By Karen Ocamb
L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center CEO Lorri Jean just couldn’t contain herself. She was so excited by the results of the Nov. 6 elections and marriage initiatives, she left the podium and did a little “happy dance” before an appreciative audience of more than 1,000 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel Saturday night, Nov. 10 (captured beautifully by photographer Lydia Marcus).
Interestingly, the Center’s 41st Anniversary Gala honored Olympic soccer gold medalist Megan Rapinoe, who came out last July to much support. She became one of 23 openly LGBT athletes in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, marking yet another step in the slow shift of attitudes in sports, a profession and pastime that still harbors some of the last vestiges of homophobia.
Jean was also probably pretty happy about how much money was raised for services at the Center. With sponsors—including Wells Fargo and State Farm—underwriting the whole affair, the event raised more than $700,000 at a time when the Los Angeles LGBT community is no doubt saving up for the holidays after serving as the primary political ATM for the country.
“What a difference four years make!” Jean said, recalling the simultaneously thrilling and devastating moment in 2008 when Barack Obama made history as the first black President of the United States—and Prop. 8 passed in California. This year, not only was Obama re-elected but after losing 32 marriage ballot initiatives in a row—Maine, Maryland and Washington won the freedom to marry and Minnesota voters decided not to put a marriage equality ban in their constitution.
“I was prepared to lose them all,” Jean said. “But when the results began to come into my cell phone from Maryland and Maine, Gina and I felt like we should be pinching ourselves. The seemingly impossible was happening,” including the election of openly lesbian Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin. “I’ve been waiting for years to say this: a Dyke in the Senate!”
She recalled how, in 1992, thousands of LGBT people flocked to the Castro and danced in the streets because President Clinton simply said the words “gay and lesbian” in his victory speech. Jean said:
We were ecstatic just to be acknowledged. But that’s not nearly good enough today. We expect far more of our elected leaders. And rightfully so. And think how far we have come. On Tuesday, we elected the first president ever who supports full equality for LGBT people, including the freedom to marry. ...
This was not incremental progress. This was an equality landslide. Tuesday’s election was a breath-taking sea-change for us. I believe it is ushering in a new era for our community. Notice has finally been served to anti-LGBT extremists in this country that they can no longer count on being able to use our lives, our rights, our dignity as human beings as a wedge issue.
In his victory speech, President Obama said: “While each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we will rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.”
Now, that is not unusual rhetoric for a President-elect’s victory speech from either party. But Tuesday night was the first time in my adult life when I felt like it really did include me. ...
Tuesday’s election is going to have ramifications we cannot even begin to contemplate today. I sincerely believe that Tuesday was the electoral tipping point In our favor. Now I’m not naïve: I know we will have setbacks in the future. Painful losses here and there. But the momentum is now so clearly on our side. In the long term, there will be no going back because when all is said and done, the remarkable truth about Tuesday’s election is that—for this election, virtually every time they had a chance, most of the American people said ‘No’ to bigotry, ‘No’ to discrimination, ‘No’ to anti-LGBT extremists. And ‘Yes’ to freedom and fairness, ‘Yes’ to equality, ‘Yes’ to our LGBT neighbors, friends and family. We’ve never seen anything like it!
We’ve got a lot to celebrate tonight.”
Asked about the Olympics as a metaphor for the coming together, gold medalist Megan Rapinoe told me her coming out was received “very positively.” She also said:
I think one thing that’s pretty impactful and pretty cool about sports athletes is that fans see this person as an athlete and they get attached to that athlete and they get attached to that personality on the field. I’ve experience that, as well. I think people assumed that I was gay but—you know I think parents are having to talk to their kids about the fact that everybody’s favorite sports athlete was gay or their favorite sports athlete was gay. And when the kids are 12 or 13, they know how to Google—and it’s pretty cool that now these parents that maybe didn’t want to have this conversation are now confronted with the fact or the kids are confronted with the fact.
One of my little cousins had said to a friend’s mom: ‘You know it’s totally OK that your son’s gay. My cousin’s gay and it did not ruin her career.’ And just the simpleness of that—of just such an accepting atmosphere with the kids, it’s good.
Rapinoe said she wasn’t able to vote because she’s in the process of moving and she was out of the country when her absentee ballot was supposed to be in. “But I would have voted for Obama—full stop. His policies and everything but I think just as a person, as a woman, as a gay woman—I would have been committing personal suicide otherwise.”
Olympic soccer gold medalist Megan Rapinoe and her best friend Lori Lindsey—Photo by Karen Ocamb
Interesting, L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz says that the anti-gay, anti-Choice candidate who lost his race against Rep. Adam Schiff is now running against him in the March primary. Schiff, who said the Democratic Convention was a “tipping point,” thought the Nov. 6 election was “fantastic.”
“I think Lorri said it exactly right,” Schiff said. “This is a political electoral tipping point. I’m just thrilled with what’s taken place. Tammy’s going to be a fabulous senator. And I was talking to Mark Takano after the election and what is so amazing to me is—not only did he win—but he crushed his opponent in Riverside! That is extraordinary. And I just couldn’t be more delighted. I think it’s just fantastic.”
Noting that Republican Mary Bono Mack had conceded her race and Dan Lungren and Brian Bilbray are expected to concede defeat soon, Shiff said: “It was pretty much a sweep of almost all the competitive races. There were a couple on the Central Valley that got away from us. But otherwise, California did its part.”
Openly gay Assembly Speaker John A. Perez was also pleased by the election results, especially how the boots on the ground from labor and other volunteers helped defeat the millions of dollars of outside money seeking to defeat Gov. Brown's Prop. 30 and pass the anti-labor Prop. 32.
Rep. Adam Schiff, Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz—Photo by Karen Ocamb
"I think Karl Rove and his friends should have second thoughts about this strategy just as this year makes them have second thoughts on their homophobic campaigns that were so effective in 2004 but the people have learned and have embraced us and have sent a very strong message that those kind of divisive politics—whether they’re aimed at labor, whether their aimed at immigrants or their aimed at the LGBT community—are no longer going to stand."