Thursday, November 06, 2008
one hand giveth
Like most LGBTQ people in the US right now, I'm a lot sadder than I thought I'd be, given Obama's victory on Tuesday. GF and I voted a week early, which had its good and bad results. The good results were that I got voting over with, but unfortunately, that meant I was "free" to leave the city and my girls to come down to school. My Trial Advocacy class requires 12 hours of courtwatching, 8 of which have to be jury trials, and I had so far completed zip. I teach on Monday nights, so if I leave town right after class, I can get downstate sometime before midnight. There was a jury trial at 9am Tuesday morning. Ugh.
After spending Election Day sitting on hard benches (4 and a half jury trial hours, check!) that made my tailbone ache and dug into the small of my back, I ran back to my room here to see what was happening. I watched the first red state--I think it was West Virginia--go to McCain. Vermont went to Obama. I held my breath. Obama picked up a couple more states, slowly. And then suddenly the big states started going blue, widening the gap.
This was no 2000. This was no nailbiter, with assurances of victory followed by bitter, bitter disappointment. As the Obama victories started to roll in, the television anchors started getting excited. The commentary began to cut away to Grant Park, to people walking over bridges to get to the rally there. I was sitting at my desk trying to get a draft of a paper done, but I couldn't concentrate. I kept watching the news and checking the electoral totals. Back home, GF was watching with friends, who were texting me and chatting on Facebook.
You know the rest of the story. Obama began to pull away, McCain conceded, and Jesse Jackson wept. Spellman students danced. Villagers in Kenya danced. Chicago danced.
But wasn't going so well for gay marriage.
At one point late in the evening, Chris Matthews on MSNBC pointed in exultation to an overhead shot of crowds "celebrating" in the Castro. Rachel Maddow cut in. "If that's the Castro," she said, "those crowds probably aren't celebrating."
It was true. The votes coming in from California on Proposition 8 were not pretty. Matthews assured everyone that even bad news was potentially good in this instance, because the numbers showed a much more even split between the supporters and opponents of gay marriage. Maddow made a heated retort about rights actually being taken away from people, but the conversation soon shifted back to the topics MSNBC thought were more relevant to a general audience. I went to bed that night euphoric at the Obama victory, but with a pit in my stomach about Proposition 8.
After two days, the returns are in, but millions of absentee votes remain uncounted. Still, it is almost assured that opponents of gay marriage have managed to stop progress in its tracks in California. This morning, my Family Law professor spent the first fifteen minutes of class talking about how strange it is for a state to actually take a way a right it has granted, and how no state has ever had to decide the question of whether its constitution will allow people to STAY married in the event it grants, then rescinds, the right to marry, since the usual question asked of courts is whether the constitution will allow people to GET married in the first place.
Right now, I miss my family. This week feels as if it has been a month long. My little girl is just learning to sit upright in her activity saucer, and I want to watch her try to turn its brightly-colored little plastic wheels that make bells ring. She tries so hard to make it work. She can barely hold herself up, but she concentrates. There are buttons elsewhere on it with pictures of animals on them, and if you can manage to push them while maintaining your balance, they make sounds. Right now she can barely sit for very long, and her legs are so short we have to fold towels up for her to stand on, but some day soon she will make the cow moo, and the dog bark, and the lights flash bright blue under the face of the duck.
The law says that I have to pay money to a lawyer if I want to be her legal parent, because GF and I cannot get married. If we could get married, the same presumption of parenthood that fathers enjoy (even if they are infertile, and their wives use a sperm donor to conceive) would extend to me. But we cannot get married. Instead, LGBT people like me must pay thousands of dollars to adopt our own children.
In California, the courts have extended parenthood in this manner even to same-sex couples who have not performed second-parent adoptions. Here, that's riskier. So we pay, and feel grateful we don't live in hateful states like Florida, Arkansas, or Utah, which specifically prohibit homosexuals (Florida) or unmarried couples (Utah, and now Arkansas) from adopting either the children of their relationship or children from elsewhere.
I'm very, very happy about an Obama victory, but it's hard to feel excited right now. I can't wait till tomorrow, when I can drive home. I miss my family. Despite the wonderful, amazing, historic events of this past week, the world seems colder.