Sunday, February 17, 2008

An Open Letter to Barack Obama

Senator Obama:

I am a Democratic voter who will soon go to the polls to cast my primary vote. I want to support you. I really do. But I can't. (Nor can I support your main opponent.) I've seen you speak, had chills from the power of your rhetoric, and responded to the power of your message. But as a citizen who is gay, I believe you take my vote for granted and count on self-hatred and the fear of a Republican government to get me to the polls. You leave me unable to give you full-throated support because I am one of the Americans who does not get that same support from you.

You say that you believe that gay couples in the United States are entitled to all the rights that heterosexual couples have, but that you believe that marriage is "between a man and woman." I have no idea what that means or how that makes sense to you. I don't know if you struggle with that or state it because you believe it's a political necessity to do so. But I do know that when you say it so unequivocally, it implies is that you believe that there are privileges awarded to some and beyond the reach of the few. It reinforces, for every gay-basher or homophobe who hears or reads your words, that they are right to think that gay couples are different, unworthy, separate.

And separate but equal is not a doctrine that has worked well for us in the past. Surely you can see the way that "marriage" holds a civil rights loophole: Housing available for "Married Couples Only." Rates for hotels and vacations just for "Married Couples." Businesses and Employers who don't discriminate based on sexual orientation—oh, no—they just have different policies that take into consideration the different needs of their married employees. By setting up marriage as something reserved for the heterosexual, you leave that privilege at the top of a mountain that only some can climb. You also make it possible for those at the top to kick rocks down on those who stand below.

Let me be clear: I, personally, have no real interest in marriage per se. It is not the civil rights hill I would have chosen to die on. But I do have an interest in public rhetoric that reinforces hierarchy and gives power to a majority at the expense of a minority. You want me to be grateful that you believe I'm equal while simultaneously proving that you do not think that is so. You want me to be so grateful that you will hand me something that I might not notice what you take away with the other hand. You want me to be so fearful that the other guy will be worse that I'll hand you my only bargaining chip, my vote. You want me to call on some hidden self-loathing, walk into a voting booth and pull the lever for the one who thinks it's ok to say I'm less. I can't do that. Not even for you and all your pretty speeches.

3 Comments:

Blogger Tom Bozzo said...

This is a powerful post, and it's a good point that this useless pander does little to influence persuadable voters while hurting what should be a core Democratic constituency. I do wonder why it's addressed to Obama specifically. His positions, if anything, are a bit to the left of HRC's (see, e.g., the Washington Blade on HRC vs. Obama on repeal of the DOMA). That said, it does make *my* head hurt to imagine how you could be for repeal of DOMA and against same-sex "marriage," but I suppose the state of the art in Democratic strategery isn't up to what strikes me as a more logical position of civil-unionizing all "marriage" for civil rights purposes, and leaving religions to their own devices.

Also, fear of more Republican government is not at all without cause -- esp. Stevens, John Paul, age of).

11:19 AM  
Blogger Acre said...

Tom, it's addressed to Obama specifically because he's the candidate I most *want* to throw my support behind. I want him to be my candidate.

I agree with you completely about the obvious logical solution wrt marriage/civil unions.

And yes, the fear of a Republican government is strong. But I'm tired of both voting from fear and being expected to vote from fear. My own candidates shouldn't be using that fear against me.

11:43 AM  
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8:25 PM  

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