The company they keep

Guess who the Salvation Army chose to give a speech at their 2012 annual luncheon? Dinesh D’Souza, a homophobic conservative commentator who blames American liberals for causing the 9/11 attacks by angering Islamic terrorists.

For the 2012 annual luncheon Salvation Army leadership tapped renowned New York Times best-selling author and filmmaker (2016: Obama’s America) Dinesh D’Souza as guest speaker. He rewarded the audience of more than 500 with a talk on the influences that Christianity has had on religions and people worldwide. His talk at the Hilton Americas-Houston received a standing ovation.

Chaired by Penny and John Butler, the luncheon, hosted by the Salvation Army Advisory Board, honored Rob Mosbacher. Proceeds from the fundraiser topped $425,000, all for Salvation Army coffers.

In his 2007 book, The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, D’Souza wrote:

I am saying that the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world. The Muslims who carried out the 9/11 attacks were the product of this visceral rage—some of it based on legitimate concerns, some of it based on wrongful prejudice—but all of it fueled and encouraged by the cultural left. Thus without the cultural left, 9/11 would not have happened.

In his book The Crisis of Islam, Bernard Lewis rehearses what he calls the “standard litany of American offenses recited in the lands of Islam” and ends with this one: “Yet the most powerful accusation of all is the degeneracy and debauchery of the American way of life.” As these observations suggest, what angers religious Muslims is not the American Constitution but the scandalous sexual mores they see on American movies and television. What disgusts them are not free elections but the sights of hundreds of homosexuals kissing each other and taking marriage vows. The person that horrifies them the most is not John Locke but Hillary Clinton. …

Thus we have the first way in which the cultural left is responsible for 9/11. The left has produced a moral shift in American society that has resulted in a deluge of gross depravity and immorality.

The homophobia in D’Souza’s book is not an isolated occurrence:

- As editor of the conservative Dartmouth Review, he outed the officers of Dartmouth’s Gay-Straight Alliance. He then accused the GSA of using the university’s money for “gay parties, gay orgies, or whatever.”

- In 2003, he offered his opinion of gay men and lesbians:

Journalist Andrew Sullivan argues that it is social ostracism that encourages the reckless promiscuity and socially destructive behavior of male homosexuals. If gays are allowed to marry like everyone else, Sullivan is confident that this outrageous element of gay culture would diminish. Sullivan’s argument can be condensed to the slogan, “Marriage civilizes men.” But Sullivan is wrong. Marriage doesn’t civilize men, women do. This point is even evident in the gay community: it helps to explain why lesbians are generally much better than male homosexuals in sustaining long-term relationships.

- And in 2008, he had this to say about same-sex marriage:

Yet if it’s discriminatory to gays to require that marriage be between a man and a woman, why isn’t it discriminatory to Mormons and Muslims to require that it remain between two people? Isn’t incestuous marriage also between “consenting adults” who have a right to equal protection of the laws? And why doesn’t the Fourteenth Amendment protect the fellow who wants to walk down the aisle with his poodle on the grounds that “I love my dog and my dog loves me”?

This is the man the Salvation Army selected to speak at their $425,000+ fundraiser. They saw no problem choosing someone who would blame our own country’s values of equality and civil rights for provoking Islamic extremists into launching the most deadly terrorist attack in our history. They chose someone who considers gay people “socially destructive” and compares our commitments to poodle marriage. He’s their man.

If the Salvation Army wants to counter their public perception as a homophobic organization, this isn’t helping.

Don’t give to the anti-gay Salvation Army

This holiday season, you may see bell-ringers from the Salvation Army soliciting donations outside of storefronts. You should be aware that the Salvation Army is actually a Christian church, and its charitable functions are administered by this church. While there are plenty of religious groups that provide social services to those in need, the Salvation Army’s beliefs and activities are not so innocuous.

