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“The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”  Those iconic words were first spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr. and they have been repeated by President Barack Obama.  

On election night November 6, 2012, and during the months leading up to that historic night, our country took giant steps toward greater equality and justice.

A ‘tipping point’ has been defined as “the critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development.”  In his best-selling book with the same name, Malcolm Gladwell included the ‘tipping point’ example of the sale of Hush Puppy shoes during the 1990s.  The old shoe brand barely continued in existence at the beginning of that decade.  Then, a small group of New York City ‘hipster’ kids began wearing the ‘retro’ shoe.  The new popularity of the shoes was not immediate, but at some point, the popularity rapidly took off nationwide.  

During the early days of its re-emergence, the new Hush Puppy craze might have been reversed if only a few of the trendsetting kids had abandoned them.  But, as their popularity passed the ‘tipping point,’ there was no going back.

While the analogy of Hush Puppies and human rights might not be ideal, I believe that the phenomenon from the former is now occurring in the latter.  

Recognition of the equality and rights of gay Americans has reached the ‘tipping point’ and there is no going back.

On the historic November 6th election night, voters in the State of Minnesota rejected a proposed amendment to their state’s constitution that would have defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman.  Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington voted to provide the right to marry to everyone, whether gay or straight.  

The defeat of the Minnesota amendment was the very first defeat for an anti-gay marriage amendment to a state constitution, after 31 other state constitutions had been amended to explicitly include homophobia within their texts.  The approval of marriage equality in the three states marks its first three victories ever through popular vote.  

Through November 5th, gay marriage equality had suffered 32 straight losses at the ballot box.  As quoted by a recent Huffington Post article, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown, stated this summer that “[t]he American people know in their heart what marriage is, and they have expressed that in the form of over 70 million votes cast in 32 consecutive state elections to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”  Mr. Brown’s cause of injustice is now on a 4 election losing streak.  

Also cited in the Huffington Post article was a quote from Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign.  He prophesized that the November election was “a landmark election for marriage equality and we will forever look back at this year as a critical turning point in the movement for full citizenship for LGBT people.”

The three states that approved gay marriage at the ballot box will join the six states that have previously approved equality through the actions of state legislators or courts.  

It has been more than 43 years since the ‘Stonewall riots’ at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, which are often considered the beginning point for American gay rights activism.  In 1848, a women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York, and 72 years later the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution recognized women’s right to vote.  In 1619, the first slaves of African ancestry set foot in what would later become our country.  They arrived 345 years before the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s.  The “arc of history” is indeed long.

I don’t intend to compare the discrimination suffered by different Americans.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. also said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The months leading up to the historic November elections began the ‘tipping point.’  This past summer, Vice President Joe Biden, and then President Obama himself, publicly made statements in support of gay marriage equality.  It was the first time a sitting president or vice president had ever lent their public support.  They importantly gave marriage equality the power and support of their offices.  

If a high ranking elected Democrat had made a similar statement of support in any earlier year, the Republican Party would have quickly seized upon it for political gain.  It is a great sign of changing American opinions that there was very little audible response from Republicans in Washington, D.C.  

In the 2004 re-election of President George W. Bush, Republican strategists openly encouraged the placement of anti- marriage equality initiatives on ballots in swing states.  The Republicans used gay discrimination as a “get out the vote” tool to motivate conservative pro-Bush voters to cast their ballots.  In 2012, some commentators have suggested that the various gay marriage ballot measures may have actually been a positive ‘get out the vote’ tool for Obama and other Democrats.  President Obama won each state in which they appeared.

A recent Gallup survey concluded that 3.4% of adult Americans openly identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  Of course, that estimate does not include anyone ‘in the closet.’  According to exit polls from the November election, 76% of self-identified gay voters cast their ballots for President Obama, while only 22% voted for his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney.  Given a presidential election final popular vote margin that is seldom greater than a couple percentage points, the importance of the ‘gay vote’ for Democrats should not be underestimated.  

In the aftermath of their most recent presidential defeat, many Republicans are being more reflective than they generally are by nature.  They are vowing to make greater efforts to be appealing to women, Latinos, African-Americans, and, yes, for some, even gay Americans.  

While the arc of history is indeed quite long, the arc for gay Americans has passed the ‘tipping point,’ entered the downslope and is speeding toward justice.  

Originally posted to Rob Elders on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 10:53 PM PST.

Also republished by Kossacks for Marriage Equality, Milk Men And Women, LGBT Kos Community, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I hope you're right (11+ / 0-)

    I tend to agree with you, since none of the polls taken after the first poll in 2010 showed support for marriage equality over 50% have shown support under 50%. The rhetoric of people like Brian Brown and Peter LaBarbera has become shriller (LaBarbera even admitted it wasn't about marriage it was about homosexuality) which demonstrates they think they're on the ropes.

