Beyond Proposition 8

How tragedy and the Dallas principles will shape the future

By Diane Silver

Political IQ

The California Supreme Court decision upholding Proposition 8 is the best thing to happen to the GLBT movement in years - and no, I'm not joking.

Don't mistake my meaning. The ruling hurt like a knife in the gut. We should all - GLBT and heterosexual alike - howl about the injustice of allowing voters to strip their neighbors of a legal right and about the idea that any family is second class.

In the scant five months that lesbians and gays could marry before California voters passed the Proposition 8 ban, 18,000 couples were wed. The May 26 ruling allowed those marriages to stand, putting them in legal limbo where they receive privileges their neighbors can't get. Meanwhile, other lesbian and gay couples have been punished for committing the sin of falling in love at the wrong time or failing to marry at the right moment.

This ruling is a tragedy for thousands of people and their children, but it makes for good politics.

Like a bad foul call that rallies a team to win a basketball game, this ruling gives GLBT America momentum. Campaigns are already underway to put the issue back on the ballot in California. On decision day, protest rallies were held across the nation.

This loss forces us to commit time and money in ways we might never have considered before. It also drives us to do what our opposition fears the most: We must let go of seeking tolerance and teach California and the rest of the nation that our lives and families are worthy of endorsement. The only way to win at the ballot box will be to win voters' hearts.

The California decision comes as the GLBT movement is at a crossroads.

It has been five years since marriage equality came to Massachusetts. In an amazing string of victories over the last seven months, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Maine also legalized same-sex marriage.

At the same time, the Defense of Marriage Act still blocks legally married couples from receiving more than 1,100 federal benefits. The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbians and gays in the military is still being enforced. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act isn't making any headway in Congress. The Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes bill is mired in the Senate. Immigration issues are barely on the political map. The list of the movement's failures goes on and on.

Proposition 8 and the recent marriage victories are energizing the movement. Frustration at our many defeats and Internet-based activism are revitalizing it.

Once dominated by such groups as the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the GLBT movement is beginning to dance to the will of online activists.

The netroots are as agile and responsive as HRC and NGLTF are clumsy and slow. The most recent example is the creation of The Dallas Principles http://www.thedallasprinciples.org and their speed-of-light dissemination across the Internet.

Written May 15-17 by 24 activists, thinkers and political donors who met in Dallas, Texas, the eight principles demand more than the movement's established groups may have ever considered. Instead of endorsing the piece-by-piece conservative approach favored by HRC, The Dallas Principles demand immediate, full and inclusive equality in all areas of civil rights, including marriage, employment and service in the military.

The authors include Michael Guest, the nation's first Senate-confirmed, openly gay ambassador; Jimmy Creech, a United Methodist minister booted from his church for marrying same-sex couples; Joanne Herman, a transgender activist; Mandy Carter, an African-American lesbian activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee; and well-known bloggers Lane Hudson and Pam Spaulding. Their goal is not to birth yet another organization, but to guide and inspire the entire movement.

In their list of principles, they demand grassroots action, which is the key to winning in California and elsewhere. They also demand concrete results.

"Success is measured by the civil rights we all achieve, not by words, access or money raised," one principle notes.

That may well be a thinly veiled dig at the large budgets of some gay rights groups and the recent White House visits enjoyed by leaders of HRC and NGLTF.

Most importantly, the authors say that they and their supporters are willing to divorce any official, political party or organization that doesn't follow their principles. In other words, they have put President Barack Obama, the Democratic Congress, HRC, NGLTF and every other movement organization on notice.

I applaud the authors of The Dallas Principles. Their approach is a sign of a maturing movement that is no longer willing to settle for political crumbs. Their Web site's tagline should be turned into our rallying cry as we fight to repeal Proposition 8 and continue the struggle for equality throughout the nation.

"No delay. No excuses."

Diane Silver is a former newspaper reporter and magazine editor, whose work has appeared in The Progressive, Salon.com, Ms, and other national publications. She can be reached care of this publication or at PoliticalIQ@qsyndicate.com.

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