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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Which Came First; Hearts & Minds or the Vote?

A Michigan City Commission originally approved the ordinance in late 2008 by a unanimous vote, but was challenged earlier by an opposition group seeking to overturn the 'equality ruling. Yesterday, November 3, the people of Michigan once again voted with their hearts and affirmed the earlier unanimous vote to save 'equality.

This pattern of events will sound very familiar to those who have followed the fight for equality at the municipal level. Similar ordinances were proposed in Montgomery County, Maryland and Gainesville, Florida over the last two years, evoking similar reactions from groups opposed to LGBT equality. Also very similar are the tactics those groups have adopted to preserve the ability to discriminate without consequence. In each case, opposition groups focused their attacks on the proposed gender identity protections, claiming that they would make it legal for male sexual predators to enter women’s public restrooms. In Kalamazoo, the opposition group Citizens Voting No stooped even lower, airing TV ads that mocked specific transgender women, using their photos without permission and repeatedly referring to them as men.

A deep and bitter disappointment however from Maine yesterday: Maine voters have passed a devastating Proposition 8-style measure overturning the state’s marriage equality law.

Our hearts are with everyone in Maine who fought so hard to win recognition for their families. The legislature passed marriage equality earlier this year, but a divisive anti-LGBT campaign to scare voters seems to have worked.

It is infuriating to see that the same fear-mongering ads that were used to pass Prop. 8 a year ago have triumphed again at the expense of so many. This is a terrible loss.

So although on one hand the fight for equality inches one step at a time, there will always be others to attempt to thawrt forward progress. Finally, what we love about this country is that the laws are made up "for the the people", so even in our anger for Maine's overturning, "the people" of Maine spoke their minds through the power of their vote. As americans, we all bleed for that right; it is that right which rises to the surface like an umbrella to protect every other right.

As we now know, this fight is not about the power of the vote, but instead, the power to win hearts and minds. If we do that, the vote will take care of itself.