In their position statements, the Salvation Army describes marriage as “one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”. Their statement on homosexuality says:

Scripture opposes homosexual practices by direct comment and also by clearly implied disapproval. The Bible treats such practices as self-evidently abnormal. … Attempts to establish or promote such relationships as viable alternatives to heterosexually-based family life do not conform to God’s will for society.

They go on to declare that sexually active gay people are ineligible for the Salvation Army, and call for “a lifestyle built upon celibacy and self-restraint”.

These aren’t just internal matters of church policy, either. The Salvation Army has involved itself in the political arena as well.

- In 1986, the Salvation Army of New Zealand assisted in a petition drive against a law to repeal the country’s ban on homosexuality.

- In 1998, the Salvation Army withdrew from $3.5 million in contracts with San Francisco because of the city’s requirement for contractors to extend benefits to the same-sex partners of employees. As a result, shelters, food services, and drug rehab programs in the city all suffered cutbacks.

- In 2000, the Salvation Army of Scotland spoke out against the proposed repeal of Section 28, which prohibited any discussion in schools of the “acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

- In 2001, the Salvation Army extended benefits to the same-sex partners of its employees, only to reverse this policy after outcry from the Christian right.

- Also in 2001, the Washington Post reported that the Salvation Army had been in discussions with the Bush administration, which had committed to issuing a regulation exempting the Salvation Army from any state or local laws that prohibited employment discrimination based on sexuality. The administration refused to issue such a regulation after their dealings were publicly exposed.

- In 2004, the Salvation Army in New York City once again threatened to close all of its services in the city due to a law requiring contractors to provide equal benefits to same-sex partners.

- And in 2012, a media relations director with the Salvation Army of Australia stated on a radio show that it was part of their “belief system” and “Christian doctrine” that gay people should die.

When we give our money to the Salvation Army, we’re helping to support a church that believes gay people are less than equal, that they should be subject to open discrimination, and that their relationships are inferior in the eyes of God. And this church has been working to ensure that their personal religious beliefs are reflected in the law. That’s the ugly truth behind the change we drop in their red kettles.

While the Salvation Army does plenty of good things to help communities in need, so do many other charities – charities which focus on providing these essential services with no religiously-based prejudice against minorities. Organizations like Goodwill, Toys for Tots, the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and Feeding America can do everything the Salvation Army does. The difference is that they’ll do it without taking a piece of your donations to fund a politically active anti-gay church.

Sure, it might be easy to drop some money in a bucket. But it should be just as easy to do the right thing. We all want to help those in need, and we can do it without compromising our values of fairness and equality. This season, let’s help out those charities that are willing to respect everyone just the same.

The Christian’s Thanksgiving mistake

John MacArthur of the Washington Times has a real stumper for all of us atheists: if there is no God, then why do we feel gratitude?

Ingratitude is dishonorable by anyone’s reckoning, but to be willfully ungrateful toward the Creator is to deny an essential aspect of our own humanity. The shame of such ingratitude is inscribed on the human conscience, and even the most dogmatic atheists are not immune from the knowledge that they ought to give thanks to God. Try as they might to suppress or deny the impulse, “what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them,” according to Romans 1:19.

Indeed. How can we possibly account for the urge to be thankful, without recognizing the crucial role of this specific deity of this specific faith with this specific mythology? Because, of course, the fact that people feel gratitude has everything to do with the story of the Christian God, its creation of the world and its interactions with humans, as relayed by one particular religious text which is completely reliable. People feel stuff, and that means God. How could this ever be explained otherwise?

MacArthur continues:

One atheist has practically made a hobby of writing articles to explain why atheists feel the need to be thankful and to answer the question of whom they might thank. His best answer? He says atheists can be grateful to farmers for the food we eat, to doctors for the health we enjoy, to engineers for the advantages of modern technology, to city workers for keeping our environment clean and orderly — and so on.

