The 2008 Election – The Joy of Obama and The Pain of The Hateful Anti-LGBT Amendments

I have taken a few days to process the impact of the 2008 election.
On the one hand Barack Obama’s landslide has provided me the
greatest hope that I have felt in decades; on the other I feel
disgust at the hatred codified in the anti-gay ballot initiatives
that passed.

I’ve been a Barack Obama fan since I first heard Obama deliver
his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Three years
ago I heard Obama speak in person at a park near where we live in
Dallas. As fate would have it, Joe Biden also spoke at that
gathering, as did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. I was
impressed with Obama as I sat on the lawn listening to him address
a large crowd and felt as if he was speaking directly to me. He had
no notes. He just spoke from his heart.

Last December I listened to the audio version of Barack Obama’s
“Audacity of Hope” read by Obama himself. For six hours I felt
Obama sitting beside me sharing his view of the world, his
background and his vision. After listening to his book Barack Obama
had me. I felt that Barack Obama was the best bet for our country
and he was the best hope that I, a gay man, would receive the same
rights held by other Americans.

During the past year I have blogged in his support, delivered
commentaries on my “John Selig Outspoken” podcast and forwarded
endless numbers of emails containing news items, commentaries and
action steps in support of Obama to a list of over 200 people. I
have been addicted to Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s “Countdown”
and more recently Rachel Maddow’s new show also on MSNBC.

I remained glued to the TV and spent countless hours scouring
election coverage on the Internet during the past six weeks as
McCain and Palin made mistake after mistake and Obama pulled ahead
in the polls. I was guardedly optimistic that Obama would win. But
I was still petrified that an October Surprise or Republican dirty
tricks, including voter suppression, would stick us with John
McCain and “Mooseolini.”

As I sat transfixed in front of the TV on Tuesday night I watched
the results as each state’s returns were announced. When
Pennsylvania turned blue on the map I was elated, as I knew without
Pennsylvania McCain faced insurmountable odds in reaching the
magical 270 electoral votes needed to be elected president. When
Obama won Ohio I knew it was over. As other states turned blue from
Iowa to Virginia, to Florida to Nevada, New Mexico and others I was
able to relax for the first time in years.

John McCain gave a concession speech filled with grace and
compassion. Had McCain campaigned in a similar manner he would have
done far better. When Barack Obama walked on stage I lost it! I
started sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn’t stop. The tears kept
flowing as my husband Rodolfo held me. I told him that for the
first time in decades I could hope again. I had pretty much given
up on our country. I stopped celebrating the 4th of July several
years ago as I no longer saw much worth celebrating, as under the
Bush Doctrine the U.S. had become one of the bad guys.

I couldn’t believe it; we won! We have suffered through the
Reagan Revolution for twenty-eight years (with an all too short 8
year respite with Bill Clinton in the Oval Office in the 90s). The
election gave the Democrats strong control both of the House and
the Senate as well as a landslide for Obama that mandated a change
in course that will impact the nation for decades. Throughout the
night as I checked the Internet I continued to cry. When I got up
on Wednesday morning and turned on the “Today Show” I started
sobbing all over again and as I spoke with others on Wednesday my
eyes continued to well up.

Perhaps because I have such a diverse group of friends I tend to
see a person for what they mean to me and not their color,
religious preference, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender
identity or nationality. So when I have watched Barack Obama speak
I haven’t seen an African American, I have just seen somebody
that I have grown to respect, admire and trust. But as I have
spoken with African American friends since the election the sheer
magnitude of Obama wining has overwhelmed me through their pride,
hope and a renewed feeling of self-respect. Obama’s election I
hope will heal the great divide that I have felt in this country
over the past nearly three decades. We need to grow beyond greed
that has been too dominant in our society and be more concerned
with community for when we succeed together we also succeed as

I watched reaction from around the world as the whole globe held
their breath hoping for Obama to win. Upon Obama’s victory the
photos of joy seemed to melt away the hatred of America that George
W. Bush inspired. The election of Obama has restored hope not only
in America but also around the world. I can finally start
celebrating July 4th again.

And then there was the devastating news on same-sex marriage from
California as well as Arizona and Florida along with Arkansas
banning adoption by gays. I was disgusted by this news but not
disheartened. Civil rights are gained mainly through the courts,
not from the voting booth. If the Bill of Rights were up for a vote
by the American public today they most likely would not pass. From
“Brown v. Board of Education” in 1954 to “Lawrence et al v.
The State of Texas” in 2003 countless cases to end discrimination
has been won in the U.S. Supreme Court. We will eventually win the
right to marry from the highest court in the land.

We lost in California for a variety of reason. Once again, we
underestimated the financial and organizational power of the
religious fundamentalists who oppose us. Many have argued about the
fact that we didn’t include a single gay person in our ads.
Certainly our community didn’t contribute enough money to
adequately fund the advertising that was needed.

A lesson that we must learn is that no matter the threat the LGBT
community must be united and get behind any issue that makes it
into the public discourse be it gays in the military, ENDA, hate
crimes, gays in the Boy Scouts or same-sex marriage. All too often
I hear LGBT people say that an issue on the table isn’t that
important to them so they don’t get involved. Typically we
don’t pick the issue, the issue picks us. Every issue confronting
the LGBT community is critical to each and every one of us. When we
lose we lose big and our adversaries will keep picking away at us.
Every one of us should have contributed money to the campaigns in
each of these states but especially in California, which was a
critical beachfront for our fight.

Fortunately, we now have a Congress under even stronger Democratic
control and a friend at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. During the
campaign I pointed out that the most important issue in this
election was the U.S. Supreme Court. The two justices on the bench
that are the oldest, John Paul Stevens (age 88) and Ruth Baider
Ginsburg (age 75) are amongst the most liberal. Had McCain been
elected we would have been screwed. Stevens and Ginsburg, along
with several other justices, are likely to be replaced by President
Obama. If Obama is able to replace one conservative justice with a
liberal one the court will be much more likely to rule in our
favor. Once that is accomplished we are in a much stronger position
to make advances.

The results on the federal level this past Tuesday were extremely
positive. But we cannot sit back and wait for those in power to
grant us our rights. We must demand them. Nobody is going to just
hand them to us. The election results means that we have executive
and legislative branches more open towards our demands and who are
more likely favor us whereas us prior to Tuesday we had a president
who wouldn’t even listen to us. But, and this is a big but, we
must not make the mistake of being complacent. We must continue to
raise our voices so that our civil rights are protected.

I have just read that an organization called “Join The impact”
is organizing a national protest next Saturday November 15th by the
LGBT community and our supporters against California’s hateful
proposition 8. I don’t know much about the organization or the
details of this protest but it appears that actions will be taking
place in every state. Please check out for
further information about how you can get involved and where the
nearest event to where you live is going to take place. We need to
stand together as a community and make sure that our voices are
heard loudly both far and wide. Never forget, “the squeaky wheel
gets the grease.” Its time to make some noise!