Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Op-Ed: A Great Opportunity

Note from UTF: I wanted to bring this back to the main page. It has sparked good discussion (here and on Facebook), and with the 'Next Steps Summit' coming this Sunday, I thought I'd highlight it again.

Contributor Dawn Cobalt is an independent film maker active in the fight for equality. She and her partner of 25 years Marie Cobalt work with UnitetheFight.org in filming and broadcasting live web streams and both are members of the OUT West Coalition.

After returning from the Equality Summit in San Bernardino I now feel that a great opportunity for our community is at hand. Some who may have also attended can disagree but let me explain.

We’re at a crossroads about when we can regain a right we all lost this past November. Polls, opinions, past experience and fear are pulling us apart. Polls, for the most part, show that we wouldn’t win in any year in the near future.

If we add wording to protect religious institutions we may win. Wording to protect religious institutions was previously put forth in the ruling of the Supreme Court in May of 2008.

The wording on protecting children is a big debate, and rightly so. But we need to send a positive message to the LGBTQI youth that desperately look to us to see if they are “okay”. We need to remember what it was like when we weren’t out and had to live in fear. We are playing politics with peoples lives that can’t vote yet. We are the people that the LGBTQI youth is now looking up to and we must act accordingly with these responsibilities.

Opinions are everywhere and with good cause. We’re a diverse group and we’re part of every minority group out there: race, creed, religious beliefs, non-religious beliefs, etc. We must walk in many different shoes to fully understand each other. The only binding aspect of “us” is our sexual and transgender identity. Because we all belong to other groupings, minority and otherwise, this can alter our view in our fight for equality.

Fear tells us that if we lose again we’re done. No one likes to lose and losing does set things back, but we need to learn from our mistakes. We have learned this time around that the community needs to get up and do something and not be complacent.

This is our time to reach out to each other and really listen. We need to rise up and move forward. Embrace the strengths of each group, praise their accomplishments and use those strengths within our community. Educate each other and not put down the ones that are not aware of the differences that separate us. We need to show the world that we are a strong, diverse community that works together. Until we do this, the Prop 8 proponents will always win.

Here is the reality of the situation. A majority of grassroots organizations want to go again in 2010. A majority of individuals in the community want to go back to the voters in 2010. This will be the movement for the moment, whether you want 2010, 2012 or beyond. We can stalemate all the way to November 2010 or we can put our differences aside and help each other. If our communities can gather the necessary signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, then it is up to the grassroots organizations to work together towards passing the initiative. If the signatures do not add up we must work to change hearts and minds until 2012.

We can show the state, the country, and the world that as a community we can come together, win or lose. And what if we lose, what then? Then we recover and we don’t stop until full equality is ours. But in the meantime we showed everyone how important equality is to us.

And equally important we show our LGBTQI youth that they are supported and loved in this world. We may show someone who’s now struggling will turn toward the movement instead of alcohol or drugs. A gay man walking home late at night doesn’t get bashed because it is frowned upon a little bit more. A transgender person will make it home without a trip to the hospital first because we show that being different is something to embrace. A lesbian getting in her car doesn’t get raped for 45 minutes because we got right back up and said it’s not okay to treat us differently.

It takes time to win a war, as we all know. But the smaller battles along the way, the ones we don’t always know about make the bigger difference. The people that get saved will then stand up, join the ones already standing, and grow. We will embrace each other and we will win.

Let’s not let this opportunity slip away.

Dawn Cobalt



  1. I appreciate your passion. I just have one sort of correction -
    To say that a majority of grassroots organizations want to go back to the ballot in 2010 is hard to prove. The list of organizations supporting preparing through 2010 is growing everyday. And, just because some of them are well known does not make them non-grass roots.

    Please check queertoday.com for my current list.

  2. Well said miss cobalt although I would disagree with your using the term "sexual identity" on the grounds that it isnt our sex that determines our identity but rather who we are as a whole person.

    Better to use the term sexual orientation instead.

    Also, speaking of gay youth...There are many members of that group on yahoo answers who could use the advice and guidance of more gay adults as well as more heterosexual adults who understands that being gay isnt bad or wrong.

  3. Dawn, great piece!

    I agree that the majority of the LGBT groups and individuals that I have talked to are eager to go back to regain marriage equality.

    As a straight ally, I know that it is this passion to return as quickly as possible to the polls that convinces me that the right to get married really is a civil right.

    Delaying would send the message to the straight world that marriage is something the LGBT community would like to have, but can live without.

    I know that the “Prepare” group feels that 2010 is too soon - I say that their concerns are valid, but surmountable. We can address those concerns with hard work and careful planning. That's why the CA LGBT community is invited to come together on Aug 9 - to make sure that all our bases are covered.

    Who wants to tell the youth of the LGBT community that we all chose prudence over their rights? That we think it's ok for the people of California, the United States, and the world to treat them like second class citizens for one day longer than necessary?

    We are role models for those youth and their allies. Do we take the stand that LGBT people are fully equal? I believe that we must.


  4. Jane,

    I wish I had known you were at the summit in San Bernardino - I would have made sure I met you finally in person.

    Can't wait to meet you this weekend!

  5. I love Dawn Cobalt and I'm so proud of her every day! Love, Marie Cobalt

  6. According to 365gay.com a new Field poll says that in California now 49% favor marriage equality and 44% are opposed. Doesn't that suggest that we should go to the ballot in 2010, assuming that we have real leaders and a good campaign plan?

  7. First, thanks to everyone that read my piece.

    To Mark D. Snyder: I look at your list and have to say that using a Bush term or stating that some organizations don’t have formal members or are only one or two members does not mean they don’t have a large pull in the community. For instance my partner and I are a member “organization” of OUT West. We may be small in “formal members” but have access to over 80 gay individuals in Ventura County. Most of whom are for 2010. My partner is Secretary of OUT West.

    But the point of my piece is to say that when the wording is submitted to the state and if the community can gather the signatures, then We MUST all pull together to pass this initiative. We MUST come together and show them all that we can work in unison. We MUST put the lists aside and become one strong force. If the signatures are not gathered then we MUST all pull together and work through to the next time.

    Pointing out more differences is not helping but still pulling.

    To Reverend Boony: Thank you for your comments. I will check out the groups on yahoo. Also, the semantics over which words to use should be put aside. We need to embrace each other for our differences and part of those differences are the words we use. I, myself, do not like any label at all but I use a variety at different times. Some will relate and others will not. I actually did not put identity after “sexual” but “transgender” I was probably going to put orientation after but it escaped me. Although I do know many gay individuals that do identify as gay, that is who they are first. And that’s ok.

    To Jane: Thanks for your words and I hope to meet you on Sunday. Love the straight allies. Most of my friends are straight and they are helping us out in the struggle.

    Marie, I love you too.

    To Jay: These kinds of polls, I believe, is what is pushing the community to 2010. No matter what organization is for whatever year. The community is by large for 2010. It is now time for the community to do the work and prepare to gather the signatures, and then do what ever is needed to win equality with a vote by the people.