WOMEN's RIGHTS, LGBT RIGHTS, AND THE ELECTION

By Larry Jones

While Barack Obama was racking up what pundits are calling a decisive mandate on Election Day, the rights of women, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered persons were hanging in the balance. For women there were some significant victories while for LGBT persons there were a number of defeats. However, even the victories came with warnings for the future. The defeated hoped Obama would be their savior, a hope which may well not be realized due to the president-elect's political limitations and the ongoing strength of the religious right.

Let's take a look at the whole picture.

ABORTION RIGHTS

According to Gallup Poll data, about 54% of Americans in May said that abortion should be legal under certain circumstances -- precisely the same number as in a 1975, and an additional 28% said abortion should be legal in all cases. Yet anti-abortion rights groups continue to forge ahead, seeking to make it illegal.

South Dakota

In South Dakota conservatives for the second sought to ban abortions, this time with exceptions for rape, incest, and women's health. Voters rejected the proposal 55 to 45 percent. However, for a number of years there has been only one abortion provider in the state, Planned Parenthood. They must fly abortion doctors in weekly and most women must drive hundreds of miles to the clinic.. And South Dakota already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. State law forbids any public funding for the $450 procedure, even in the case of rape or incest, a cost many simply cannot afford, and doctors must describe "all known medical risks" of abortion, including "increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide." The doctors must also give patients a written statement telling them that "the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being," and that the patients have "an existing relationship with that unborn human being" that is protected by the U.S. Constitution and the laws of South Dakota. This is designed to scare women into changing their minds and carrying the fetus to term.

Colorado

Coloradoans resounding defeated 74 to 26 percent a radical initiative that would have given the right of legal personhood to fertilized eggs which would have inevitably led to a total ban on abortion, in-vitro fertilization, and hormonal birth control. "This rejection by voters of Amendment 48 sends a clear message: personal, private health care decisions should be made by women, their doctors, and their families, not by politicians," said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. "We need government policies that improve access to health care, not take it away."

However, Planned Parenthood's website says of Obama's victory: "For the first time in eight years, America has a leader who respects women's rights and who will fight to protect women's health care." Again, the reality of American politics may well make this a false hope. Progressives who believe that Obama will cure all the nation's ills is overreaching in the extreme. When that reality sets in in the near future, widespread disillusionment and anger can be expected. On the other hand, World Can't Wait and others will be doing everything we can to mobilize those sentiments into a widespread movement fighting for fundamental change, including full rights for women.

The day after the election Colorado right wingers announced that they had formed a new national organization called Personhood USA that will help states that want to continue to bring constitutional amendments making an embryo a human person.

California

California's initiative was defeated for the third time. It would have required teen age women to inform their parents before having an abortion unless they could convince authorities that they were living in an abusive home. Proposition 4 was largely funded by San Diego publisher James Holman and Sonoma winemaker Don Sebastiani who donated a total of over $4 million to this year's attempt They are expected to continue their efforts in the future.

Salvation from the Supreme Court??

Many pro choice advocates believe that a Supreme Court with Obama appointees will protect Roe v Wade and that lost abortion rights may be restored. But it is important to remember that in 1970 President Nixon appointed Harry Blackmun to the Supreme Court, yet he did not follow Nixon's philosophy when he wrote the majority opinion in Roe v Wade which made abortion legal in the U.S. The reverse is also very possible with Obama appointees, especially since he has gone overboard regarding his desire to please both the right and the left. Obama in the White House is no guarantee that Roe, already very restricted, will remain the law of the land.

Abstinence Only still an issue

Barack Obama has promised to cease funding programs that don't work, so high on his agenda should be eliminating the $200 million a year spent on teaching abstinence only to school kids. Whether he will or not is undetermined. According to Joseph DiNorcia of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., "Ab-only proponents promised that teens would stop having sex-they didn't. " They promised that teens would stop getting pregnant-they didn't (the teen birth rate is going up for the first time in a decade). And, they promised that teens would stop getting STDs [sexually transmitted disease] --they didn't (we recently learned from CDC data that 1 in 4 adolescent girls has an STD."

