The Power is in the Vote

By Michael Grantham

This year, several districts across the nation will decide what kind of leadership they'll be sending to Washington, DC. As you read this paper, an extremist faction of the religious right is busy mobilizing thousands of voters to take advantage of a predicted low voter turn out.

One at a time, their votes will continue building a hostile political landscape set on dividing and deconstructing the power bases and rights of religious, ethnic, and sexual minority groups well into the next century.

Not one supporter of this agenda thinks their vote doesn't matter, and that simple resolve has the collective gravity to pull America into a black hole of ill politics. Unfortunately, all we have to do to let this happen is nothing at all, and that's exactly what they're counting on.

Having real-life experiences with issues such as employment discrimination, hate crimes, and the inaccessibility of civic marriage, gays and lesbians are asking how they can help make their lives better. Every year at Pride events across the country, organizations are joined by a handful of the millions of participants to do just that.

Membership organizations offer several activities that take both time and money to help navigate these civil rights issues through state and national houses of congress. Some organizations, however, fail to engage otherwise active gays and lesbians because of complicated or politically heavy messages that simply do not resonate over the day's festive atmosphere.

By simply encouraging gays and lesbians to vote, a majority of our agenda can be accomplished in as little as two to three days out of an election cycle. The free and simple act of voting makes any political group's demand for time and money less of a need when leaders are elected that stand for fairness and equality.

Voting is the most elegant defense against the mobilization of right-wing fanaticism in this county. In fact, such groups only come to power during times of apathy. History tells a grim story of what happens when the general goodwill of people is not an offense against self-serving divisive politics.

Attempts by religious political extremists to hi-jack unalienable rights for a privileged few undermine dignified relations among diverse peoples. The condemnation of difference is a poignant foreshadow for what has historically led to egregious abridgments of freedoms.

Ironically, the spirit of conservatism would dictate the protection of these freedoms for all. Moreover, as true conservatives vote for fairness and equality, they will ally themselves with a coalition of civil rights partners in standing against what amounts to nothing more than political terrorism.

For non-political gays and lesbians, the act of voting is the easiest, most proactive step into community involvement. Invested support of fair-minded agendas in any form makes the agenda one's own. When gays and lesbians exercise the power to vote, they have made a political statement of ownership in the broader principles of fairness and equality for all.

This year will initiate the political climate of a new century for all Americans regardless of who votes. It is important to make sure the sum of that vote stands for all Americans, including gays and lesbians. This Pride season, pledge to do nothing less than exercising the freedom to vote. ---

Michael Grantham is a consultant living in Washington, DC. He can be reached at michael.grantham@hrc.org

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