Anna Mumford,
LGBT Project
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November 7, 2008

From an email Anna Mumford, Program Strategist for the ACLU LGBT Project, sent to friends and family earlier this week.

After seeing anti-gay initiatives win the popular vote in Florida, Arkansas, Arizona and California, I haven’t been able to muster the same ebullience that seems to have infected everyone from the old ladies in my yoga class to the cashier at Starbucks this week.

When I got into work Wednesday, I could see that other people in the LGBT Project at the ACLU were feeling similarly torn. As one of my coworkers put it, I feel like my ability to revel in the historic nature of the Obama victory has been robbed by the forces behind the four anti-gay ballot initiatives that passed.

My job for the last few weeks has been to find plaintiffs for a legal challenge to Prop 8 if it were to pass. I have spoken and emailed with dozens of gay couples in California about why having the right to marry mattered.

For some couples, having equal treatment under the law was important principle, but for many couples the benefits of marriage were more tangible. For some, marriage meant being able to provide health care for their spouse, or having the right to visit a sick partner or sick child in the hospital go unchallenged. Other couples wrote that being legally married changed the way their families and neighbors accepted their relationship. Some of the most touching stories involved immigration issues, where two partners of different nationalities were unable to live legally in the same country (sadly, these issues will require federal recognition of gay marriage to be resolved).

I’ve received a steady stream of emails and phone calls this week from these couples in California asking what can be done and offering to help in any way they can. Although the CA Attorney General has said that Prop 8 will not apply retroactively to couples that have already married, I can’t imagine that our opponents won’t file a lawsuit to challenge this position.

Thinking about the impact on the families I have gotten to know in California, as well as the families I’ve worked with in Florida and Arkansas over the last few months, it’s hard not to feel saddened by Tuesday night’s results.

In the last few years, there has been so much progress in dismantling the legal framework that discriminates against the gays and lesbians, and I guess I expected the trajectory to continue and that these initiatives, which so clearly move us in the opposite direction, would be defeated. It is with this sense of weight that I celebrate this historic election.

Take care, and thank you, sincerely, for all the hard work I know each of you has done in this election.

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