On Tuesday night, I watched President-elect Barack Obama deliver his groundbreaking speech, one which signaled a new United States rooted in global cooperation, honesty, responsibility and calm intelligence. And yet enamored as I was, I must admit my thoughts were not wholly devoted to him. A laptop rested in front of me, and every few minutes I clicked refresh on the California state government website, tracking the precinct results of Proposition 8, the measure to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. I knew that Florida’s battle on Proposition 2 was already over – discrimination was now doctrine. Civil unions, domestic partnerships or government recognition of any future family I might have was lost. The idea that hospitals would be legally able to reject me from visiting my spouse, that my life would be riddled with difficulties over property, taxes and proving that I had a family was disappointing. The idea that 63 percent of Florida voted for this to be so was devastating. But as I watched the results in California trickle in, I thought about how California’s Proposition 8 was the most pertinent vote to me in the entire election, though it wasn’t even in my state. The result of Proposition 8 would probably mean the difference of decades in the struggle to be treated like everybody else. As California goes, so does the nation. It was the case with interracial marriage, and it would be the case with same-sex marriage too. Never had a major human right been eliminated in an election, and recent polls of Proposition 8 in California had shown a tight race, but one leaning toward equality. I was nervous, excited, and cautiously optimistic. So when the polls started to come in leaning toward the repeal of same-sex marriage in California, I didn’t know what to think. Hours of clicking refresh didn’t make the numbers change. The amount of precincts left to swing toward equality dwindled, and the polls remained at 52 percent for elimination of marriage in California, 48 percent against it. At three in the morning, the majority of precincts were reporting and reality started to set in. I had never felt less wanted as an American citizen.
Ironically, on the same night African-Americans voted 96-4 to put one minority in the Oval Office, they voted 70-30 to eliminate the rights of another, despite Obama’s urging against it. Whites and Asian-Americans voted for marriage equality and Latino voters were split. The same group that pushed Obama to victory pushed same-sex couples into the shadows. What it means to be an unequal minority left to the whims of the majority was a short-lived lesson on Tuesday night. Yet as I watched Obama give his speech, I was so thrilled that an African-American would finally become president. What a message about how far this country has come. So I must try not to be selfish. I must remember that all the good Obama will do for America and the world is worth more than me. It is a worthwhile trade. And despite Tuesday’s setbacks to gays and lesbians, when Obama opened with an address to America and included the line “gay or straight,” I was speechless. Amongst all the discrimination and hate, amongst the nation forcing us to the fringes, here is the man who I believed in all along regarding us as living, feeling, human beings. Perhaps the future does not look so bleak. If there was one thing I learned from this campaign, after all, it was the infallible power of hope.
– Ryan Watzel