Here’s the problem with that: Tipping the waitress or tipping one’s hat to sanitation workers doesn’t even come close to resolving the problem of whom Mr. Dawkins should thank when he looks at the stars, stands at the edge of the Grand Canyon, or studies the world of countless wonders his microscope reveals in a single drop of pond water.

Clearly, whether something is spiritually satisfying is unambiguous evidence of the truth of a particular religious claim. Atheism must be invalid if it can’t explain people’s feelings of awe and undirected thankfulness, because this is obviously a problem of theology and metaphysics – not one of human psychology. I’m surprised MacArthur didn’t get into more of the weak points of atheism, such as its failure to provide emotionally fulfilling answers to human wonder at childbirth, dogs, fire, and magnets. Such feelings must point to a God, because it says so in the Bible. And we know the Bible is true, because there’s obviously a God as indicated by Richard Dawkins’ feelings about canyons and Shaggy 2 Dope’s awe at rainbows.

Check and mate.

Being an “abomination” is pretty great

For the past few years, I’ve had the chance to hear all sorts of amusing remarks from people who seemingly have nothing better to do than work themselves into a froth over the fact that trans people exist. Even though I’ve only identified as trans for a much shorter time, these people don’t really care to recognize distinctions like that. It certainly hasn’t stopped them from telling me I’m a “freak”, or an “abomination”, or that I’ll “never be a real woman”. Misguided and irrelevant as these claims may be, it’s still worth charting out what’s going on here.

Unfortunately, there’s a reason why people often choose this particular route of attack. Some of us do feel insecure and dissatisfied about the fact that we had to become our gender rather than having it handed to us as a biological default, and about being seen by many as lesser than both men and women. We try to make the best of our situation, and we want nothing more than to go about our lives without trouble, but we’re denied that when people focus on this one aspect of who we are to deem us “freakish”.

Consider what it means to be seen as somehow being monstrous, or an abomination. What sort of things come to mind? Artificial, constructed, mangled, lacking in internal consistency, shattered and repaired, incomplete, inauthentic, and unnatural. Contrast this with being seen as organically grown, an unbroken whole, the real thing, seamless and without defect. This maps almost perfectly onto how trans people and cis people are commonly viewed.

Keep in mind how both religious fundamentalists and random internet busybodies often claim that trans people are “in conflict” with nature or “denying nature”. Of course, “natural” and “unnatural” are never pinned down to concrete criteria, because there aren’t any. But here, these words are used to describe some of the most obvious differences between the histories of cis people and trans people.

You can’t really avoid noticing how being cis is prized by nearly everyone, trans or cis, bigoted or accepting. Why? Because it means having a body into which your gender will always fit, one with all of its masculinization or feminization generated internally without supplement or assistance, and one which will always reflect who you are and allow you to be seen, unquestionably, as yourself. It’s just easier.

On the other hand, being trans means becoming who we are through a patchwork process of intentional interventions. Our lives, our identities, and our very bodies have boundaries where the past and the future did not line up. Socially, physically and legally, we don’t have the option of a single unbroken gender that’s consistent over our lifetime. We have no choice but to be something that people will often regard as monstrous.

Ultimately, this can mean being exiled to a kind of gender demilitarized zone. I’ve abandoned life as a cis man, and yet I’ll never be a cis woman. My life is never going to be as seamless and organic as that of others. And when you’re disappointed with your own body for falling short of that idealized cis standard, it’s easy to feel like it’s a disappointment to those around us as well, almost like it’s something we need to apologize for. While I can hardly begrudge other trans people for feeling that way, it really is monstrous for people to home in on that sore spot and jab at it for all it’s worth, using what’s often a source of deep and enduring hurt as a weapon against us.

Maybe there’s more to it, though. People who either don’t know or don’t care about the scientific consensus have often claimed that our bodies are normal and healthy, so being trans isn’t something that should be treated physically. But what if we could be more than just normal? Why should we settle for what’s supposed to be good enough, when we have the option to become something even better? Others may see this as choosing to reject what’s “normal”, and in doing so, relegating ourselves to being abnormal. But I don’t see this as a choice between normal and abnormal. I see it as a choice between average, and awesome.

