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November 5th, 2008
03:13 PM ET

Remembering the millions of Americans who just lost their rights

Editor's Note: You can read more Lisa Bloom blogs on In Session”

Lisa Bloom
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

YES WE DID!, I wrote in giant letters on my Facebook page on election night, tears in my eyes as I watched Barack Obama’s inspiring acceptance speech. Every moment of it was so moving. And when I heard my African-American friends talk about the symbolism of this day, that they can look into their children’s eyes and honestly say that we are all now truly equal – well, as a lifelong civil rights activist, I thought, it has happened. We shall overcome, not someday, but today.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said the night before he was assassinated, “And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.” Hallelujah, I thought, we have arrived. Free at last, free at last.

Then I remembered my gay friends, who faced ugly ballot measures in four states. The California Supreme Court just last May issued a landmark ruling that gay people were entitled to equal marriage rights. My mother, Gloria Allred, was one of the lead attorneys in that case. I remembered Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons, together for 55 years, who were the first couple married after that decision, one in a wheelchair, the other walking slowly to the altar. “At our age,” they said, “we don’t have the luxury of time.” I remembered that on the day of that decision, citizens of San Francisco’s Castro District took down their rainbow flags and flew American flags. “For the first time in my life,” they told me, “I feel like a full citizen. I can tell my children that in the eyes of the law I am just as worthy as anyone else.” I remembered riding in Santa Monica’s gay pride parade alongside my mother in June, getting mobbed by thousands of ordinary people who were grateful that she had won for them the extraordinary privilege of simple respect.

Symbolism matters to disenfranchised people in a way that is hard to explain to those of us who always knew we could be anything we want to be in America. Forget president. Gay people can’t even be spouses, though Britney Spears could have her umpteenth marriage tomorrow just by stumbling into a quickie Vegas chapel. Scott Peterson has the legal right to marry on death row after murdering his wife and unborn child. No matter how undeserved, straight people never lose the right to marry; no matter how worthy, gay people cannot earn it. Except in Massachusetts and Connecticut which, bless them, seem to be sticking to their pro-gay marriage court rulings.

On Nov. 4, the legality of gay marriage was on the ballots in Florida, California and Arizona. Voters in Florida and Arizona passed similar measures specifying that only marriage between one man and one woman will be recognized in those states. It looks like California voters have amended the state constitution to, for the first time, take away constitutional rights granted by the courts. Arkansas voters banned gay people from becoming adoptive or foster parents. For gay people, it’s a return to the back of the bus. Especially for millions of gay Californians, this lurch backwards is a kick in the gut, because they had enjoyed six months of marriage equality. They had thought their time had come.

And so my celebration of Obama’s sweeping electoral victory is tempered by the reality that not all of us are considered equal in this country, not here, not yet. How sad that at this great moment of inclusiveness in American history, gay people are left behind. To my gay brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors and coworkers, I say, you are not forgotten. Keep fighting. Decent people stand with you. To gay teens I say, hold your heads high. To elderly gay folks I say, my heart breaks that you must continue to wait for the rights, the respect and common decency that should be yours now.

Obama’s victory is transcendent, but can we still do more to make include every American in the protection of our laws? Yes, we can.

Editor's note: See more of Lisa's posts at the In Session blog

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Dr PaulD

    What I find most unusual is that if you happen to be a transexual you can have your original birth certificate reflect that you are now a woman/man. It's amazing how a bit of plumbing so to speak , denotes what sex you happen to be. I take it that people who have had sex changes are free to marry and adopt children in those states that voted against same sex couples from those priveleges. I would like to know what makes a man a man? Is it his genitalia? I mean there are a lot of people, (men), who have had their genitalia removed through sickness and other medical complaints and who have not had vagina's formed, are they also now considered as women? There are lots of transgendered people out there who happen to be poor andf who cannot afford expensive surgery to change their physical appearance and attributes, but who still consider themselves as women/men. I find this extremely discriminatory and something that needs to be explored. I sat down and asked myself what makes a man a man, or a woman a woman. Is it the fact that they happen to have a vagina/penis. I mean realistically the person who has changed from male to female has never had a womb nor were they formed in the womb as female and yet through their own decision they have opted to change their physical appearance and through the miracle of modern surgery they are now able to function as women in all but the process of creating children. They now have legally become women and presumably they can legally marry another man and adopt children. If I were to carry out a post mortem on a person who has had this operation I would, apart from the surgery to change the sexual organs and breasts ,have to categorically state that this person is a male. I would love to challenge the authorities in those states who have passed these extremely discriminatory laws that have catapulted us into the dark ages again.

    November 6, 2008 at 12:15 am |
  2. Braden

    It's a bitter-sweet time. An African-American is elected President, yet gays are still discriminated against. Is gay the new black?
    MUST we discriminate against any group? How about equality for everyone? We're moving in the right direction but we obviously still have a long way to go.

    November 5, 2008 at 7:30 pm |
  3. Renee

    I was very shocked these props did not pass across the country with the large number of Democrats and young people at the polls. I often hear gay Americans say the Republican party doesn't have a place for them. Once the data is crunched, I am sure many gay people will find the Democrats turned their back on them too. It seems sad to me.

