Organizers of a national gay rights conference in St. Louis said soul-searching is in order after the resounding voter passage of gay marriage bans in 11 states last week.
Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the gay rights advocacy group that is sponsoring the conference, said the election results left members troubled and fearful. It's tough when "the vast majority of citizens in your state not only do not understand you but take hostile steps to change the constitution to take away rights we never even had," Foreman said. "There's no way you can put lipstick on that pig." About 2,000 people are expected to attend the conference, which runs Thursday through Sunday.
Voters approved state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah. Six other states have already passed similar measures.
Sue Hyde, director of NGLTF's Creating Change conference, said organizers believe states will interpret the new marriage measures broadly in order to prohibit recognition of gay relationships and families and that the Bush administration will push for a U.S. constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. She also said she fears that openly gay people in some communities could now be physically harmed by those who fear or hate them.
While organizers also found some Election Day successes--40 out gay candidates won local, state, and federal offices, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund--Hyde said members of the gay rights movement must "regroup and buckle down," accepting that they may not be able to win over political leaders. Instead, she said, "we have to engage our neighbors and coworkers in a deep conversation about our humanity and the need to be able to take care of our families."