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by Donna Red Wing
Democrats made history last week in Charlotte, North Carolina. For the first time in our country’s history, we saw a major political party embrace marriage equality and make a bold and public commitment to protect equality for LGBT Americans.
We are standing at the crossroads at a very important time in our movement’s history. We are watching a campaign unfold between two candidates: one is our current president who has expressed his support for the freedom to marry; and his opponent, a man who governed the first state to marry same-gender couples.
What an exhilarating time to be doing this work!
I remember working against Ballot Measure 9 in the early 90s—an amendment that would have amended the Constitution of Oregon to declare that homosexuality is abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse. For two years, we fought what the radical extreme right wing called “a Holy War” and indeed it felt as if we were under siege and under attack. We fought daily against an onslaught of lies, incredible anti-gay language, and unthinkable violence. We were fighting for our lives and our right to be who we were. We were fighting to be seen. It wasn’t easy, and it was close, but we won and we continue to fight today.
But times are changing and from my vantage point, we are at the tipping point. Today, children are growing up in a world where Ellen isn’t the gay talk show host; she’s the talk show host who happens to be gay. A generation is growing up who will never know a time before Modern Family, when stereotypes of LGBT people were only used as a punch line or comic relief. And we have a major political party that embraces full equality for all families. We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go.
We were proud to hear the leader of the Democratic Party make his case for a second term, and we were even prouder to watch the Democratic National Convention delegates ratify a platform that, for the first time, included our families. No other president has done more to advance LGBT rights than President Obama. He is a candidate that will continue to fight for equality—he has voiced his opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), fully supports the passage of an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and has successfully repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
On the other hand, watching the Republican National Convention, it felt like the early 90s again, when LGBT people had zero visibility. It was as if LGBT people didn’t exist, but we know the reality. And we know and appreciate that a growing number of Republicans are starting to stand up and voice their support for marriage equality.
So this November, and in the months leading up to it, it is important that we share our stories about why marriage matters to us and how presidential politics affect families like ours. We are encouraging our friends, family and neighbors to go out and talk about how marriage has made Iowa a better place—for couples, for their families, and for all Iowans who value fairness and equality.
We are encouraging them to review the party platforms of both parties because at the end of the day, this issue is about people and not politics.
Clearly, with marriage equality included in the Democratic Party Platform, we have hope for the future of our families and for millions of families like ours across the country. Over the next few months, One Iowa will be working to elect pro-equality legislators who understand that a marriage ban will hurt Iowa families and we are hopeful that with the support of our friends and allies, we will not ever have to defend our families at the ballot box.
We also know that there are many fair-minded Republicans who support the rights of LGBT Americans, who understand that equality is simply equality. In Iowa we are working with these conservatives who disagree with their party’s platform which denies federal recognition of marriages between loving and committed couples, backing a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
At One Iowa, we work towards a day when equality, including marriage equality, is neither a blue nor a red issue, but rather a freedom that has been fought for and won. We are truly at that tipping point and the convention in Charlotte has made that very clear. We have growing support, we have a majority of Americans who value equality, and we have a leader who understands the realities of our families.
We are standing squarely on the right side of history.
:: photo couresty of AN HONORABLE GERMAN, via Creative Commons license ::
Donna Red Wing is the Executive Director of One Iowa, the state's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization. Previously, she served as Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership, Chief of Staff at Interfaith Alliance, and has held positions at the Gill Foundation, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Red Wing was one of three members of Obama's kitchen cabinet on LGBT issues and served as the LGBT community liaison for Howard Dean. Red Wing is a longtime advocate for LGBT equality beginning with her work at the Lesbian Community Project fighting against Ballot Measure 9.