    I think what concerns me are the children in this country being raised by abusive and neglectful parents. I have no problem with gay people adopting a child if the system applies the same criteria to the adoption that is applied to all potential parents. Unfortunately the voters sent a message to gay people in Arkansas about adoption. It said your home was not good enough. For that message and for the children of Arkansas that may be living in group homes and abusive situations, I am truly sorry.

    Like, Lisa said, decent people stand with you!

    November 5, 2008 at 7:22 pm |
  4. Heath Fox

    Anderson: It is incomprehensible to me that the people of California, on the same ballot, granted rights for animals and eliminated rights for people. If California is truly the nation’s cultural leader, the next president really will be a pig with lipstick.

    November 5, 2008 at 6:54 pm |
  5. Brandi Boyer

    I am so beyond excited about the election, and yet so heart-broken about Prop 8. People may argue about "fabric" and "tradition" and all of these meaningless terms. America was BUILT on those trying to ESCAPE religious persecution, trying to be FREE from having their "government" tell them what to do. America was not built on the idea of Christianity, it was built on the idea to be free and for all to have equal rights. You can twist the wording however you want but I have yet to hear an argument against homosexual marriages that was NOT religious. Therefore, since I am an atheist, you are infringing on MY rights. I am holding my hope that with a more liberal government moving forward, we will finally FINALLY see equal rights for all!

    November 5, 2008 at 6:47 pm |
  6. Jim, Ca.

    You will learn the hard way- We the People Said NO in 2000, we Have said it again in 2008. -There are some of us who will stand with GOD
    If HE says something is wrong & an Abomination Then it has been ,Is now & forever will be wrong- He said Adultry is wrong,Fornication is wrong,Beastyallity is wrong,Homosexuality is wrong, Pedophilia is wrong, Stealing is Wrong,Murder is wrong- If you break the laws of a
    Nation or Kingdom you are judged- God Destroyed Sodom & Gomorah
    as a example. Read the book of Jude- Then Read REVELATION because You will see these things with your own eyes.You said Your Mother is Gloria Allred- a GOOD Lawyer looks at ALL the Evidence. & had better have the Right facts before going into the Court of the King of the Universe & try to argue that The LAW he laid down is not to your liking because the end will be you will be tryed,convicted,judged & sentanced. You can understand a earthly "Sting" operation against criminals but you have no clue of the Heavenly sting operation going on.
    HE see's every action,Hears every word that is in your mind & comes out of your mouth, EVERYTHING is recorded & your dumb enough to stand before the judge & plead Not Guilty when the Evidence is Plain to all even yourself-Try it on earth & see what happens to you-How Much more when you stand before the Lords Judgement seat.
    The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand & you have been warned- REPENT.

    November 5, 2008 at 5:59 pm |
  7. Melissa, Los Angeles

    I'd like to add this country was built on freedom OF religion – which to me also means freedom FROM religion. How dare personal religious views are being placed on the freedoms of others?!

    Thank you for a very eloquent response Arthur Moore. I too am dismayed that the Black community overwhelmingly voted Yes after all the rights that have been fought for them by gays!

    November 5, 2008 at 5:57 pm |
  8. Charisse Van Horn

    Both Joe Biden and Barack Obama have stated that they support civil unions and not redefining marriage. Bill Clinton was against redefining marriage. I honestly didn't expect any of the Gay amendments to fail. The people voted and apparently, the majority of the people feel that homosexuality is a choice and not an issue of civil rights.

    November 5, 2008 at 5:50 pm |
  9. James in Nebraska

    2 men love each other and want to marry. How does this affect me? It doesn't.

    2 women love each other and want to marry. How does this affect me? It doesn't.

    If I believe gay is wrong, should I force my views on those who are gay? No.

    Why should this even be on the ballot, or an issue? We Americans have the freedom to do what we like. This is what our country is built upon. Gay marriage doesn't kill people or hurt them in any way does it?

    I'm not gay, but if someone wants to be, more power to them. Be proud of what you are.

    November 5, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
  10. David

    Here, here. It's hard to feel total elation and deep shame at the same time, but last night did it for the Arizona resident. How do I look my gay friends in the face and smile about this election?

    November 5, 2008 at 5:04 pm |
  11. Arthur Moore

    As a middle age black man from the south, I was elated to see in my lifetime a Black Man ascend to the presidency of the United States of America on Tuesday! However, as a "gay" middle age Black Man from the south, that elation as well as my celebration was smashed to pieces when it became official on Wednesday that the right to marry for same sex couples was reversed in California after staying in the affirmative for only a few months. I was even further disheartened to discover that Blacks in California overwhelmingly voted to discriminate against homosexuals of all races. This utter Hypocrisy is a shameful and hurtful blemish on the face of the African American Community as well as our entire American society as a whole. It's clear to me now that THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT IN AMERICA WAS INTENDED FOR HETEROSEXUAL BLACKS ONLY! How very sad...

