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did we vote on your marriageNovember 6, 2008

By Rady Ananda

Barack Obama’s parents would never have wed under old laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Yet, he seeks to impose the same double standard on lesbians and gays. Separate but equal is not equality.

We cannot ignore the significance of a person of color holding the highest seat in the nation, if not the world, especially given our history of slavery, segregation and discrimination.  The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and nearly half the prisoners are black.  We all hope that the top man – being black – will address some of this.  And yet we also can’t ignore that Obama represents the interests of the status quo; his voting record speaks more eloquently than he ever will.  Nor can we ignore that lesbians and gays continue to be excluded from equal treatment under the law, a move supported by Barack Obama. 

In Magical Voting Booth Transforms Clearheaded Americans Into Reactionist Morons, the Onion takes a lighthearted look at elections:

A voting booth stationed at the fifth district municipal center in Denver possesses the otherworldly power to transform rational Americans into impulsive and narrow-minded morons, sources reported Tuesday. According to election officials, just by stepping inside the magical booth and drawing its curtain shut, well-informed Americans are suddenly altered, their ability to reason without bias or prejudice vanishing into thin air.

Many in the national election integrity movement were appalled during Obama’s Victory Speech when he set back the movement ten years during his story about the 106-year-old black woman who voted when “she touched her finger to the screen… because she knows how America can change.”  So she thinks, anyway; and apparently so does Obama.  But as we’ve been screaming for years, votes cast or counted on software can be changed without detection.  With the New Boss in the White House in apparent denial about an issue that has been headlined repeatedly this year, we have our work cut out for us.  This Onion VIDEO took this issue to its ridiculous extreme in Voting Machines Elect One Of Their Own As President.

But Obama does have his finger on the pulse of Main Street, as pointed out in Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress:

“Although polls going into the final weeks of October showed Sen. Obama in the lead, it remained unclear whether the failing economy, dilapidated housing market, crumbling national infrastructure, health care crisis, energy crisis, and five-year-long disastrous war in Iraq had made the nation crappy enough to rise above 300 years of racial prejudice and make lasting change.

“Today the American people have made their voices heard, and they have said, ‘Things are finally as terrible as we’re willing to tolerate,’ said Obama, addressing a crowd of unemployed, uninsured, and debt-ridden supporters. ‘To elect a black man, in this country, and at this time-these last eight years must have really broken you.'”

We know the job he faces will be tough, as articulated in Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job.  Said scholar and activist Mark L. Denton, “It just goes to show you that, in this country, a black man still can’t catch a break.”

And on the Queer Front…

Obama is ambiguous on queer rights; right along with most Americans.  While the U.S. now rejects discrimination based on race, it’s apparently okay with rejecting equality for same sex couples, according to reported election results.  Arizona, California and Florida all banned (again) same-sex marriage in this election.

Although a same-sex marriage ban was already on the books, Florida’s voting machines responded to a Constitutional initiative in this year’s November 4, 2008 election by determining that 61% of Floridians are homophobic.  They’re also ageist, apparently, since the ban will affect senior citizens who live together outside of wedlock, in order to maintain their social security benefits.  The language is simple:

BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF FLORIDA THAT: A new section for Article I is hereby created to add the following:

Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.

Despite its simplicity, the effects are far-reaching, Judge David Young explains:

“The amendment (1) bans any legal union that is the “substantial equivalent” of marriage, (2) would jeopardize the benefits and health insurance that many employers provide to unmarried, heterosexual couples; and (3) puts at risk hospital visitations rights of unmarried couples. The same language has been used in other states to overturn civil unions and domestic partnerships.”

Florida may learn from Ohio’s experience when it enshrined an unconstitutional domestic partnership ban in 2004 that allows wife beaters to go free because the couple, though living together, are not legally married.  The hotly contested Proposition 8 in California is being called for homophobes, despite a CNN poll indicating the issue would be defeated.  And although Arizona rejected such a ban two years ago, for some odd reason, the majority of voters purportedly divorced themselves from equality this year. 

On the positive side, the Connecticut high court ruled in October that all citizens have full access to marriage, becoming the now-second state in the nation to abide the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Massachusetts allows it; California reportedly rejected it this week).  Lambda Legal reports:

“In a 4-3 decision, the court stated: “Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice. To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others.”

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed suit on behalf of Beth Kerrigan and Jodie Mock in 2004.  Eight states currently allow civil unions, and two allow full marriage.