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Anger, yes. Despair, no: the election. We all thought it would be resolved over the issue of the war. And it was. But not simply by the war against terror. By the war against gay couples. Karl Rove stealthily sowed fear and paranoia among rural, evangelical voters in states like Ohio and put his man over the top.

In eight more states now, gay couples have no relationship rights at all. If you are a gay or lesbian couple living in Utah, you know one thing: Your family has no standing under the law. It can and will be violated by strangers.

None of us should be too surprised by this. When you put a tiny minority up for a popular vote, the minority usually loses. But it is deeply dispiriting nonetheless. With the religious right ascendant and new senators like Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, two of the most antigay politicians in America, we can only brace ourselves for what is now coming.

Anger is a legitimate response. Even more urgent is dialogue. Gay people who think they can look the other way or duck this struggle are deluding themselves. Too many of us for too long have sat these battles out, preferring a quiet private life to engaging everyone we know with the truth about ourselves and the importance of our equality. But we are all on the line now. And the biggest battle--to defeat a federal version of the noxious amendments that have succeeded on state levels--is still ahead.

But equally, despair is completely unwarranted. In the broad view, we are still winning. The fact of gay couples and families is now central to American discourse. Around the civilized world, marriage advances. In the week before the election, even George W. Bush came out in favor of civil unions. The national exit polls showed that 25% of voters support marriage rights, 35% support civil unions, and only 37% want to keep gay couples from having arty rights at all. There are still many states where gay relationships are protected and valued. We have the right to marry in one State, and in that state pro-equality legislators were all reelected handily. In California we are on the brink of having almost-equality under the law. We midst not tar all straight people with the religious right brush. That would only empower the bigots.

By any rational measure, the passage of so many antigay amendments in so many states, paradoxically, reduces the need for a federal amendment that would scar the Constitution with discrimination. We need therefore to be even more emphatic about the need for a federalist response to an issue best left to the states. If we can avoid the Federal Marriage Amendment, we can live to fight another day.

But one more thing is important. We must never forget that the dignity of our lives and our relationships is not dependent on heterosexual approval or tolerance. Our dignity exists regardless of their fear and always has. We have something in valuable in this struggle: the knowledge that we are in the right; that our loves are as deep as others' loves; that our relationships truly are bonds of faith and hope that are worthy, in our God's eyes and our own, of equal respect.

We should continue to get married to the person we love--in religious services, in commitment ceremonies, in private life. We can use the language some want to deny us, citing our husbands and our wives in public discourse. And we must protect those marriages with every legal means available. We can be the change we want to see in the world. They cannot stop us from doing that. And love, in the long run, can outrun fear.

Being gay, after all, is a great blessing. The minute we let some people's prejudice and panic enter into our own souls, we lose. We have gained too much and come through too much to let ourselves be defined by others. And we have many, many straight allies as well. We must turn deep hurt back into invincible pride. Others' cheap, easy victories based on untruth and fear and cynicism are Pyrrhic ones. In time, they will fall. So hold your heads up high. Do not give in to despair. Do not let anyone else rob you of your hopes. This is America. Equality will win hi the end.
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Title Annotation:against the current
Author:Sullivan, Andrew
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 7, 2004
Previous Article:Kathy Griffin.
Next Article:Learning from Melissa.

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