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Winning the
marriage debate

Winning the
marriage debate

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Debate over the so-called Marriage Protection Amendment may have been political pandering of the worst kind, but it also got Americans talking about the need to treat gay and lesbian people fairly.

During the Senate debate over the antigay Marriage Protection Amendment this week, the Christian group Focus on the Family called us "forces from hell." Senator Santorum said the amendment vote was "an opportunity for us to get beyond, you know, 'We should treat people nicely.'" President Bush surrounded himself with extremists and urged Congress to pass the amendment. But not one senator buckled; not one vote fell. In fact, two votes changed our way. The amendment failed. Momentum is on our side.

Forty-nine senators, including seven Republicans, voted to reject the politics of discrimination, division, and distraction in a 49-48 vote. Republican senators Arlen Specter and Judd Gregg, who voted for cloture in 2004, voted with us on Wednesday. This was a resounding defeat of discrimination. Our friends in the U.S. Senate sent a strong message to our opponents that there is no place in the U.S. Constitution for discrimination of any kind, and that Americans, including the millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans who made their voices heard, deserve a Congress focused on solving their problems, not creating more.

We won this battle, but the fight isn't over. While it would be absurd for the House to vote following this failure in the Senate, absurdity is too often a part of politics. Not only would such a vote be a monumental waste of precious Congressional time but it would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that election-year pandering is behind this amendment.

Still, a House vote is expected as early as next month, before the summer recess. If it doesn't happen then, brace yourself for a fall vote. Yep, our opponents want our friends on record.

It's important that we keep up the pressure. Delivering almost a quarter of a million postcards to the Capitol and protesting against Fred Phelps's demonstrators in front of the Senate, we outpowered and outnumbered the other side. Keeping momentum on the side of fairness will not only help us send a big message before the November election, it will be vital to us down the line.

While we may not yet have a majority in favor of same-sex marriage today, the trend of the numbers is in our favor. Defeating the amendment builds our hopes for the future and also gets Americans talking about the discriminatory rhetoric behind these bids to take away our rights. It gets people thinking about treating gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens fairly. And it gets fair-minded Americans motivated to do the good work that needs to be done to keep us advancing.

Some may feel that we have a long way to go, but I can't help but think of how far we've come. This week we also remembered the somber 25th anniversary of the first reported case of AIDS. I remember when that happened. Many of you probably do too.

There was intense fear among the public and murderous silence from the government. Even years into the epidemic when it was widely known how HIV/AIDS was transmitted, people were still scared to sit in the same room with gay people for fear of "catching" something. A young man named Ryan White suffered harassment and threats simply by attending school.

But fair-minded Americans rallied and, with commitment and tenacity, got results. In many ways, that fight sparked a fire within the community that I hope never dies. It made people listen, talk, and move forward in seemingly small but immensely powerful ways.

In the last 10 years alone, we've seen marriage become a reality for same-sex couples. We've seen Fortune 500 companies and small businesses across the country step forward to treat their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees fairly. We've seen gay cowboys on the silver screen and countless out elected officials win office.

Sure, we have a long way to go. If those who point fingers at us for high HIV rates really cared about lowering the HIV rate among gay and bisexual men, they'd promote marriage and the legal commitment of same-sex couples, not oppose it. Hate and violence are all too often a daily part of the lives of LGBT Americans. Too many LGBT families can't purchase or afford health care for the partners and children.

Still, at one of our Capitol Hill press conferences this week, I saw the children of antigay protesters and the children of fair-minded Americans, and I couldn't help but think of the future. Regardless of which side they stood on, they live in a different world than I did at their age.

Looking into the eyes of one 7-year-old girl, I thought, I wonder what the world will be like when you're looking back 25 years. If we keep pushing forward in small and big ways, I am willing to bet it'll be a magnificent view.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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