Speaking of Women's Rights: The Polarizing Effect of Politics

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Polarizing Effect of Politics

I’ve lived on or near Capitol Hill for some time now. I often refer to it as “the hill,” though I’m clear on the fact that there are 7 different hills here in Seattle. It’s just the only one that matters...to me.

Sometimes it’s tempting to wrap ourselves in our own little world, surrounded by those who think just like we do. Remember 2004 when you didn’t know a single person who voted for George Bush and wondered how on earth the man got elected?! (King County went nearly 65% for Kerry) Immediately following the election we began to see vivid maps of blue coasts and the red heartland, accompanied by half-hearted threats of secession from blue-staters. I remember feeling so far removed from the thought process of someone who believed that four more years of what we’d experienced was a good idea.

Looking at the results—by county—of Washington’s Referendum 71 battle, gives me this same feeling of dismay (and makes me realize why my partner and I spend the majority of our time in the northwest corner of the state). East of the mountains, it seems there was very little support for domestic partnership rights, with some counties rejecting R-71 at rates of 60 and 70 percent. As the Seattle Times points out in an article posted today, “Part of the challenge facing gay-equality supporters, both here and across the country, is that not many gay families and individuals live in rural areas and smaller towns, many preferring urban centers where they feel more comfortable and have more legal protections.” But there’s another way to look at these statistics: If 60% of people voted down domestic partnership rights in Spokane County, that leaves 40% who voted for them. And we mustn’t forget that there are still 35% of people in King County who disagree with equal rights for gays and lesbians. (Ruby, of the “Are We Married?” blog talks about this notion in her recent post “What I Learned At Wendy’s: An Accidental Meeting with Small-Town Gay America")

"There's two sets of values in Washington.” Says Larry Stickney of Protect Marriage Washington. “There's values in Seattle, and there's the rest of us." I think it’s easy to buy into the color-coding of values. But are we really that different? Do we actually live inside of these red/blue dichotomies? Or is our reality closer to a shade of purple.

In any case, it’s vital that we talk to everyone, everywhere about the importance of equal rights. Whether you’re in the presumably safe haven of a Capitol Hill coffee shop or in the middle of nowhere .