One Giant Step Forward, One Devastating Step Back

Joseph DiNorcia Jr

On a night in which this country took a giant step forward on racial issues and reproductive rights, we also took a devastating step backwards when it comes to the rights of gay and lesbian individuals.

I begin with the acknowledgement that
I am in a state of extreme conflict.  I was just witness to something
that I thought I would never see in my lifetime and only hoped that
my children would see in theirs; the election of an African-American
to the highest office in the country, President of the United States
of America. 

As President of SIECUS, I am thrilled
that we now have a President-Elect who understands and supports comprehensive,
age-appropriate, sexuality education; who supports a woman’s right
to make her own reproductive health decisions; who values the availability
of medically accurate information about sexual and reproductive health;
and who embraces the virtues of putting science ahead of ideological
goals when combating AIDS worldwide.

It was also heartening to watch as
voters in a number of states voted overwhelmingly against restrictions
on a woman’s right to choose.  In California, Proposition 4,
which would have required parental notification before a minor could
obtain an abortion, failed by 52% to 48%.  In South Dakota, Initiative
11, which would have heavily restricted abortion, failed 55% to 45%. 
And, probably the most stunning and decisive vote took place in Colorado,
where Amendment 48, Human Life from Moment of Conception, was overwhelming
defeated 73% to 27%. 

With these votes in, the future seems
filled with promise.  We hope that the issues we care deeply about
will now finally be addressed and we can truly create a sexually healthy
society.  Unfortunately, when all the votes were counted it became
clear that we still have a long way to go. 

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On a night in which this country took
a giant step forward on racial issues and reproductive rights, we also
took a devastating step backwards when it comes to the rights of gay
and lesbian individuals.  Three states voted down gay marriage
proposals and another eliminated the right to adopt a child for any
couple that is not heterosexual and married.

Perhaps the most surprising is the
passage of Proposition 8 (by a 52% to 48% margin) in California, of
all places.  Is this the same California that has always been the
leader when it has come to gay and lesbian issues?  Is this the
same California that only five months earlier challenged the Supreme
Court and won the right for gays to marry?

One issue impacting the outcome was
clearly a lack of organization in the effort to defeat Prop 8. 
Maybe there was a sense that this issue was over in California and there
could be no way that this measure would pass.  After all, the country
has moved forward and we expect what is right and just to be the rule,
not the exception.  Maybe in this historic year, and with the progress
that was made in Connecticut and Massachusetts, we just thought that
we didn’t need to work that hard.  Or maybe, with so much riding
on this presidential election, this just got a little lost in the shuffle. 

The thing is, it didn’t get lost
for conservatives, and not just conservatives in California.  The
Mormon Church pumped over 80 million dollars into California to get
Proposition 8 passed, John Templeton, Jr., of the John Templeton Foundation
in Philadelphia, donated one million dollars to the cause, and multitudes
of other conservative and faith-based organizations around the country
infused millions of dollars to run false television, radio, and print

In a year of hope, it is vitally important
that the progressive community remember that all of our recent victories
were not achieved through hope alone.  We are where we are thanks
to disciplined organizing, hard work on the federal, state, and local
level, and the willingness to tirelessly strive for equal rights for
all people.  We have seen that our efforts can be successful, but
we can never take for granted that they will be.  If we truly want
to defeat those who would stand in the way of equal rights for gays
and lesbians, we must out-work them at every turn.  Through this
commitment to action, I know we will ensure a brighter, more equitable
future for all Americans.   

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