Over the past two months, HRT has improved me in ways that I didn’t even know needed improvement. My skin isn’t rough anymore, and it’s better than it’s been in years. My libido is under my control now, instead of controlling me and intruding into my awareness when it’s not needed. My chest is visibly growing more and more every day – they actually stick out, where there used to be nothing but flat skin. And instead of either feeling totally numb or abruptly bursting into tears, I have a whole repertoire of emotions available to me now. I can be calm and content, I can cry without it overwhelming me, I can be happy and sad at once without any contradiction, and I never run out of emotions to the point of numbness anymore. These aren’t mood swings – they’re mood symphonies. This is all unbelievably cool, and I wouldn’t have known what I was missing without experiencing it firsthand. Some people might look at my patchwork self of hormone pills and mix-and-match anatomy, and call it monstrous, freakish, an abomination. You know what I call this?

Upgrades.

Since the dawn of humanity, there have been certain features of our existence that were considered fundamental, unchangeable, and definitive of what it means to be human. For almost all of history, it was an unavoidable fact that those who were born a certain sex would remain that sex. Sure, living as another gender had sometimes been feasible in a social sense. But bodily? That was simply impossible – until it wasn’t. Now, that assumption has been pulled out from under us, and some people aren’t happy about that. They want us to go away. They want to be able to go on assuming that every woman they see is a cis woman, regardless of what the reality may be. They want us to deny ourselves this life-affirming treatment for the sake of some empty platitudes about “nature”.

Similar reactions have been seen in the case of hormonal birth control. Fertile cis women simply had to deal with the possibility of pregnancy resulting from unprotected coitus – until they didn’t have to anymore. Fertility is no longer mandatory. It’s optional, and it doesn’t have to be a part of our lives unless we want it to be. Many people don’t like this, either. They think it’s interfering with how the human body is “supposed” to work, by taking control of something that we have no “right” to change. But with these developments, the reality of what it means to be human has shifted. However loudly some people may object, the fact is that these new possibilities are just as much a part of life as inevitable fertility and unchangeable sex once were.

Even just a few hundred years ago, this would have been unimaginable. Now, I have the ability to choose this for myself, for no reason other than that this is what I want out of my life. I once called this “a taste of apotheosis”, and that’s exactly what it is. We stand at the frontier of transhumanism, where what was once dismissed as mere futuristic fantasy is now realized in the present via technology. I saw myself growing up into a man, and I did what I had to do to wrench my destiny away from the blind whims of biology. Some people might call this “defying nature”. But that’s not a problem – it’s exactly the point. That option was there for me when I needed it, and I’m not letting it pass by. If they really think that’s an abomination, then I’ll be their abomination. I’ll be their monster. And I’ll know that it was worth it.

A surprisingly positive experience

There are many of us who have learned, through a variety of difficult experiences, that interaction with the police is generally something to be avoided if at all possible. That’s typically been my approach to our local law enforcement, especially now that I’m transitioning. It’s no surprise that officers, as a microcosm of larger society, sometimes tend to have problems with respecting minority groups. 22% of trans people have reported experiencing anti-trans harassment by police, and the rate is even higher for trans people of color. Police in major cities routinely arrest trans women for carrying condoms under the assumption that they must be sex workers – because clearly this is the only reason why we would have condoms. It’s a bleak and challenging situation.

"Mr."So I wasn’t exactly looking forward to walking into our local sheriff’s office, as “Mr.” Lastname, to be fingerprinted and receive a background check as the first steps toward getting a legal name change.

