Gay and lesbian people everywhere seem to be energized and I'm terribly proud of the marches and protests that have been a long time coming.
On the other hand, when you step back a little, the fact that Prop 8 passed with so little support, after outright lies by the proponents and millions of dollars coming in from organized religions outside of California, we definitely have the "momentum" as courageous "out" leader, Mark Leno so eloquently stated yesterday in a rally in San Francisco. Something that seemed so unlikely in my lifetime, and I say that sincerely, is almost here.
It's wonderful to see gay people stand up, fight back and demand to be treated civilly and equally in a country founded on freedom and justice for all.
Yet, real change for gay people will only come when good NON-gay people stand up and make a difference in their own families, communities and churches. Voting against Prop 8 is great and a lot of straight people voted against it, not because they were particularly "for" gay rights, but because they were intelligent enough to realize that just because they may not share someone else's lifestyle, this is a democracy and taking away any law-abiding subgroups rights is just plain wrong.
Brad and I are blessed to have many loving straight friends and family members. They make our lives so much richer and take the edge off the harsh reality of living in a homophobic society at large. I know that many of them talked to others about their stand on Prop 8 and did their best to make a difference.
To that end, I have a few suggestions for the straight people out there who know that Prop 8 is wrong and aren't quite sure what they can do about it besides attending a rally or holding up a sign. Here's a few things to think about if you're of the change mind.
First, think about the emotion behind the proponents of Prop 8. No matter what kind of intellectual, rationalized answer they may give you about "protecting the sanctity of marriage" or "continuing a tradition of one woman, one man in a marriage", remember that ultimately behind their stance is fear- fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of people who are different.
It's the same fear that kept the racists of the 20th century burning crosses and menacing our brothers and sisters of African American heritage. It's the same fear that kept average German citizens quiet while the Jews were shipped to Auschwitz and that prompted them to put on the Nazi uniform and perform atrocious acts against their better natures. Many racist whites and Nazi Germans weren't evil people by nature, they were driven to do evil things by their own need to belong, to feel strong and to be safe. It doesn't excuse their behaviors, but it does explain at least some of it.
A gay person trying to talk about this issue to someone who is encased in fear and rigidly holds on to a posture of defensiveness won't have nearly the opportunity to get inside than a non-gay person would have about this issue. A black person will never have the same power to denounce racism in a racist society than a white person would have. It's too easy to dismiss the speaker as self-serving and too easy to close your ears against an impassioned speech in front of a large crowd.
What does work is using every opportunity you have to talk to people who you care about and who care about you about why you think that full civil rights is an American issue and a fairness issue. You are the Germans of the 1930's and the non-racist whites of the 1960's who had a chance to stop something awful, except this is now and you have the power.
Here is my list of simple things you could do to stay in the fight for rights:
(1) Educate yourself about gay people. Do you your homework and read the research studies that have shown again and again that gay people are not crazy, nor are they sick and that they make quite excellent parents and contributors to society. There hasn't been ONE credible study to suggest otherwise despite the myths to the contrary. Take a look at the American Psychological Association's large overview of research on GLBT parenting studies in 2005 if you want facts, not fiction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_parenting).
If you are a religious person, learn about religious views that do NOT condemn homosexuality and in fact, there are just as many interpretations of the Bible that would condemn homophobia as unholy as would condemn any particular group of people (http://www.soulforce.org/article/homosexuality-bible).
(2) Put a bumper sticker on your car about Prop 8 or Marriage Equality for All. (http://www.zazzle.com/marriage_equality_bumper_sticker_bumpersticker-128388830593675054)
(3) Talk to your clergy person about how you feel about this issue. Approach them in a nonconfrontational way and let them know that your experience with a gay friend or family member is different from what the religious hierarchy may be teaching. Let them know that you don't support using the pulpit as a forum for political ideas. Ask them how they reconcile the teaching of Jesus (if you are a Christian) who was all about love, with church stands that lead to harm.
(4) If you regularly tithe or donate to a religious institution that is openly anti-gay, consider skipping a donation and in its place, putting a note about your reluctance to support speech that contributes to the harassment of gays. If you can't bring yourself to put your lack of money where your mouth is, attach a note to your hard earned cash stating how you feel about contributions used to support hate speech or to interfere in the American political process.
(5) Join Soulforce, an organization devoted to nonviolent change within mainstream organized religions towards gay people.
(5) Don't be afraid to say "that's not funny" if someone makes a homophobic remark or joke at work.
(6) Vote for political candidates who have a good record on civil rights for everyone, including gay people (http://www.hrc.org/laws_and_elections/your_elected_officials.asp).
(7) Join the Human Rights Campaign Fund (http://www.hrc.org) or the American Civil Liberties Union (http://www.aclu.org). Both are politically active organizations that support equal rights for everyone.
(8) Donate to the Lambda Legal Defense Fund (http://www.lambdalegal.org) or the National Center for Lesbian Rights (http://www.nclrights.org). Both organizations joined the lawsuit to challenge Prop 8 after its passage.
All of these involved only a bit of your time. None of them needs to be aggressive or confrontational. Do what you can.