    Only I won't think we're really out of the woods until a state like Wisconsin removes the amendment from the state's constitution. I hope I don't die before that happens.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 11:08:13 PM PST

  •  My Favorite Obama Video Of All Time (11+ / 0-)

    and I realize that is saying a lot, is this one. Put together by a group of students.

    It has just under 70,000 views. I don't know how it doesn't have like 100,000,000.

    In it Obama, as far as I know, use the "Arc" quote for the first time.

    And he says something like:

    Here is the think George Mason, here is the thing young people, it doesn't bend on its own. It bends because you put you hand on it and bend it towards justice.
    Personally I am a straight dude. But for a lot of reason I've known gay and transgender people dating back to the 80s. I could never wrap my mind around the hate they had to endure.

    But my gosh, in what just seems like a few years things are changing 24/7. I am so happy about that I don't have words for it!

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 11:26:45 PM PST

  •  Just Another Thought About Changing Times (18+ / 0-)

    I often talk about my parents here. Moderate Republicans. Honestly I know they had to know gay folks in their lives, I mean it is just a percentage thing, but alas I know none of them were open about it.

    About seven years ago a distant family member, well her and her partner of 30+ years moved in around the block from them. My brother and I, much more liberal, wondered how that was going to work out.

    Honestly we were not so sure it would work out well.

    Well we were WRONG.

    I recall talking to my mom and her saying they were "just like us." They have problems in their relationship. But they love each other like I love your father.

    In what I think is about the most amazing thing ever, they asked my parents to take them to the church they attend. My family literally built said church. You look at the plaque next to the wheelchair ramp, the foundation of the place, pick up a Bible and my family name is attached with giving that to said church.

    They, and this is a small rural town in IL, shunned my distant aunt and her partner. It got kind of ugly.

    My father who is rich took them to task. Said that it was the goal of his father when he passed, to ensure much of his money was given to them. But that we don't give money to hateful people and FUCK YOU!

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 11:40:59 PM PST

  •  I read this and found myself wondering... (8+ / 0-)

    ...if you consider all LGBT people gay.  I guess we need a better way to put it, like "marriage equality" rather than "gay marriage", because "gay rights" just seems to be omitting some LGBT folk in this day and age.

    •  True: marriage equality certainly benefits (7+ / 0-)

      transpeople, who no longer have to jump through (frequently intrusive and degrading) hoops in order to marry, since if your state's marriage code doesn't refer to gender, you don't have to demonstrate your gender (nobody in the mainstream would think having to get a note from a psychiatrist in order to get married would be remotely acceptable if it were applied generally, would they?).

      In a dog-eat-dog world, rabies is an advantage in the short term.

      by ebohlman on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 05:28:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Marriage equality puts the issue on an eye to eye (3+ / 0-)

        basis, like webrandings' folks, it is no longer about gays or lesbians or something strange and exotic and different;  it's just about their cousin, their sister/brother, aunt/uncle or  daughter/son, someone they love already and a new person that they love.

        When it's all about love we all win.

        "I'll press your flesh, you dimwitted sumbitch! " -Pappy O'Daniel

        by jakewaters on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 12:42:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I believe 'lay' people use the term 'gay' to mean. (2+ / 0-)

      all inclusively 'QUEER', I myself actually like Queer better for all LGBTQI because it even includes Asexuals. (They have a group in SF Pride Parade even)..
      I usually change headlines to Marriage Equality or just Marriage when I repost them to groups of known LGBT and allies, but as I say, the general public uses 'gay' to mean All of Us.
      I definitely never use Gay Marriage except as a hashtag #gaymarriage that will 'search'. Marriage is Marriage period and mean for all, and should therefore include the very same rights and privileges for all.

      Proud to be part of the 21st Century Democratic Majority Party of the 3M's.. Multiracial,Multigender and MiddleClass

      by LOrion on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 08:10:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Good Point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows, ancblu

      I have been in a gay relationship with the love of my life for the past 20 years.  But, I'm not a big fan of labels and I think there is a full spectrum of "in betweens."  Some of my references (like "gay rights") were intended in a more generic way as references to the whole LGBT community.  Progress for any member of the community is progress for the whole (in fact, it's progress for everyone.)

    •  I haven't referred to it as Gay Marriage for (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows, ancblu

      awhile because it really is about marriage equality. It is we just don't tell two consenting adults who they can love or who they can marry.

      The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die. ~ Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy

      by cherie clark on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 01:11:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I just call myself "queer/gay" (0+ / 0-)

      and I use those words to refer to the entire GLBTQIX spectrum.

      "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." - Hubert Humphrey

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 09:15:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  No more rec button available by the time (0+ / 0-)

      I've read your comment, but you make an important point that needs to be recommended and repeated.  Thank you.