My expectations, fortunately, were wrong. Everyone was unfailingly polite throughout the entire process. Only Heather, my cis girlfriend who had come with me, was “sirred” by the receptionist, before she immediately corrected herself. And even after she saw my still-male ID and current legal name, there were no pronoun slip-ups at all. She seemed to understand what was going on. The records staff were equally friendly as they ran my identification to check how many times I had been arrested (none, actually), and then sent me for fingerprinting.

Taking fingerprints is a surprisingly lengthy process here, even though they’ve digitized it all and it no longer requires ink. The elderly woman who took my prints marked me as female in the system, even after taking down my name, and I had to remind her – despite how deeply I’d appreciate seeing that F next to my name on state documents – that I was still considered legally male. She even offered to mark it as “X – Unknown Gender”, which was surprisingly one of the options.

Stereotypical as it is, we chatted about nail polish and lip stain; she mentioned a brand that lasts all day – “like cement” – and can only be taken off with a special cream. As she did the individual prints, she asked what I would be changing my name to. And she thought it was a pretty name. Before I had to go back to the records room, she asked if my family was supportive – they are, all of them – and wished me good luck.

I can honestly say that I’ve never had such a peaceful, uneventful, trouble-free encounter with the police. I was really impressed with their professionalism throughout the entire day. I don’t usually expect that the average person will know very much about trans people, but I definitely wasn’t expecting that much understanding and sensitivity at a Florida police station.

I’m just hoping that the rest of the process will be as easy as this was. The next step is filing the official papers, which costs several hundred dollars here, and then eventually going before a judge to finalize it. I really appreciate the support that everyone has provided throughout all this, and I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.


This is what a Catholic country looks like

A nightmarish ethical dystopia that succeeded in slowly and painfully killing an innocent woman for the sake of nothing.

Savita Halappanavar, 17 weeks pregnant, was miscarrying. There was no chance that the fetus would survive. In excruciating pain, Savita asked for an abortion. The hospital, University Hospital Galway in Ireland, refused. Why? There was still a fetal heartbeat, and as Savita and her husband were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

They forced Savita to wait, “in agony”, for another two days until the fetus died. By that time, she had to be taken into intensive care, and died a few days later of septicemia and E. coli infection.

Where Sister Margaret McBride made the choice to ignore the rules of her church and order a life-saving abortion at a Catholic hospital for a woman who was otherwise going to die, the doctors at Galway evidently could not bring themselves to do the same.

The fetus was certain to die. At that point, the staff’s only concern should have been ensuring Savita’s well-being. There was no justifiable reason whatsoever to allow an already doomed fetus to survive a couple more days while its presence made her so ill that she required intensive care.

Yet they were willing to stand by, watch her condition deteriorate, and do nothing, for the sake of a fetus that was not going to survive anyway.

This should have been the simplest moral decision in the world. Even if they consider the fetus a “life”, or a “person”, that life was already going to be lost. So, should one person die, or should two people die? Any one of us could have made the right choice here. But Savita’s life was in their hands, and she died because of their perverted ethics.

She died because of a faith that values adherence to a rule over saving a life, a religion that thinks its laws are more important than whether she lived or died.

And they would have been willing to put any one of us in the same situation as Savita. That should scare us. Catholic hospitals should scare us. Catholic countries should scare us. Here, they’ve shown that their beliefs are more than just an empty expression of piety. They’re willing to put our lives on the line for their church. Are you okay with that?

Further confirmation that Mark Regnerus is an asshole

Researcher Mark Regnerus didn’t just misrepresent his flawed study as being about same-sex parents when barely any same-sex couples were present in his sample. He also holds some particularly ugly opinions about same-sex parents themselves. Addressing another study that actually focused on lesbian parents, he said:

And yet all this is not actually why I think it’s time for the NLLFS to shutter its operation. No, the reason is that its sample — 78 kids growing up in activist households — is no longer a source for valid, reliable information.

