Obama’s election signals a beginning of the end to the country’s racial divide, but ballot measure losses show LGBT community has work to do
I waited to write this piece until I saw John McCain give his concession speech.
I waited because I have been disappointed and depressed by the last minute dirty tricks that changed the elections in 2000 and 2004.
This victory is what I hoped for, a decisive and crushingly obvious one that will not be the subject of endless nitpicking by conservative pundits.
Now that Sen. Barack Obama is president-elect, I am waiting for the gravitas of the event to really sink in.
Watching the crowd in Grant Park in Chicago, I realized all of us are living in a truly historic time. Like the falling of the Berlin Wall, this election marks the falling of America’s biggest wall, the racial divide that has blocked minorities from the halls of power.
With Obama’s election that wall lies in pieces. The remainder may still represent stumbling blocks, but the barrier of race will never again keep anyone from achieving the highest office in the land.
Now, beyond the hyperbole and historic metaphors of the moment, I have to ask myself, "What will this election mean for LGBT Americans?"
Considering the unfortunate passage of several discriminatory ballot initiatives in states from California and Arizona to Arkansas and Florida, the Obama victory is bittersweet. Perhaps we can take solace in the victory of the first already-out gay man to be elected as a freshman to Congress, Colorado’s Jared Polis.
Another encouraging win came from another Colorado Democrat, Betsy Markey, who soundly defeated Marilyn Musgrave.
Musgrave is a Republican with a draconian record of voting against LGBT rights whenever possible, and she helped author the unsuccessful federal anti-gay marriage amendment. She was even endorsed by the Colorado KKK.
Another bright spot was openly gay Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin easily winning re-election in Wisconsin and Democrat U.S. Rep. Barney Frank gliding to victory in Massachusetts.
The other New England win of note was Jim Himes, who defeated Chris Shays in Connecticut, leaving New England without any Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Himes’ home state recently legalized gay marriage and will begin issuing licenses soon.
Locally, we can celebrate Lupe Valdez’s win as a solid re-election victory in a hard fought campaign. Her re-election marks the first time an openly gay elected official has won reelection in Dallas County.
She was attacked by not only her opponent but by The Dallas Morning News — and still won. That would be a major achievement for any candidate much less one who is female, lesbian and Hispanic.
Those same barriers that were broken nationally are forever broken here in Dallas as well. In the end, Lupe won because she has done a great job against staggering odds in a broken system she inherited. The voters recognized that and know she has the ability to finish the job she started.
The bigger picture for this election remains to be seen. As President-elect Obama said in his speech Tuesday night, "I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for 221 — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand."
His message was one of hope but also one that put us all on notice. We have to help if we want real change.
Just as in this election, the hard work and generosity of millions of Americans made the Obama victory a reality; it will be the work of those same Americans who bring about the change our country so desperately needs.
As is evident from the results of the ballot initiatives in California and other states, the LGBT community needs to tear down a few walls of our own.
We must work to make more allies in the African-American and Hispanic-American communities. We must work at the local level to assure representation of LGBT people in local government and institutions.
We must not sit back and wait for someone else, be it organizations or government, to secure equal rights for us. We must continue the work done by or forebearers in the struggle for LGBT rights.
If we do, then block by block and brick by brick, we will dismantle the walls of discrimination and build a better America for everyone.
Yes we can!
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member for Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 7, 2008.