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WE WON: Now what?

Landslide. They said it couldn’t happen. Putting gay marriage on the ballot; they said it couldn’t pass. For months, they tried to demoralize us in campaigns and say we can’t be openly gay and win public office. My fellow Americans, I bring you Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Wisconsin is blue. They told us we needed Florida or it was hopeless. I’m proud to finally say what’s been on our lips since Gore/Bush…FUCK FLORIDA. We didn’t need ‘em. Deep breath, ladies and gents. Votes have been tallied, hanging chads have been accounted for, fraud has been within acceptable levels…and President Obama has, once again, reigned supreme. I was one of the lucky few thousand actually in attendance at McCormick Place with President Obama. I basked in the palpable feeling of promise, of jubilation, of a collective sigh of relief. I may have passionately kissed a girl while we danced, standing shoulder to shoulder amongst the heteros and our other allys. I exhaled, I visibly relaxed. The man who has supported equality in the face of bigotry, who has stood up in the fight for unions, the Dream Act, and fair pay, is firmly in control of the oval office for four more glorious years. And yet…a feeling of trepidation is creeping in. Republicans are crying, screaming to be heard. And once riled up, they certainly are good at making a mess of things. Rest assured, this fight is not yet over. The last four years under an Obama presidency has seen deadlocking and filibustering and a general halt of progress due to an uncooperative congress…but the buck doesn’t stop there. President Obama has been criticized from his own party for being too weak, for not pushing, for holding back. Well, this ain’t 2008. A second term President, with no mind set for reelection, has a freedom like no other. This will be the term of progress, of forward motion, of dreams coming into a blissful substantial reality. It will not be easy, but no roads worth traveling ever are. Take a minute for a victory dance…we deserve it. Shake it, sing it, live it every moment. Then look towards the next four years, because we have work to do.

Tammy Baldwin

The election is over, but the war rages on. We cannot let our voices be silenced. Victory or no, we cannot afford to be apathetic once more. This is a long term fight, a lifetime in the making, and we must be diligent in our efforts. Every four years we get our feathers ruffled, we allow ourselves to hope, and then the first Tuesday in November passes and we sit back and watch others control our lives. No more, I beg. NO MORE. Call your congressman, alderman, local council on a regular basis. Stay on top of what decisions are being debated or slipped past us. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell did not happen in an election year. Laws do not wait for us to pay attention. I don’t care who holds power right now in D.C., I care that we all hold power here. In our every day lives, in our loud and soft voices. We hold power. The people hold power. The disenfranchised, the under represented, the oppressed. We. Hold. Power. We must being to harness it.

Unions were not formed over night, they were not the result of a single election passing and the workers deciding to hang up their hats/goggles/wrenches/whatever and letting some politician determine their fates. We, the people, the heart and soul of this country, banded together and made change happen. Those hard fought rights, amongst many others, continue to be threatened. Every seat occupied by a Tea Party member, every bench where a religious conservative holds sway over a court and chooses to adhere to personal conviction and not the law, every school board run by people who have no business in the education of our youth, is a battle waiting to pass us by.

As we sit, the highest court in our land has the potential to change our nation, and our community, in one swift swipe of the pen. Small history lesson; ready? Go. In 1967 the Supreme Court made a ruling on Loving V. Virginia, where an interracial couple was fighting for the right to simply be married and be left alone. They had actually been married for a decade, the ceremony completed in neighboring Washington D.C. where it was not illegal. They were arrested when they returned home to Virginia. Thrown in jail. Repeatedly. An entire decade of fighting simply to be left alone. The eventual ruling by the Supreme Court decreed that the Virginia law banning interracial marriage was unconstitutional, and just like that every state that had a similar law was struck down. Universally. This was not a vocal couple looking to become martyrs or civil rights icons. The opposite is true, actually. They were quiet, simple, small town people who just loved each other. Point blank, story over. We find ourselves at a parallel crossroads once more. On the table are several cases that, if selected, the decision could force states to recognize same-sex marriage across the board. California’s Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth V. Perry), Windsor V. DOMA, Diaz V. Brewer…the list goes on. Bereavement rights, employee benefits, the right to choose your spouse of any gender…all topics that, if ruled unconstitutional to deny on the basis of sexual identity, would make the Defense of Marriage Act null and void. Get your fingers working, do your research, pay attention. The world is changing, and whether you know it or not, you’re along for the ride.

