Every gay person's going to have their moment of dealing with the success (or failure to reject) Proposition 8, Califonia's ballot initiative to take away marriage rights. As I write, the "yes" vote is narrowly ahead, though the places left to report, from what I can tell, are in Southern California spots like Palm Springs, which may yet provide some surprises.
Still, it's disheartening to see, again - and over and over - that people will deny others basic rights.
In exit polling, what's become clear is that, as much as anything, the margin of victory for Prop 8 will come from... African Americans. Their support, 69-31, outstrips the opposition of whites, Asians, and the fairly even split among Latino voters.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose blog over at The Atlantic has become a fairly fascinating read, tries to put the best face on something, I think, he's been surprised to discover about his own people. I'm not, and I'm not sure many gay people are. The notion that the black community has ever fully embraced gay rights is kind of tenuous, at best; and it's not just, as some theorize, a grounding in very traditional religious beliefs (closer, as white conservatives have argued, to their own, than to white liberals). It's also about the ways that gay people challenge, and celebrate a notion of racial harmony that's foreign to much of the rest of the country.
I'm not saying the gay community doesn't have a prejudice problem; it does. The white gay community can be patronizing in talking up racial equality, while the undiscussed side is a distinct social separation in many communities. But it's also true within the gay community that you will find the calmest, simplest acceptance of interracial connection - friendships, loving partnerships, mere sexual hookups.
As I said in a comment to Ta-Nehisi, I think there's a longstanding fallacy that it's black people who really celebrate Loving vs. Virginia; the sense of victory in turning back laws against interracial marriage is a gain often celebrated most by whites. The black community - still - frowns deeply on dating and marrying outside the race, and maintains, still, a low opinion especially of the white women who marry black men. Were Barack Obama married to a white woman, I suspect the sense of acceptance he found in the black community as a mixed race man would evaporate. It's one of those things we really don't like to talk about when we talk about race: the sense that the black community, too, has some progress to make, and some change to endure.
Relating, as many do, the struggle for Prop 8 and gay marriage generally to Loving has been problematic to the black community. Not only do they bristle at the notion that the struggle for racial equality parallels the gay experience, but it also brings up the role of interracial dating and marriage that they just don't like. I'm not surprised by the vote; I'm not even surprised that Prop 8 might, narrowly, prevail. But yes, as a gay man, I too am sad and angry, yet again: what the hell is so hard for people to get about being free to be with the person you love? Loving... that really is what this comes down to. And it's embarrassing and disheartening that African Americans, in such large numbers... can't see that.