Did you catch that? “Activist households.” He continues:

In this case, I’m concerned that the kids feel pressure to give better-than-accurate portrayals of their household and personal life. When the adolescent children of lesbian parents are being intermittently interviewed for a study whose results have proven quite politically important — and almost always covered favorably by the mainstream media — it’s prudent for scholars to be skeptical about whether respondents are still offering valid and reliable responses years after they were first contacted.

Take note of the dichotomy he’s set up here. He contends that his own study is superior because of its use of a nationally representative sample. This is in spite of the fact that:

1. His study defined “gay fathers” and “lesbian mothers” as any father or mother who had ever had a same-sex relationship, rather than restricting this to same-sex couples who were actually raising children together.

2. As a result, it included almost no children raised by same-sex parents in the long term, a shortcoming Regnerus himself admits before dismissing it as insurmountable.

3. He also packed these groups of so-called gay parents with as many children of step-parents, divorced parents, adoptive parents and single parents as possible – as he says, he “forced their mutual exclusivity” by removing children of gay-parents-who-may-not-really-be-gay-parents from the aforementioned groups and lumping them all together - and then compared them to “intact biological families”. This put the “gay parents” groups at an inherent disadvantage.

And yet he now claims that the results of a study that specifically focuses on lesbian mothers raising children in the long term cannot be trusted. Why? Apparently because these mothers are activists.

What evidence does he have of this? He describes the study as follows:

The NLLFS employs a convenience sample, recruited entirely from announcements posted “at lesbian events, in women’s bookstores, and in lesbian newspapers” in Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

Whatever shortcomings there may be in such a sample, this does not warrant concluding that lesbian couples – who, shockingly, sometimes take an interest in events and publications that are relevant to their lives! – can therefore be assumed to be “activists”. Regnerus ascribes some sinister motive to these lesbian-headed families being studied, for no reason other than the fact that they are lesbian-headed families being studied.

But being in a lesbian relationship and seeking to raise a family does not inherently make someone an “activist”. Starting a family is not some kind of covert gay-agenda “activism”, any more than it’s “activist” for straight couples to do the same.  Reducing our families to little more than a political ploy is nothing but naked and inexcusable prejudice. Never did Regnerus express similar doubts about the responses to his own study. Not once did he consider that the children of opposite-sex and same-sex parents would be influenced to distort their answers to his own study about a hot-button topic like same-sex parenting. Why? Because his study allegedly reflected poorly on gay parents, a conclusion which is somehow above any doubt, while this one reflected positively on us, which means it must be faulty because that just isn’t possible.

Not fair? NOT FAIR?

Thomas Peters, cultural director of the National Organization for Marriage and self-styled “American Papist”, recently whined a bit about the latest victories for marriage equality:

And that’s all we’re looking for is an even fight, and every place where it’s been an even fight, where we’ve had as many resources, as much chance to get our message out, people have protected marriage every time. I don’t think we could say that any of these four fights were a fair one.

Well, let’s talk a little bit about what’s fair. Does it sound fair for a nation full of devout, conservative Christians to use their homophobic faith as grounds to strip secular, civil equal rights from a 3% minority? Does it seem fair for that anti-gay movement to do this, repeatedly and successfully over the course of decades, while almost no one else is willing to fight back for this minority’s rights? Does that track record look like one of a movement that was lacking in resources, or opportunities to get their message out? Is this a movement that’s been deprived of a fair shot at achieving their political goals? Please.

And do you really think it’s at all likely that NOM would find this an acceptable and plausible excuse by the proponents of equality for the last 32 times we lost at the ballot box? That the fight was not “fair”, true as that may be? No. They would not accept that at all. They’ve spent the past decade telling us that the people’s vote is the final word on our rights. It didn’t matter how unfair the fight was. It didn’t matter how just our cause was. Without that popular support, we lost. Period. This was something they harped on endlessly – that we could never get the public on the side of marriage equality, and we just had to accept our losses and get over it.

