois Marriage Fight

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.

Image by MaryEllen Tribby via The Merevick Report

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bgryphon June 1, 2013 at 9:40 am

Exactly. Brian Brown (NOM-bot) is quoted as saying "So much for the inevitability of gay marriage"- but he is wrong. One loss, or as you prefer, lack of a win, is but one battle and not the war. Inevitable does not necessarily mean immediate. Complacency is, to my mind, about the only thing that can turn our march for full and equal rights from inevitable to lost. Frustration is, perhaps, inevitable. Talk of lynching or "bringing back the lions" is inappropriate- and used in public space is only hurting the next fight. Anyone who thought the fight was over, or would at most require but a token effort, has been blind. Religious fundamentalism and queer-bashing are not going away like the happy ending of a 90 minute rom-com. Pouting might be cute on some people (although better used in a 'boudoir photo') – but temper tantrums after the age of about 5 are inexcusable.

calvin2004 June 1, 2013 at 11:37 am

Great post. Its need to be said: we have become complacent and in some regards cocky. But this last month has shown us why there is still so much work to do: the lack of a vote in IL, the failure of the UAFA amendment, the BSA still refusing to allow gay and lesbians in as adult leaders, the refusal of President Obama to issue an EO abut ENDA, the increase in anti-gay crimes in NYC, including the murder of Mark Carson, and the report issued by NBC that gay and lesbians are worse off financially than their straight counterparts.
I feel like IL is an example of how not to run a SSM campaign. The orgs and lead sponsor were blinded by optimism. They claimed they had the votes and were so confident they didn't really push until it was too late. Why were there not more rallies? A last minute rally on the last day is unacceptable. Greg Harris was optimistic about the bill in the afternoon – did he just not listen to his colleagues? Already the Gay Liberation Movement and the Equal Right Agenda are organizing a protest. The Illinois Equality coalition is blaming everyone but themselves. Meanwhile, I'm sure the average gay person in the US is just shrugging and going, the SCOTUS will solve everything next month (I was at a NJ SSM meeting and they truly believe that if DOMA is struck down, that the state legislature will have a change of heart and override Christie's veto. Is everyone living in LaLa Land?) IL should be a wake up call – we missed the boat and we shouldn't look for others to blame – we all are to blame to some extent. We need to halt this narrative that we already won – we haven't. We need to stop touting polls about 53% supporting this and that and act like only 20% support it. We need to continue to fight – not sit around and wait for history to do its job for us. Because sometimes it doesn't unless we push it too.

kuhrdan1 June 1, 2013 at 11:58 am

Excellent post. Descend into the gutter only when it is being used against you at the time when used against you, – not before or afterwards. Gratuitous remarks will only undermine your credibility. And, for god sakes, vote and get those in your immediate circle and their circles to vote. Educate, educate, educate and fight back when you face or hear injustice.

konkrypton June 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Casting blame about to groups that, mostly, ARE OUR ALLIES, is just stupid. That will just push those groups away from our cause. Much better to put off the vote if the support isn't there than to hold the vote, lose, and have our opponents say, "We voted once, no one wants it." Why give them that ammunition? Take the time to do the work, get the ducks in a row, then take the vote. Just common sense.

timboyd215 June 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm

So this is the old "hearts and minds" rationale – we didn't do enough to change 'em. So someone please offer the way to change the (primarily) black fundamentalist hearts and minds, so they will vote for gay marriage.

Until then, we should refuse to take any blame for other communities disrespect and contempt.

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