      The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety. H.L. Mencken

      by ancblu on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 11:18:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Splitting wood (8+ / 0-)

    I am, among other pre-holiday preparations, splitting firewood today. I use a wedge. (Actually a maul, which is a wedge with a handle. But, I digress)

    A wedge is thin and sharp at one end, fat and blunt at the other. The thin end starts the crack, the fat end busts it wide open.

    Same thing with marriage equality. Enough older have overcome their fear and prejudice to start the crack. But younger people, of almost all persuasions, are the fat blunt edge of the demographic wedge that will bust this wide open.

    And then we can all bask in the warmth and light of love and justice.

    This is our wedge issue now.

    A society is judged by how well it cares for those in the dawn of life, the children. By how well it cares for those in the twilight of life, the elderly. And, by how well it cares for those on the edge of life; the poor, the sick, and the disabled.

    by BobBlueMass on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 06:16:07 AM PST

  •  GOP Choice (3+ / 0-)

    Try to catch up with the voters and piss off their Talibornagain troglodytes, or double down on bigotry and piss off an increasing number of mainstream voters. If they weren't such assholes, I'd feel sorry for them.

    On the Internet, nobody knows if you're a dog... but everybody knows if you're a jackass.

    by stevemb on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 08:12:56 AM PST

    •  You don't need Nate Silver to run the numbers (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows

      but there have to be as many GOOPs who are reachable on the marriage equality issue as there are straight sympathetic D's.

      Yes, there are a lot of R's who are biggoted assholes and if you've had an experience or dozens with some of the worst I hear where you are coming from.  there may be others who are not beyond hope.

      "I'll press your flesh, you dimwitted sumbitch! " -Pappy O'Daniel

      by jakewaters on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 12:47:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Just for verity... Not an MLK original quote... (6+ / 0-)

    He paraphrased ... and he used 'Arc of the Moral Universe' not 'History', but it is even more succinct..and of course tweetable this way!

    The quote is from Theodore Parker in the 1850s.

    "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."

    Dr. King paraphrased the quote and made it more modern and succinct but it lost some meaning.

    Proud to be part of the 21st Century Democratic Majority Party of the 3M's.. Multiracial,Multigender and MiddleClass

    by LOrion on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 08:15:32 AM PST

  •  MKL quote was taken from (5+ / 0-)

    the work of Rev. Theodore Parker, who MLK spoke of highly.  IHMO, this was not a case of stealing but of shared ideals and dreams.
    Rev. Parker was a liberal Unitarian Minister who preached in an Opera house, called the the Melodeon Theater, to hold the crowds.  Rev. Parker was the grandson of Captain John Parker, who lead the Minute Men on the Lexington battle green in 1775), was a liberal minister.  Parker was, by all counts, an interesting man.

  •  We are at tipping point "A" (3+ / 0-)

    in which the inertia begins to go in the direction we want it to.  Now the hard work of the pioneers starts to pay off and the following push will start to truly shift the populace and legal environment on towards tipping point "B" where the whole issue becomes not an issue.  State by State and Federal issue pushes must and will continue.  There's more work to be done.  The methods of the recent fights have significantly changed the way in which the fights yet to come will be fought.  Humanizing the the issues have been more successful than previous methods.  

    "It's too LATE to stop now!" - John Lee Hooker

    by Rolfyboy6 on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 11:44:01 AM PST

  •  Thank You - N/T (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows, ancblu

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 01:50:49 PM PST

  •  Thanks, but I think we also need to understand (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That the very manner in which these electoral victories were managed had a lot to do with our success with them.

    For one thing, ever since Prop 8 in California, the gay community as a whole has woken up to gay marriage as a fundamental issue of fairness to lesbian and gay Americans.

    I have to tell you that PRIOR to Prop 8, even here in West Hollywood, in the HEART of LA's gay community there was considerable sentiment by older lesbians (in particular) and some gay men that marriage was not for us. They got it now, so there's no sense picking bones, but I was there in the middle of it, and fought mighty and hard for their eventual understanding.

    It came.

    So that was a "tipping point" here in California, and that spread throughout the country in gay and non gay communities everywhere. No more debate. We were united.

    That immediately put us on better footing. In the lead up to this November's elections, the Christian thugs were wailing about how they were being outspent and outraised.

    We have more at stake in this dogfight than most of them (except the religious authority class) and it means more to us than them. That's big.

    The last point I want to make is that by spreading out the playing field, they were completely at a loss. They are outstanding at concentrating their efforts in one state at a time and gearing their electoral message to the citizens of that state.

    Not only couldn't they do so, they used the same playing book they used in California, and we were ready. It didn't work in November and it ain't gonna work again.

    I would love to see the SCOTUS refuse the Prop 8 challenge. If that happens, or they rule DOMA unconstitutional, there's your national tipping point.

    What separates us, divides us, and diminishes the human spirit.

    by equern on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 01:01:03 AM PST

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