Thus, these are the times we are fortunate enough to live in. A time of change, of wonder and of progress. History making. Status quo challenging. A time where you can make your voice heard, make your fight matter, make it that much easier for the child born tomorrow. Imagine a world for an LGBTQ kid where every school has a PRIDE club, every wedding registry has “registrant and co-registrant” instead of “bride and groom,” where you can go to work every day with a photo of your family on your desk and not risk termination. Despite geography, despite affiliation, despite personal notions of bigotry and hatred…where you are protected, as One Nation, Under God, With Liberty and Justice for ALL.

The ballots have been tallied, but our fight rages on. We are allowed to celebrate. This was a rough one. Smear campaigns, fact checking, improper demanding of voter I.D., electronic ballots changing votes for Obama to Romney…and still, hope prevails. Let’s make these next four years into history makers, and show all those who doubt the true power of democracy.

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About Leah Schein

Leah is a born and bred Chicagoan, and considers herself extremely fortunate to be raised by amazing liberal parents in Logan Square. Coming from a long family history of equality activism, the crazy world of politics feels like home to her. Her upbringing allowed her to fully appreciate her love of tacos, and provided the support needed to be independent and insane. She is a happy survivor of the public school system, all the way through her undergrad years, culminating with a BA in anthropology. Her love of travel and all things adventurous led to the pursuit of a Master of Science from sunny ol’ England, where she happily grasped a conservation degree and ran off to live in a number of rain forests to research nocturnal primates. Through the amazing diversity she was fortunate to be raised amongst, she has an unwavering appreciation of all cultures and peoples, and has used this to form the foundation of her outspoken support of civil rights. You may have seen her running around Boystown/Tuna town over the last decade, or at events she volunteers at for the Human Rights Campaign. It’s possible you spied her at the Silent Film Festival. That strange woman getting into a wrestling match in the leaves on Foster Ave beach at 3am…that definitely wasn’t her. She couldn’t be more excited about sharing her love of science, and it’s role in our daily lives, with the community she loves. Nerds are cool, people. They drink martini’s too.

Discussion

6 Responses to “WE WON: Now what?”

  1. you are simply brilliant – let’s get busy and fight the good fight….

    Posted by k guz | November 7, 2012, 9:09 am
  2. (((rolling up my sleeves)))

    Posted by Val | November 7, 2012, 11:06 am
  3. we’ve got serious work to do…luckily, we are more than capable of accomplishing not just our rights but our dreams! ladies, it’s go time 🙂

    Posted by L | November 7, 2012, 12:42 pm
  4. Moving forward… keeping the momentum moving forward

    Posted by Jill | November 7, 2012, 1:14 pm
  5. Great article. I’m a novice in regards to local politics. Is there a good place to begin to learn about the issues and players in Chicago?

    Posted by Kathy | November 10, 2012, 8:52 am
  6. Thanks for your comments! Kathy, there is (sadly) no one easily accessible place to get a quick run-down of local politics. I would suggest signing up for a membership to IVI-IPO and get their e-letter (http://www.iviipo.org/membership.html) or browse through the Reader’s political section (http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/news-and-politics/Section?oid=846996). When in doubt or a hurry, mainstream stuff is covered in the Trib’s Clout (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/).As always, keep your eyes peeled on our site, we have a number of politic-savvy writers who try to keep everyone updated!

    Posted by L | November 14, 2012, 2:54 am

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