Yet they would now claim that the formerly all-important people’s vote no longer matters. Now, they aren’t quite so willing to uphold referenda as the last word on gay rights. Where we were supposed to take our hits, getting over it is just about the last thing on their minds. Coincidentally, their stance just happened to change when they lost four times in one night. Why? The difference is that while we knew we would have to get the public on our side for this to happen, they seem to have become comfortable with the assumption that they’re simply entitled to public support for their legal homophobia. And when that ceased to be reflected in the popular vote, they suddenly cry that the game they’ve been playing without complaint for years must now be rigged – because, as they see it, they’re never supposed to lose.

But who on earth could look at results that now stand at 32 to 4, and seriously argue that this fight was unfair to the ones who had their way 32 times? Only the blindly self-righteous egotists of the religious right.

A civil rights slaughter, stopped in its tracks

Fluttershy: "Yay."It’s over. Finally.

Now that the first sitting president to endorse marriage equality has been re-elected, after a campaign that was unbearably tense and exhausting, we can relax and stop spending all day worrying about how every little development will affect his chances of victory. It’s done. We did it.

And that’s not all. In Florida, we managed to defeat Amendments 1 (which would have prevented any penalties against individuals or businesses that refuse to comply with a health care mandate), 6 (which would have barred public funds from being used for abortion services) and 8 (which would have repealed the ban on giving public funding to religions). We also retained three Supreme Court justices who had come under attack by the Republican Party and Americans for Prosperity for being too “liberal”.

Elsewhere, Tammy Baldwin became the nation’s first openly gay senator. Elizabeth Warren defeated Scott Brown, following his ridiculous claims that he could determine her Native American heritage or lack thereof by sight. Todd Akin, who said that women’s bodies would somehow prevent pregnancy in the case of “legitimate rape”, lost to Claire McCaskill – after alleging that her campaign was “trying to make me look like some kind of a weirdo or something” and “thinks you should vote based on what people say” (nah, really?). Richard Mourdock, who considered pregnancy from rape a “gift from God”, was also defeated. And Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins survived efforts by anti-gay groups to oust him following his ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in 2009. This is especially notable because three of the other justices had previously been removed by a similar campaign.

But the other really big story of the night? Marriage equality measures in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

State-level gay marriage bans have a long, ugly, depressing history. Until now, the result was completely predictable whenever it was put to a popular vote: we lost. 30 to 0. Then 31 to 0. Then 32 to 0. It had become a crushing regularity for us, and our opponents knew it. This became their talking point: “every time same-sex marriage is on the ballot, the people vote against it.” And it hurt because of how true it was. It wasn’t entirely unexpected when North Carolina and Maine were the most recent states to vote against equality. But when California passed Proposition 8, that really stunned us. If even the people of California wouldn’t vote in favor of gay marriage, then who would?

Quite honestly, it was looking pretty hopeless. State marriage measures had become something many of us dreaded, because we just knew in the back of our heads that we were almost certainly going to lose, no matter how hard we fought. There was always the quiet dread as we watched the poll numbers, initially in our favor, plummet in the days before the vote when anti-gay groups packed the airwaves with ads claiming we were going to teach children how to be gay. And then there was nothing to do but wait for the inevitable blow to land. I stopped getting my hopes up, and so did many others. It was too painful to be that emotionally invested.

We knew that public opinion was trending upward for us, and that the day had to come when this would be reflected in the popular vote, and we would be the victorious ones at the polls. As I said in 2009 after Maine voted to repeal marriage equality:

The margins are narrowing, and the support for gay marriage is still growing. There was a time when it was unthinkable that 47% of any state would stand up for gay marriage. We’ve come this far.

I knew that day would come, but I didn’t quite believe it – I couldn’t let myself. I’m still not sure I believe it.

But yesterday was that day.

In Maine, LGBT rights groups succeeded in placing a same-sex marriage referendum on the ballot. This time, we were the ones on the offense, taking the initiative to seize our equal rights. And in a state which only 3 years earlier had voted against our equality 53-47, we won – 53% to 47%. Marriage equality is the law of the land in Maine by the people’s vote.

