Friday, June 09, 2006

For Cathy Cox and gays, we reap what we sow

Ever heard the expression, "We reap what we sow?" Well, a lot of folks would say that Cathy Cox is reaping what she has sown by doing an apparent flip flop on the gay marriage amendment. In 2004, gay rights activists were encouraged when she called the proposed amendment for that election year "unecessary" and "hateful." Of course, the state went on to vote on the marriage ban in the Nov. general election that year. And with almost 80% of the electorate voting, Georgians approved the ban with nearly 80% of the vote. It was not a great moment for our state. And gays had to be wondering, who will champion us?

Since then, Cox enjoyed tremendous support amongst the GLBT community. Many donated their money and their time to making sure that Cox had a chance of being our next governor. All was fine and well as long as gays weren't a campaign issue. But that all changed in May of 2006 when a judge overturned the gay marriage ban by stating that the amendment dealt with more than one issue, which is prohibited by law. This felt like a tremendous victory for gay rights supporters. But it wasn't meant to be....................

Naturally, the Republicans leapt onto this like a jackal on a carcass. They knew they could get some serious retread out of this wedge issue. Despite the fact that gays in Georgia aren't exactly overwhelming county offices with marriage license requests, Republicans knew they could use this issue to stir up their conservative base. Naturally, they took the lemon the judge handed them and made lemonade. They decided to have Gov. Perdue call for a special session to deal with this imminent danger (rolling my eyes) to Georgia and get an amendment on the ballot that wouldn't be overturned by a technicality.

Mark Taylor, who supported the gay marriage ban, probably danced a jig of joy, knowing that Cox would be put in a serious dilemma. Does she remain true to her gay allies and fight the special session, giving Taylor an opportunity to use this wedge issue amongst Democratic and Independent conservatives? Or does she do the politically expedient thing and craft a position that puts her in line with 80% of Georgians?

We all know what happened next. The Cox campaign bungled statement after statement trying to explain her pragmatic move to say that she believed that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, and that she supported the special session. She says she supports the special session to do some damage control. It's bad enough to have to have this issue hung around the necks of GA Dems this year, so let's ensure it won't remain an issue until 2008.

I don't agree with Cox's position. In fact, I think she's missed an opportunity for history to record that she was on the right side of this issue. But her reasoning makes sense. And being realistic about this, we'd better prepare ourselves for more bad news. We all know what's going to happen. We don't have the votes - neither in the legislature, nor amongst GA voters to win. Knowing how 80% of the state feels, a new amendment will be overwhelming approved in special session. And the state will, once again, vote for it in big numbers, maybe this time with only 70 or 73%. Of course, we'll try our best to stop all of this.

The reaction of the gay community has been somewhat understandable. I, too, had to deal with complex emotions about the position that Cox has taken. Personally, the right to marry doesn't mean an awful lot to me. Though, I do know many gays and lesbians who do want that right. I'm more concerned with civil unions and establishment and preservation of rights as partners to those we choose to spend our lives with. Either way, we all need to get on the same page.

But after a month, the anger hasn't subsided. Gays have defected from the Cox camp in droves. They've asked for their money back. And a few gay bloggers who previously found fault with Taylor are not allowing their blogs to be used to flog Cox . But if we insist on going forward with this anti-Cox campaign, against a woman who is still the closest thing that we've ever had to a statewide ally to the LBGT community in the history of this state, we have to look at the consequences of our actions.

We're empowering two men, Perdue and Taylor, who are not friends to gay people and who delight in what's happened this past month, to continue to use the word "liberal" against us. Oh sure, Perdue cozies up to the Log Cabins and Taylor will say he likes gay people just fine, just as long as they don't publicly support his campaign. But make no mistake about it, they'll both fight tooth and nail to make sure that we remain second class citizens. For another four years, we'll have no reasonable chance of improving the lives and securing the rights of those in the GLBT community. With Cox, who supports domestic partner benefits for gays, medical visitation rights, and inheritance rights, at least there would be some hope.

But what may be even more worrisome is our relations with future statewide candidates for office. They'll be privy to the 80% in GA who voted for the gay marriage ban too. And I fear that after witnessing what's happening to Cox, they might be too afraid to befriend us. It'll just be easier to go against us from the start. In other words, in the near future, look for more Perdues and Taylors to either ignore us or work against us, and fewer Cathy Coxes that will at least give us the time of day.

Yes, we'll reap what we sow too...................

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