The defeat in California was a big setback for gay rights. Where do we go from here?
The immediate aftermath has been emotional. This is why we've seen protests. Such protests are useful in venting frustration and building up momentum, but in and of themselves they don't accomplish the needed change.
My opinion is that the next steps need to come at the Federal level. There are seven items on the standard gay-rights agenda: 1) Federal hate crimes legislation, 2) ENDA (employment nondiscrimination act), 3) Repeal of DADT (Don't Ask Don't Tell) so that gays can serve in the military, 4)Repeal of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), 5) Federally recognized civil unions, 6) UAFA (Uniting American Families Act) to give equalize immigration rights for gay and straight couples and 7) same-sex domestic partner benefits for Federal employees.
Although Candidate Obama supported all of these items during his campaign, only two days after the election it is becoming clear that President-elect Obama is interested in acting only on items 1) and 2) on this list. The story behind this can be found here.
I don't agree with the naysayers. I think that the defeat of Prop 8 gives us a window of opportunity. Supporters of Prop 8 including the LDS Church insisted that they were not anti-gay and that they did not want to take away rights. Let them make good on that assertion by supporting civil unions at the Federal level. An argument for this point of view can be found here.
Civil unions are not marriage. They are less than marriage. But they are not without benefit. They can solve a number of practical problems that harm gay families by providing the many benefits that the US Government gives straight couples, including spousal rights to Social Security survivor benefits, the ability to file joint tax returns and spousal immigration rights. We need these protections right now.
I am not proposing that we settle for second-class status. Instead, I see the practicality of finding a middle ground where we can bring on board many of the people who voted for Prop 8. Civil unions will not be the last word and the do not preclude an eventual move toward marriage at the time when there is sufficient political support for that. I, in my own personal situation, can't afford to wait until marriage equality is politically feasible nationwide.
If you agree with me on this, start acting. Write President-elect Obama (web site: http://change.gov) and ask that federally recognized civil unions for gay couples be put on the agenda. You might mention that Vice President-elect Biden promised this during the VP debate. Another thing you can do is just have the discussion about civil unions with people you know, including friends and family members who may have supported the LDS Church's position on Prop 8.
I don't want to let the Democrats off the hook as the gay community has in the past. We need to be on the agenda.
Also, by the way, there will be a nationwide protest on Saturday against Prop 8. This protest is not directed specifically at the LDS Church. I encourage all of you to attend. Information is at the Join the Impact web site.