Firstly: For those hiding under a rock, Barack Obama is now president-elect of the United States of America. I have heard so many amazing stories about this that have brought tears to my eyes, let me issue a completely goofy chuckle at the amazing feeling that having someone like you being your leader for the first time must elicit, (I get a small glimpse of it every time I get to talk with our incredibly successful youth candidates and/or GLBT1 candidates in New Zealand) and generally just lift up my faith in democracy ever so much higher. That’s even discounting the incredible, joyous relief I feel at the idea that the world’s most influential democracy has finally decided that smart candidates who can compromise, open government, and equality of opportunity over a folksy right-wing warhappy radical eco-skeptical neoliberal extremist who struggles with complex sentences and can’t behave himself appropriately on the international stage, but who might be kinda cool to share a drink with and could possibly fit in with you in church.
In short, America has reminded us that we can- and should- choose reform in government, equality, and democratic values. Even if the person bringing them isn’t our ideal candidate.
But it’s also been a bittersweet victory for many Democrats in the United States, and has warned us of wedge issues and the influence of social conservatism on the gay rights agenda. Many states just voted through propositions that revoked or banned gay and lesbian marriage, (usually in the form of a “protection of traditional marriage” proposal) including the incredibly liberal state of California2. In Arkansas even got through one that also bans adoptions by gay or lesbian couples. I’ve also read that much of the US$70 million that anti-equality campaigners spent on getting Proposition 8 passed in california was fund-raised out of state. The idea of more conservative or liberal areas flooding money into ad campaigns for their neighbors in order to enforce their moral agenda there seems somewhat chilling to me.
Had these been issues in the candidate elections, a lot of states could have lost some support among traditionally Democratic demographics3– for instance, 60% of black voters in California favoured Proposition 8. Convincing people that this isn’t about attacking “traditional marriage”, but actually upholding equality and the democratic principle of equal citizenship for all doesn’t just benefit GLBTQI New Zealanders- it can actually potentially change how some New Zealanders vote.
I’m seriously hoping that the results of our own election this Saturday won’t leave me with similar worries
1 I don’t know that we’ve had a “Q” or an “I” candidate in New Zealand yet. Actually, I have a suspicion we haven’t had a “B” either, but saying “GLT” might confuse people 😉
2 This one could be filed in the “not quite so bad” category, as there is suspicion that it wouldn’t revoke any existing gay or lesbian marriages, and it’s still possible that the Californian Supreme Court could overturn it. (Unfortunately, if the CSC fails to overturn it, the US Supreme Court won’t be able to)
3 I should point out that I’m not an enthusiastic fan of the Democratic Party in the USA, but in the context of gay rights, they’re really the most beneficial choice for voters who will decide based on that issue.