Finding the Silver Lining in Defeat

Three weeks ago, like many LGBT Americans, I woke up with, to say the least, mixed feelings. The euphoria of Barack Obama’s election and the expansion of the pro-LGBT majority in Congress was tempered by sadness and anger at our devastating losses in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, and, of course, California. The silver lining of these defeats has been a renewed focus nationwide on the issue of marriage equality.

BY Joe Solmonese

November 24 2008 12:00 AM ET

Three weeks ago,
like many LGBT Americans, I woke up with, to say the
least, mixed feelings. The euphoria of Barack Obama’s
election and the expansion of the pro-LGBT majority in
Congress was tempered by sadness and anger at our
devastating losses in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, and,
of course, California. The silver lining of these defeats
has been a renewed focus nationwide on the issue of
marriage equality and an invigorated grassroots energy
that has sent tens of thousands of LGBT people and our
allies into the streets since the election.

These protests
demonstrate that, despite the blow our community has been
dealt, the struggle for marriage equality goes on. We
anxiously wait to see if the California supreme court
will again stand up for the principles of the
California constitution and the equality of LGBT people
by invalidating Proposition 8, a discriminatory referendum
on our fundamental rights that should never have been
put to a popular vote.

Regardless of the
outcome of this case, we will remain focused on moving
marriage equality forward in California and across the
country. With this month’s election of greater
numbers of fair-minded legislators, we have a real
opportunity to pass a marriage equality bill in New York.
There is also promise in several other states,
including New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. And
we will continue to look for opportunities to utilize
the tremendous energy generated by our losses on November 4
to advance the cause of marriage equality on every
front.

Our community
must not lose sight, however, of the tremendous potential
that the elections of Barack Obama and an increasingly
fair-minded Congress offer for moving our nation,
including LGBT people, forward. We are inspired that,
in Barack Obama and Joe Biden, we have elected the
most pro-LGBT leadership in our nation’s history.

Even as he
prepares to take office, President-elect Obama has
demonstrated that the commitment he showed to the LGBT
community throughout his historic campaign will
continue during the Obama administration. Within days
of its inception, his Transition Project instituted a
fully inclusive nondiscrimination policy for those applying
for positions within the new administration. In addition, a
number of openly gay people have been selected to
contribute their considerable expertise to the
transition.

But our community
can expect much more than just fairness in hiring
practices from the Obama administration. Last week, the
Obama Transition Project published an extensive agenda
for the next four years, including a section on key
policies for LGBT people and families, on its website. The
Obama-Biden plan reiterates strong support for inclusive
hate-crimes and employment discrimination protections,
repeal of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act
and “don’t ask, don’t tell”
policy, and a stronger and more strategic
response to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Never before have
we had such ambitious leadership on LGBT issues in the
White House. But none of these important goals can be
accomplished without the support, participation, and
vigilance of LGBT people and our allies. President
Obama and our partners in Congress cannot win
legislative victories without the active engagement of our
community. Not every Democratic member of Congress is
an ally, and not every Republican is an opponent. We
must work with the Obama administration to utilize our
community’s renewed energy -- both the excitement
about our triumphs and the anger over our defeats --
to win a majority of votes in Congress on our
priorities. 

I hope you will
join me in working to ensure that the energy generated by
our mixed emotions on the morning of November 5 drives the
task at hand: making equality a reality for all of us.
 

- Joe
Solmonese is the president of the Human Rights
Campaign
.

Tags: Politics

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