Driving through town, I noticed a political poster for John McCain in the yard of someone that I know personally to be gay. Not just gay, but OUT gay. At first I thought it was probably put there by someone without my friend knowing it, so I gave him a call and was shocked to discover that he had put the sign up and was planning to vote for the republican candidate in the general election.
I just couldn’t believe it. I asked him why? Why would you even consider voting for ANYONE in the republican party if you are a gay American with any concerns for not just furthering equality, but maintaining the gains we have achieved? He told me that he was voting against the democratic party, more than voting for the republican party candidate and admitted that in truth, he knew very little about McCain’s views on equal rights for gays and lesbians, or gay marriage (although he assumed that he was no different from any of the other republicans and opposed it). His major voting concern was the economy, and he felt that the democrats gave too much of his money away to people who sat at home and didn’t work, or were here illegally. He wanted less social program spending and a hard lined approach to immigration reform.
When we hung up, it took me a long while to get past my disbelief and to focus on what he was saying. He wasn’t voting for the people that he knew would help him achieve personal freedoms, his main concerns lay lower in the list of essential human needs.
It’s my belief that people vote according to their perception of needs. If you’re hungry, poor, have no roof over your head, then you vote for the person who is going to help elevate you to a point where you get these basic needs met. Once those needs are met, you start focusing on your future needs, and who will help you meet those needs. When you think you have those needs met, you begin to focus on your personal freedoms and the things that you’d LIKE to have, but don’t need to survive.
For my friend, who had been impacted greatly by the economy, and by workers in our area who are here illegally taking jobs for much less pay, the questions of immigration and taxation were at the base of his needs list, overpowering his desire to have his relationship protected. But there is a problem with that thinking. What benefit do we as gays and lesbians get from tax reform that doesn’t recognize our relationships or our families? None.
We will still be taxed as singles even though we have been in relationships for years and have bought homes and have mortgages and bills just like the heterosexual neighbors do. We still won’t be able to claim the children of our partners, or to write off the medical expenses that we pay for these children, because our relationship with them isn’t recognized. We can’t write off the mortgage interest that we pay on the mortgage if the mortgage is in our partners name. Bottom line, the republican tax cuts aren’t helping us, because they don’t even recognize that we exist. If you’re an adult in a committed relationship with a home to maintain, working hard and making a decent living, then you’re still just a single person making too much money as far as the tax code is concerned so you get to pay more taxes so that the neighbors don’t have to. Why, because they have the benefit of marriage. You don’t.
The republicans want to keep it that way. At least the more progressive republicans want to keep it that way. The really conservative ones want to take away our rights to even have legal contracts that protect our finances and our health care decisions and take care of our need to protect our partners both financially and medically. They want to push us back into the closet, and out of their lives. They like the idea that we pay a disproportionate amount of money in taxes, because it means they don’t have to. It helps them, hurts us, and they love that idea.
I wish I had an answer for him on the immigration issue. He believes that deporting millions of illegal aliens is an option. Realistically, I just don’t. I don’t see that even being physically possible, so we need to work on a solution that is feasible. One that addresses the impact that these workers have on working Americans, and has a realistic chance of success. I don’t see that either party has a real answer yet, but can’t argue that my friends experience certainly justify his frustration and willingness to vote to relieve it.
For me, even the idea of voting for a candidate that courts the religious right is out of the question. Not just because I am gay, but because I hate the idea of any president sitting in the oval office, and giving one ounce of weight to the demands of someone like Dr. James Dobson, or Pat Robertson, or any other ultra conservative who thinks they have the right to define the values of an entire nation based on their own personal beliefs. If the republican party wants to align itself with these kinds of far right extremists, and will do anything to try to make them happy, then they are leaving ME out in the cold and certainly will never get my vote.
Both democratic candidates are right. It is time for change in this country. It’s time for people to be seen as individuals who have the right to live their lives according to their own values and beliefs within the constraints of the law. It’s time for religion to take it’s place in peoples personal lives, and to get out of political policy decisions where it has no place. It’s time that a persons actions be allowed to define them, and not their sexual orientation.
I can’t change my friends mind, he’s still going to vote for McCain. I’m just glad my vote will be there to cancel his out. But that’s what it’s all about. Two people standing on opposite sides of a fence, talking about how each of us thinks change needs to occur. In the end, we’ll still be friends, and one of us will have to buy the other dinner. Hope he can afford the seafood feast he’s going to be buying me when the democrats win in November!