Home' LOTL : December 2004 Contents POLITICS44
US ELECTION NIGHT: IF THE MOOD IN A
SAN FRANCISCO GAY BAR IS ANY
BAROMETER OF HOW GAY AND LESBIAN
AMERICA IS FEELING, THEN OUTRAGE IS THE
ORDER OF THE DAY. BY SASHA NAOD.
MARY CHENEY DISCUSSES STRATEGIES WITH HER FATHER
Drag performers have always been at the forefront of queer
political activism and social commentary, and tonight
hearts are being worn on sleeves. Almost all on stage put in
their two cents worth about Bush's win, but perhaps the most
damning performance comes from drag king Sally, who, with
companion -- a rubber-masked George Bush figure -- and to
the tune of Bjork's 'Desired Constellation' (It's tricky/when you
feel/someone has done something/on your behalf), clothes
her 'Dubya' in an orange prisoner outfit and performs a mock-
beheading, frighteningly invoking the Internet terrorist videos.
It's a seething critique, met by howls from the crowd. The
theatrics and symbols are aligned and resounding.
Hopes had been high across left-wing America about the
possibility of a new president. In the lead-up to polling day, the
scenario mirrored the Australian election. If you believed the
US press as election day approached, Kerry was a shoe-in win.
The outcome told an altogether different story, and gay and
lesbian voters have been left like the current New Yorker cover
line asking "What Now?" In an unlikely turn of events, gay
marriage -- even ahead of the Iraq war -- became a 'sleeper' issue.
Even more surprising is the extent to which it has become an
issue within GLBT ranks as well.
To those living in the liberal oases of the US West and East
Coasts, the election outcome was a sobering shock. However,
it should have been clear from events last Northern Spring
when many cities and states started allowing same-sex unions
that gay marriage was to be a hot button issue.
Same-sex marriage, the scourge of the community or the
way ahead, depending on your view, was firmly on the map, and
if activists had their way, it wasn't going away. It became a ballot
issue in no less than seven states -- four of which were
considered crucial in the outcome of the election.
Hardline liberals believed the larger number of registered
voters this election was proof positive that films like Mike
Moore's 9/11 had hit home. Around 15% more people enrolled
to vote than the 2000 election, and it was a much-ballyhooed
statistic. Younger voters, it was thought, would turn out in droves
to quietly end Bush's reign. Naysayers, on the other hand, said
that the timing of the gay marriage issue was all wrong.
In the post-mortem that followed the announcement of
Bush's win, pundits speculated that the prominence of gay
marriage was successful in achieving only one outcome: rallying
a greater number of conser vative voters to oppose same-sex
unions at the polls.
If the election result itself wasn't enough to leave a bad taste
for America's GLBT community, one other notion did: the
phenomenon of 'gay Republicans,' and more precisely, their
position on gay marriage. The most high profile gay Republican
is Mary Cheney, lesbian daughter of vice president Dick
Cheney. Mary, who has worked professionally marketing Coors
beers to the gay community, was the director of her father's
campaign and is regarded by many as his chief confidante.
Mary polarises the GLBT community here; she is regarded
alternately as a 'traitor' or 'political pawn,' but what is clear is
that she is symbolic of a larger schism in the GLBT
community. According to exit polls, some 23% of gay voters
supported Bush this election, many of whom 'left the fold' on
the issue of gay marriage. When you consider that the gay
electorate in America is estimated at 1 million people plus, this
is not an insignificant number.
Since the 'birth' of gay rights at Stonewall, gay America has
been unified on all fronts: equality, AIDS, an end to
discrimination. But gay marriage is proving to be an
unexpected wedge issue in the GLBT community.
Much to the chagrin of 'mainstream' gay America, gay
Republicans are becoming a force to be reckoned with, and
visible. When factions of 23% develop within a socio-political
group like the GLBT community, the way ahead suddenly
seems less clear than it has ever been.
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