Equality Works Everywhere

Tiffany McClain is in the perfect position to write a gay rights column: she is the LGBT Coordinator for the ACLU of Alaska, the organizer of Equality Works, and on the board of Alaskans Together. Tiffany recently wrote a guest post on her experience at the Creating Change conference, and I am pleased to welcome her as a regular contributor to Bent Alaska.

Equality Works in Florida Too: LGBT Rights Activists Victorious in Gainesville
by Tiffany McClain
Over the past year, conservative groups have been trying to strip Gainesville's LGBT citizens of protection from discrimination. They've been whipping up opposition with fear-inducing lies, including demonizing attacks representing transgender people as sexual predators. For weeks leading up to the vote, all the news was dire, but we finally found reason to hope on March 24th when the citizens of Gainesville stood up against prejudice and handily defeated the initiative by a vote of 58% to 42%.


As most of us well know, when activists, legislators, or court officials take positive steps to end discrimination against LGBT people, we often end up fighting efforts to impede our progress. The Prop 8 debacle in California is the most recent example of this, but we need only look back to the 2007 advisory vote to roll back the Alaska Supreme Court's ruling on domestic partnership benefits as an example of the tug-of-war that has come to characterize the national movement for LGBT civil rights. With this in mind, we have been keeping an eye on Gainesville for lessons on how to overcome obstacles as we continue on the path of protecting LGBT Alaskans from discrimination and harassment.


So what can we learn from the Gainesville victory?


We can learn that as much as the fear-mongering might hurt and offend us, it doesn't necessarily translate into votes against equality.


We can learn that while we might do what we can to avoid being dragged into an ugly—and inherently unfair—battle for votes, we shouldn't assume we've lost until every ballot is counted.


We can learn that as much as we have come to depend on judges and lawmakers to recognize the rights that the Constitution promises us, and as much as we might hate to legitimize the idea that anyone's civil rights should be determined by a popular vote, our losses are never inevitable.


Win or lose, a fight for civil rights is always worth it.


Support efforts to advance and protect the rights of LGBT Alaskans:
www.equalityworks.org  Working to protecting Anchorage citizens from discrimination and harassment
www.akclu.org  Dedicated to the cause of civil liberties for all Alaskans
www.alaskanstogether.org Advancing civil equality for LGBT Alaskans

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