This election in the U.S. is very important for our communities future and drag queen, comedian and writer Jeza Belle tells us why in her post in Huffington Post Gay Voices…
With only a week and a half to go, the word among political pundits is that most progressive voters will stay home on November 4th. While midterm elections are not as sexy as the ones in which we get to pick a president, here are five reasons why the LGBT community should not sit out this year:
At present over 30 states have some level of marriage equality in place, but over a dozen still do not. Further, even with court after court striking down gay marriage bans, some in the deepest of red states, many conservatives are vowing to fight this issue to the bitter end. Several states that were affected by federal appeal rulings are doing everything in their power to still thwart equality. We must be just as passionate in battling their bigotry, but at the ballot box. A vote for gay-friendly candidates helps ensure we continue to have elected officials in place to appoint progressive-minded judges and to vote against bills that target gays, lesbians, and transgender people.
There’s a pervasive feeling that since gays and lesbians have achieved marriage equality we have now completely won the fight against the discrimination that has long been waged against our community. However, gay marriage is only one of our battles. We cannot forget our transgender siblings who have also made gains, but are still not afforded an appropriate level of respect and dignity in this country. Transgender people are frequent victims of hate crime, with society doling out few repercussions to the perpetrators. A quick read of the news reveals a number of recent attacks, often fatal, on transgender individuals across our country, including a recent beating that made headlines in Brooklyn, New York this past week. On top of the crimes we hear about, statistics show that many transgender people who experience brutal treatment do not report attacks as many law enforcement agencies do not adequately respond to these crimes. In addition, transgender men and women endure acts of bias that go beyond the obvious and include the subtleties of employment discrimination and denial of basic services. As a community we must continue to put our powerful money, voices, and votes behind candidates that will advocate for equality on every level and do not leave any of our brethren out in the cold.
Since 1974 some form of employment anti-discrimination bill has been brought to the floor of the United States Congress with little success. Most recently a number of gay-rights groups pulled their support for the latest Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) fearing the bill would have allowed religious groups to cite objections and thus legally discriminate against LGBT employees. The more senators and congressmen we help to elect, the better chance our community has of Congress passing a fully inclusive ENDA to protect workers from dismissal simply for being homosexual or transgender.
Maybe President Obama disappointed the anti-war and anti-Wall Street movements, but let’s not forget so easily that Obama has stood up for our community almost more than any other group of people in the country. The White House itself is quick to remind us on its website that O’s list of accomplishments include repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, ending the legal defense of DOMA, signing hate crimes legislation and so much more. Plus, we cannot minimize the fact that this president is the first one to state that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marriage. No politician is perfect, but Obama stood by us and we should show some gratitude at the polls to help to elect individuals that are more inclined to work with the president on other progressive issues, like immigration reform.
Finally, with people all over the world marching year after year, even dying for the basic right to cast a vote in an election, we have that privilege at our fingertips. According to statistics, only 37 percent of voters even went to the polls in the 2010 mid-term election. To people around the globe that live under oppressive regimes where citizens have no voice at all, we must look like a self-absorbed, lazy, and entitled nation of people. Whether we agree or disagree with the people that are vying for office, we need to get our butts off the couch and away from the computer long enough to exercise our right and let our voices be heard. Even if we despise the individuals that are running, we can always write in the name of a candidate that we don’t see on the ballot. The groups of people that seek to deny the LGBT community equality and dignity have no problem mobilizing on Election Day to make their point. As a gay, lesbian, transgender, bi-sexual, and queer-affirming group of people, we must show the same diligence and advocate for our own rights at the ballot box.