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WE DEMAND SAFETY/ EQUALITY FOR ALL

We Demand Safety and Equality for All.

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This was supposed to be a celebratory email. In a rare moment of action, the Senate last week moved to codify a marriage equality bill by advancing the Respect for Marriage Act. While normally the 60-vote barrier to pass the legislation would be insurmountable, it appears this time enough Republican Senators have signed on in support of the bill. If, and when, the legislation passes, it will go on to be reconciled with the House bill passed in July before being signed into law by Biden. With recent polls showing between 60-70% support for same sex marriages among the American public, this is a seemingly “twilight zone” moment in which our government is responding to the will of the people. What Does and Doesn’t it Do? Before we get too excited, though, it’s important to note that to secure Republican votes in the Senate, Democrats stripped out and watered-down key language making the bill fall short of full legal equality for the LGBTQ+ community. The Marriage Equality Act Does Not codify same-sex marriages, instead using the vaguer language of recognizing marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.” Furthermore, the bill doesn’t require states to perform same-sex marriages, only that they recognize marriages that were legally performed in state where they took place. Continuing to erode the bill’s effectiveness and reach, an amendment secured by Republicans specifies that non-profit religious organizations are neither required to provide “any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage,” nor will their tax-exempt eligibility be affected if they refuse to recognize same-sex marriages.

Despite these shortcomings, the Marriage Equality Act is a step forward. It repeals the 1996 defense of marriage act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and importantly allows an enforcement mechanism via civil action to be pursued by attorneys general or any person harmed by violations to this bill. Why Now? The injustice facing the LGBTQ+ community is not new, so it’s important to ask why we see action now instead of months or years ago? Timing is everything in politics, and a few obvious precipitating events in the past year have finally spurred Congress into action: SCOTUS’ decision in June with Dobbs v. Jackson overturning the right to an abortion, and the midterm election results. When SCOTUS stripped away Americans established rights, overturning extensive precedent for political purposes, it broadcast the beginnings of a new “Lochner era” in which rights not explicitly enumerated by Congressional legislation aren’t recognized. The concurring opinion taking aim at same-sex and interracial relationships, by Clarence Thomas, a man somehow still allowed to serve on the court despite running interference for his insurrectionist wife, drove this point home to those who were still trying to pretend the religious zealots would stop with abortion.

Yet despite all this, Senator Schumer and the Democrats showed little urgency in passing legislation in the lead-up to the election. Many suspect that Schumer didn’t want to put Senators on the record right before an election. With the rejection of Republicans in the midterms, bucking historical trends, this hesitancy seems especially foolish, and frustrating. It’s likely that the bill would have failed in the Senate before the election but could have turned the tide on several close races including Mandela Barnes vs Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. Now, instead of putting Republicans on the record as opposing marriage equality, this new legislation allows vulnerable Republicans looking to avoid losing in 2024, to sign on to a watered-down piece of legislation.

Even so, it’s important to recognize this legislation for forward step it represents. With the Republicans taking control of the House next year, it’s likely no legislation can be passed once the new congress is in session, even when 61% say the new bill that protects right to same sex marriage is a “good thing for society.” So it’s nice to see Democrats are trying out the bold new strategy of being proactive rather than reactive in the fight for rights. Culture War Violence As I said at the beginning, this was supposed to be a celebratory email, a moment where LGBTQ+ rights took a step forward. Yet here we are, mired once again in the bigoted violence of America’s “culture war.” Over the weekend another crazed gunman, this one related to a Republican Congressman who vocally supported January 6th, murdered five individuals and injured dozens more when he attacked Club Q, in Colorado Springs. There is no “official” motive for this terrorist attack, but he is being charged with a hate crime, and we’ve all seen this story play out so many times before it’s practically willful ignorance no to see the extremist ideology behind such an act. The polling shows our side is winning this culture war, and as we do, conservatives reach for ever more violent and extreme measures to slow the losses. So far, sadly the violence has worked, or at least not hurt, their cause. Texas just re-elected Greg Abbot as governor despite the massacre of school children in Uvalde, and gun manufacturers profits remain high. Wielding our political and economic power This type of support in Republican strongholds isn’t a coincidence, it’s a concerted propaganda effort. The special interests and donor class that fund Republicans are all too happy to trade misery and lives for larger profit margins. There are undoubtedly true believers in this bigoted, fascistic cause, but this spark is stoked and fanned by monied interests who cynically see division and hate in their best interests. We cannot allow atomization and persecution to continue to pay for these politicians, media figures, and businesses. Turning the tide on this hate machine started at the ballot box a few weeks ago, but to succeed long term we will need consistent, collective economic action. Only when hate becomes unprofitable will escape this waking nightmare of violence. So join us each Tuesday, in growing solidarity, as we build an economic cudgel to beat back hate, and make America a safe space for all identities.

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