Fearing Harassment

The Supreme Court ruled today that the names of petition signers of Washington State’s Referendum 71 must be made public [Update: however, according to Courage Campaign, the ruling is complicated and whether R-71’s signatures themselves are to be released remains an open issue].  The referendum passed last fall, preserving domestic partnership rights and hence legal protections for gays, lesbians, and seniors.

Protect Marriage Washington had sought not only to fail this referendum, overturning domestic partnership and legal protections for gays and lesbians (and this isn’t even about marriage — this has been called the “everything but marriage” law), but also to keep the names of those who sought to do so private — apparently because of fear of retribution from “violent homofascists.”

Let’s get it straight, Protect Marriage, because you know this already but I’m not sure you want your signers to know this. Equating me to a violent homofascist is your attempt to continue to enjoy legal protections exactly while continuing to harass me. Don’t get me wrong, harassment is not OK – but just as it’s not OK for you to be harassed, you may not legally continue to do this to me.

Make no mistake: The real harm is where harassment of gays continues to enjoy legal protections.

I know this well. During the Prop 8 campaign, there was plenty of harassment on all sides to go around. Whereas the No On Prop 8 campaign officially sought to speak out against violence perpetrated on and by any side, however, the Yes On Prop 8 messaging, ignoring the real harms against LGBTs and supporters during the campaign, simply fanned the flames, in many cases equating gays with Hitler and categorizing us and bands of — well — violent homofascists:

And here’s the outcome of that (PDF).

While at the press conference after last week’s closing arguments in the federal trial against Prop 8, I had the opportunity to engage with a person working for Protect Marriage. He choked up when he told me of his inner conflicts, and that he saw how we (LGBTs) have been treated and it’s not OK.  He related that his colleagues at Protect Marriage had also received death threats. (An aside: read Karen Ocamb on the backstory on Prop 8 witnesses and fear of harassment in this case).

I’ll say it again. Harassment is not OK. But let’s be clear.  There is a solid history of real harm against folks like me and at the root of what most of us want is simply to live without that harm. I think most people, given the chance, understand this. So, Protect Marriage, try some honesty the next time, and make sure your petition signers know that overturning gay legal protections is akin to continuing to legally protect harassment against gay people, and if you sign for that, you stand by it publicly.

Fear of harassment is real.  You can feed it, or you can work against it every day of your life.  Make your choice today. I choose the latter.

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