In Maryland, a statute legalizing gay marriage was put on hold after anti-gay groups petitioned to put it to a referendum. And last night, we won, 52-48. Marriage equality is now law in Maryland, by popular vote.

In Minnesota, a constitutional ban on gay marriage was proposed, in addition to the statutory ban already in place. The failure of this amendment wouldn’t mean allowing same-sex marriage – its proponents simply wanted to make it even more difficult to repeal the ban, in what was nothing more than a bitter and spiteful thumbing of their nose to future citizens who would overturn their bigotry. And while same-sex marriage is still not legal in Minnesota, voters rejected this amendment 51% to 48%. Enacting marriage equality will now be that much easier.

And in Washington, a marriage equality law was likewise delayed as our opponents worked to force it onto the ballot. While the final results won’t be in for some time due to mail-in ballots that still need to be counted, it’s currently looking good for equality, and CNN has called it for same-sex marriage.

I really was not expecting this. I figured that, if we won any of these, it would have been in Washington. That alone would have been phenomenal – our first victory at the ballot box. But I had no idea we would win all of them. I didn’t think it was possible. And while I steeled myself for defeat, I completely neglected to prepare for victory. I just don’t know what to think, and the reality of it is still soaking in.

For the first time – ever – they’re the ones who are left reeling the day after. They’re the ones who will have to struggle to explain how they lost. They’re the ones who were rejected by the people. And we’re the ones who can rejoice. Their winning streak is over, and so is our losing streak. Their talking point is dead – marriage equality doesn’t lose at the ballot box every time. They can’t take state-level victories for granted anymore, and we can’t take our defeat for granted either. They told us the only poll that matters is the one on election day. Well, here it is.

Make no mistake, the opponents of LGBT rights gave this their all. They said marriage equality was a step on the road to communism. They said “the future of the family” is at stake and “our religious liberty is in jeopardy”. They said “this issue will destroy and undermine the church”, and marriage would “disintegrate”. AND THEY LOST.

The Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, and NOM donated millions of dollars to the campaigns against equality. A reverend described homosexuality as “worthy of death” at an official Maryland Marriage Alliance event. A Catholic archbishop went so far as to tell the mother of a gay son that her “eternal salvation” depends on believing homosexuality is a sin. AND THEY LOST.

A former Maine bishop said that Catholics “cannot justify a vote for a candidate or referendum question that opposes the teachings of the Church”. A Maine representative used his own gay brother’s death as an opportunity to claim that “we have no right to redefine marriage”. Minnesota students posted dozens of pictures of themselves citing the exclusively religious reasons for why they voted against our equality. AND THEY LOST.

Their ads featured a man who considers homosexuality a disease,  compared families with gay parents to gangs, claimed schools are teaching children “how to sodomize”, and said “the heart of transgenderism is a lie”. AND THEY LOST. They compared gay rights activists to Hitler. AND THEY LOST. They called homosexuality “highly promiscuous”, “centered around anonymous sexual encounters”, “largely predatory”, and that “many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse”. And they lost.

They lost. Homophobia lost. Racism lost. Sexism lost. Ignorance lost. Bigotry lost.

We won. And so did our country.

Come see our live election night coverage at 9 PM Eastern!

Just like pretty much everyone else, Heather and I have a lot of nervous tension to burn off about this whole election thing, so we’ll be holding a special live show on BlogTV at 9 PM Eastern time tonight, covering the presidential race and other important races and measures on the ballot this year. If you have any suggestions for particular races and proposals we should cover, feel free to recommend them in the comments or during the show. We’ll keep it going until we’re too tired to continue. See you there!

Update: We’re going to bed. Elizabeth Warren won, Florida Amendments 1, 6 and 8 were rejected, and Virginia Question 1 was approved. We are happy about all of this. Let’s hope marriage does well in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. See you tomorrow!