Furthermore, many abstinence only programs are both homophobic and anti-women.

What is needed are comprehensive sexual education programs for all school ages, programs the McCain campaign ridiculously sought to portray as teaching the rudiments of intimate sexuality to kindergarteners before teaching them how to read. What comprehensive sex ed does mean, as DiNorcia puts it, is to "truly educate our children about their sexuality, teach them relationship and communication skills, or particularly for young women, help them address self-confidence and self-esteem which are vital to making good decisions."

LGBT RIGHTS

The win on Proposition 8 in California abolished the right of same sex marriages which had been granted by the State Supreme Court. Prior to the victory, born again convicted Watergate felon Chuck Colson told the New York Times "This vote on whether we stop the gay-marriage juggernaut in California is Armageddon." And Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said, "We will not survive [as a nation] if we lose the institution of marriage."

According to the L.A. Times, proponents of the ban on same-sex marriage used scare tactics putting out propaganda asserting that if it did not pass, public school children would be indoctrinated into accepting gay or lesbian families as normal, which, of course, they are. They lied and said that churches would be sanctioned for not performing same-sex weddings and that the institution of marriage would be irreparably harmed. Come on, it's the 21st century, get used to it.

The defeat of Proposition 8 probably would not have happened had it not been for the Support of the Mormon Church, the conservative Catholic group Knights of Columbus, and the mother of Eric Prince, founder of the mercenary firm, Blackwater.

But far and away the biggest supporter is a recluse man named Howard F. Ahmanson who donated $800 thousand to the Prop 8 cause. Ahmanson's billionaire father, founder of the recently defunct Washington Mutual bank, never gave him any attention so he later was eager to be taken under the wing of R.J. Rushdoony, the extreme Christian dominionist who taught thousands to believe that America should be a complete theocracy and that all 613 laws in the book of Leviticus should prevail. That would mean that those eligible for execution, usually by stoning, would be disobedient children, unchaste women, those who renounce their faith, blasphemers, practitioners of witchcraft, astrologers, adulterers, and homosexuals. No wonder Ahmanson bankrolled the initiative that took away equal rights for LGBT couples.

"Government did not create marriage, and neither politicians nor legislators have the right to redefine its basic meaning," said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage. For him, it's not a matter of civil law; it's a matter of biblical law, a position in stark opposition to the Constitutional separation of church and state. How do these people get away with their repeated unconstitutional behavior? Well, the man who still inhabits 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has had huge role in allowing these law breakers to remain on the loose, just as he, a war criminal, has remained on the loose..

Thousands hit the streets in protest in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities and towns

Amendments banning same-sex marriage were also passed in Arkansas, Arizona, and Florida. Even though people voted for Obama in those states, many of the same voters, including Blacks by 2 to 1, supported bans on same-sex marriage, largely due to their conservative religious views.

Supporters of LGBT rights claimed to see bright lights in the fact that Obama's mentioning gays in his acceptance speech and in his statement to NBC's Brian Williams when speaking of Supreme Court nominees.

"And so my criteria (sic), for example, would be -- if a justice tells me that they only believe the strict letter of the Constitution -- that means that they possibly don't mean -- believe in -- a right to privacy that may not be perfectly enumerated in the Constitution but, you know, that I think is there.

"I mean, the -- the right to marry who you please isn't in the Constitution. But I think all of us assume that if a state decided to pass a law saying, 'Brian, you can't marry the woman you love,' that you'd think that was unconstitutional. Well, where does that come from? I think it comes from a right to privacy -- that may not be listed in the Constitution but is implied by the structure of the Constitution."

Many others have seen light in the fact that the Democrats increased their lead in both houses of Congress. We don't want to rain on what little parade the LGBT community has because we support them, but if the impotent Democrats of the current Congress are any indication, that is a hugely misplaced expectation.

Our warning would be, don't let the light blind you to the political realities of this capitalist/imperialist nation.