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Tour De Life: After the battle
Section One
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Tour De Life: After the battle

by Beau Burriola - SGN European Correspondent

'It's time we return to more civil discourse in this country.'
-Larry Stickney, Reject 71 Campaign Manager (not even trying to be ironic)

Seriously, did Larry Stickney, manager for the campaign to rip rights away from Washington's Gay families, really just recommend that now, after the destruction his campaign wrought, we should return to a more civil discourse? Where was the civil discourse when his campaign was spreading lies and paranoia?

The day after Election Day is always exhausting. You feel like your emotions can't take anymore. This is especially true when the ballot topic is as emotional as Referendum 71, only the latest in a string of ridiculous and unprecedented referendums around the country where Gay people have to prove to non-Gay people that we are worthy of being treated equally, but only if they approve. With emasculated judiciaries unwilling or unable to stand up for the rights of Gay folks, the battle now rages all over the country, becoming increasingly bitter and angry.

With each one of these referendums, the tone and tenor of the conversation has reached a new low, the kind that is only reserved for the worst and most practiced of enemies. Reading through forums on the Seattle Times, you'd think that any regard for human dignity were completely obliterated by the anonymity that internet posting provides. People can be really awful when they don't have to show their name. They become emboldened to be even more horrible the next time.

Since California's infamous Prop 8, both sides of the equality debate now have developed playbooks and talking points, battle plans and foot soldier manuals for how to really bring the fight. We are all steadily becoming professionals in the art of this war. And the first casualty in this war is human dignity.

"If it doesn't come through tonight, then we're ready to start another fight."
-Ken Hutcherson, Antioch Bible Church on Election Night

While the battle for Washington families won a narrow victory, the defeat in Maine is a stinging setback. We were reminded that people like Ken Hutcherson, who continue to use their pulpits to divide and belittle, will continue to try to convince others of their divine superiority. We're reminded that even when we think that most of our neighbors would agree we should be treated equally, there are so many who don't. We are reminded just how unfair that is.

For most of us in the coming months, the debate will undoubtedly die down a little bit, only to flare up again when the next battle over a referendum or proposition - here or elsewhere - takes place. The same arguments will be regurgitated, and the same old soul-sucking tactics on both sides will again bring out the worst in us. And we'll all be better at the fight.

Maybe one day, when the war for equality is all over, decades down the road, we can try to forget how awful the fight was, how bruising and hurtful, and how wrong it was to ever have had to convince other people we were worthy enough. Maybe then we can return to "civil discourse" with those on the other side. Maybe then we can all forgive a little.

But until then, it's more likely that we'll all grow more angry, bitter and hardened. At the cost of our collective dignity, we're still going to slog through the next exhausting fight because we're all convinced we have no other choice.

"All across the state, they want us - they want their neighbors, they want their friends, they want their co-workers - to be treated equally under the law, and that is what these numbers tonight reflect."
- Anne Levinson, chair of the Approve 71 Campaign

Beau Burriola is a writer and student in Brussels. http://www.beaubrent.com

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REFERENDUM 71 APPROVED: Washingtonians vote to keep equality a state value
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NY Senate will vote on gay marriage before end of year
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Prop 8 repeal petitions hit the streets next week
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D.C. marriage bill draws eyes across the region
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