    November 5, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  12. Melissa, Los Angeles

    Prop 8 barely passed this time around with 52% of the vote compared to 60% 8 years ago with barely 400,000 votes separating them so not all of CA wants this to pass. I hope that Gloria Allred takes this to court again because it breaks my heart that my gay friends who recently married are now in limbo. What does their marriage mean now? It angers me that a co-worker who voted Yes on 8 did so based on "moral and religious grounds". This is the same woman who has been married not once, not twice, but THREE times. The hypocrisy of it all!

    We also passed Prop 2 which gives farm animals more room in cages before we kill and eat them. That means chickens have more rights then gay people do. I too look forward to the day when I can celebrate my gay friends' marriages the way I was able to celebrate mine.

    November 5, 2008 at 4:51 pm |
  13. Dianne Shelton

    I am disappointed that Prop 8 was passed.

    This Country was born and based on Freedom. Many of those who came here and created this amazing Country came to escape oppressive Laws. So why in the 21st Century do we think we have the right to impose laws to take deny our Personal Freedoms.

    Our Beliefs are not at risk. Our Beliefs are our Beliefs and we will follow them. That is not the issue. If you choose to marry as Man and Wife – you will. If you choose to have your baby – you will.

    Legalizing Same Sex Marriage or keeping Abortions legal does not change the Beliefs we have. it does not take away from Traditional Marriages or Honoring Life at conception.

    Our Country's Foundation is Freedom. We should have the Freedom to make personal decisions based on what we believe regardless of what those beliefs are.

    Most of us who are Pro-Choice are Pro-Choice not only because we want Freedom of Choice but also because we do not want to go backwards in time where women's health was at risk by several pregnancies of which they had no control or women who were mutilated by illegal abortions without proper health care.

    Unprecedented Strides have been made in human rights and I believe in time we will become much less judgmental and much more generous.

    November 5, 2008 at 4:49 pm |
  14. Joy, Fort Gordon, Georgia

    I maybe straight but I am one Decent person that stands with the gay rights movement and I too hope that one day we will actually have a nation of equality a nation where everyone is treated as being created equal, a nation where everyone truely has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As a historian of the fifties I hold the highest regard for those men and women who revolted against the social constraints of the era and set the stage for the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement, the Environmental Movement as well as the Gay rights movement. We should all remember that the formation of the DOB and the Mattachine in the fifties which provided an important framework for the sixties gay rights movement and in their memory we should push on and continue to fight for equality.

    November 5, 2008 at 4:42 pm |
  15. xtina, chicago IL

    If you're going to re-define marriage what would be wrong with three people living together equally, who love each other equally in a three-way kind of way, being legally married? Why wouldn't polygamists then be free to be married, if you are going re-define marriage? Why couldn't I marry an animal? Why couldn't polygamists marry? Why wouldn't three , four five, six, people marrying for love be possible, if we re-define marriage? Assuming the Prop 8 is once again removed, wouldn't it be discriminating or stripping people of their rights, if you don't allow three people to marry?

    November 5, 2008 at 4:26 pm |
  16. Shannon

    I am horribly disappointed at the results regarding Prop 8. When will Americans stop trying to legislate the morality of others? Regardless of sexual orientation being a lifestyle choice OR something people are born to be, Americans need to realize what we fought for all along. I've heard so many arguments about this from both sides... many proponents stating "why do they have to call it a marriage?" My response: "Why not?" What gives a heterosexual person the right and limits the rights of someone who is homosexual or bisexual? It would be like saying... oh you were born a brunette but you dyed your hair red so you can't get married. I personally don't believe sexual orientation is a choice, but for those who do this logic should follow to the conclusion... people's rights should not be taken away because others don't agree with their choices.

    November 5, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  17. Alex

    Lisa,
    You may remember your friends and thats nice. But I've never forgotten the words in the Bible and the teachings of the Lord Lesus Christ. You stick with your friends and I'll stick with the Lord. I'll bet my life that I owe much more to the Lord than you'll ever owe to your friends.

    November 5, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  18. Bob Maher

    I, too, was troubled by Prop 8. The most discouraging fact is that it was passed by the votes of blacks and Latinos, the very ones who should most abhor bigotry and discrimination. I guess it's okay to limit rights when you know it won't hurt you personally - do you really think slavery would have been permitted in America if whites had been vulnerable to it?

    Bob
    Torrance, CA

    November 5, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  19. Carol

    Your column makes me want to throw up! Black voters have no idea what BO stands for. Their vote was soooooooooo racist. And what about his white side. Isn't it racist to ignore that he is half white.

    And what gives gay people the idea they can get married. It's absurd. Why are you so intent in destroying the very fabric that has made us the best country in the world (even through BO's voters don't think so)?

    November 5, 2008 at 3:52 pm |
  20. james

    word!

    November 5, 2008 at 3:39 pm |
  21. Cindy

    I saw that prop 8 got passed today and saw the others that were passed last night. I was sure that prop 8 would pass. Cali had already voted no to gay marriage before and that was stripped away by liberal judges. So I figured this go round that they would say no again.

    Cindy....Ga.

    November 5, 2008 at 3:31 pm |