Photo by Erin Broadley. Click image for entire slideshow.
After spending several hours at the Music Box Theater in Hollywood last night, watching the voter totals for the passage or defeat of Proposition 8 fluctuate every few minutes, it finally became apparent by 12:30 a.m. that things weren't looking too good for gay marriage in California. Even though the race is still too close to call, the whole evening left a sour taste in my mouth…even more so during the drive home, when a radio news broadcaster almost cheerily announced that gay marriage bans went through in Arizona and Florida and Arkansas voters banned gays and lesbians from adopting kids. By that time, I was officially pissed off!
But then I arrived home to start work on my article about Prop. 8 and tried to cool down so I could write something smart and insightful. I checked my email, and the Human Rights Campaign hit me right between the eyes with this public relations non-sense:
What a night.
The crowd is going wild here at HRC Election Headquarters. While many races have yet to be called, including ballot iniatitives (sic) in Arizona, Florida, Arkansas and California, I felt the need to tell you that tonight, we made history.
Because of you, because of everything you did, 2008 will forever be the Year We Won!
Historians will point to this election as a turning point in the long struggle for civil rights. Eight years of White House hostility toward LGBT Americans are finally over.
Here's what we know right now:
We will finally have an LGBT-friendly White House: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Proposition 8 vote in California is still too close to call.
At this time, we helped elect new fair-minded allies in the Senate and in the House – including HRC endorsees Betsy Markey, Kay Hagan and cousins Tom and Mark Udall.
We can now pass critical LGBT equality measures like the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and begin unraveling the damage of the last eight years.
HRC and its members played a bigger role in 2008 than in any previous election. HRC launched a two-year, $7 million effort to get 5 million people out to vote for equality. We trained over 500 volunteers at 17 first-of-their-kind Camp Equality trainings and 25 more through the intensive 12-week Campaign College, and they went on to work on many tight races. One-third of our staff spread out across the country, providing thousands of hours of critical staff time to key campaigns. HRC raised more money for candidates than ever before and donated nearly $3.5 million to fight Proposition 8 in California. And there's more – watch this video to see how HRC turned your support into action.
Your efforts this year were without precedent. They've enabled HRC to play a role in dozens of today's victories. And with Obama in the oval office, we can now begin securing protections that LGBT Americans have been denied so long. We recognize the profound challenges facing our nation, and we will be patient and strategic in working with the new administration to secure those protections.
We are still waiting with anticipation for results from California's fight for marriage equality, where the race is still too close to call. We are also waiting on results for Arizona, Florida and Arkansas. Once the outcome is known in these states, as well as other key races, we will update you with the results.
Together, we've made a profound difference in 2008. I can't thank you enough – and I can't wait to keep working with you to continue the march towards equality in 2009 and beyond.
I never got the update about Arizona, Florida, and Arkansas, but the cheerful guy on the radio had already filled me in.
What really annoys me, though, is this…I always thought–perhaps naively–the HRC was supposed to win gay rights. I didn't think it was set up primarily to win elections for Democrats.
So far, HRC hasn't won a single anti-gay marriage ballot measure, and there's been over 20 losses. A few years ago, Arizona voted one down, but a gay Republican named Steve May really ran that winning campaign. So what's the deal with the email?
To be honest, I think Solmonese was trying to spin the gay community away from last night's debacle for the movement, and, as a major player in that movement, he didn't want us looking at him or the HRC. Solmonese also wanted me to keep donating, which was asked of me at the very bottom of the email. It makes a thinking man start to wonder when enough is enough.
One thing is clear, though. The gay rights movement needs to take a serious look at itself. Gay activists, who I mostly admire, can't keep blaming evangelical Christians for every loss. It's like the Boston Red Sox blaming the New York Yankees for being too good all of those years and not doing anything about it. Someone in the front office needs to get fired, the line up needs to be shuffled, new players need to be brought in, and we need to start winning a few championships. Pronto!
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.