An Election Day Letdown For Gay Americans

Marc Acito

Author Marc Acito believes ballot initiatives that went against gay couples this election year may require attention from the next U.S. president. Courtesy of Marc Acito hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Marc Acito

Dear President-elect Obama:

First off, thank you for including gay people in your victory speech. After the rhetoric of the last eight years, that was certainly a change we needed.

That said, the shout-out reminded me of President Clinton's inauguration in 1992, when Maya Angelou referred to gays in a poem, a bittersweet moment that eventually turned bitter when Clinton himself betrayed us by signing the Defense of Marriage Act and the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

So you'll forgive me for being a little skeptical about the future.

For while you were giving hope to the nation that we were finally healing our racial divisions, anti-gay measures passed in Florida, Arizona and Arkansas, which, despite a statewide lack of foster homes, passed a ban on all unmarried couples serving as adoptive or foster parents as a way of stopping the supposed "gay agenda." Y'know, the one that wants to adopt unwanted children?

Meanwhile, in California, an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who are already married find that their "I-do's" are now "I-don't-know's."

Even more distressing is that exit polls in California show that seven out of 10 African-American voters supported the ban on gay marriage. With a record number of African-Americans participating — 10 percent of the California electorate — they handed you a victory while denying it to us.

There's a sad irony that one minority's triumph should be at the expense of another.

I understand that you're going to be busy fixing two wars, the economy, the health care system, plus housebreaking a puppy, but I hope you'll find time to make good on your support of domestic partnerships. I hope you'll set a tone for the rest of the country, showing them that you understand that the rights that straight couples automatically enjoy — like inheritance of property, adoption, health benefits and hospital visitation — are civil rights all Americans deserve.

Your election gives me that hope. After all, if an African-American can be president, so can a woman and a Latino and an Asian and, eventually, an openly gay person. Or, to be more politically correct, a person of gayness.

Here in Oregon, for instance, we're preparing to inaugurate Sam Adams, the first openly gay mayor elected to run a top 40 city. Our new secretary of state, Kate Brown, is bisexual. Little Silverton, Ore., has elected Stu Rasmussen, who's believed to be the first openly transgender mayor in the United States. And the United States House of Representatives now has its third out gay congressperson with the election of Jared Polis of Colorado.

Perhaps someday one of them will walk through the door you've now opened.

As you said in your victory speech, "All things are possible."

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