Bush04: Mourning After

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As a “37-year-old gay Black woman,� Tanya Saunders was disappointed by the results of the recent election, to say the least. “I cried all day, like somebody killed my best friend,� said Saunders, a stay-at-home mom who lives in Harlem with her life partner, Elaine Johnson, 43.
 Like many other Black New Yorkers, she is a staunch Democrat and proudly cast her vote for Sen. John Kerry.  But also—like many other Black New Yorkers—she thinks the reason for John Kerry’s loss was, in part, due to America’s disapproval of families like hers. “It was okay when Dick Cheney embraced his daughter’s gayness,â€? she said, recalling the vice-president’s public acknowledgment that his daughter Mary is a lesbian. “But when John Kerryâ€? brought up the topic during one of the presidential debates, “it was a problem.â€?
 Although Saunders said she doubts same-sex marriage was the most important factor in the outcome of the race, she does believe that fallout from the discussion of Mary Cheney’s sexuality might have hurt John Kerry’s campaign—indirectly leading to the president’s victory. Eleven states carried measures on their ballots this November that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and all 11 passed with large majorities. Some political experts believe that the strong support for state-level bans on gay marriage might have helped increase voter turnout for the president, who has said he supports a Constitutional amendment barring same-sex unions nationwide.
 For Saunders and her partner, George W. Bush’s victory was the stuff of nightmares.
Now that he has been given a second “mandate,� Saunders said, she believes the president will try many new things he would not have risked in his first term for fear of damaging his re-election chances. “Another four years and it’s going to be worse� for the country, Saunders said, because now President Bush “really thinks he’s Superman.�
 Few other Black voters interviewed disputed her assessment—gay or straight. Additionally, by large majorities across the land, Black voters came out to support the Massachusetts senator. Although statistics showed Black voter turnout for President Bush increased this year by 25%  since the 2000 election, the Republican incumbent still managed to snag only 11% of the total Black vote nationally.
 In fact, just one of the 15 randomly-selected African Americans interviewed for this report was a Bush supporter. And all of those interviewed, including the lone Republican, said that —to the best of their knowledge—every other Black voter they knew supported Kerry. In addition, many agreed with Saunders that the outcome of the race was strongly impacted by the Republicans’ appeal to “traditional family values.â€?
 â€œI really do believe there is a culture war going on,â€? said Marshall Swiney, 49, a receptionist who works in the Morningside Heights of Manhattan and a supporter of same-sex marriage. “People don’t realize that things in the world are changing. The world is moving forward.â€? In his view, Republicans were able to successfully use gay marriage to mobilize conservatives because of the large numbers of evangelical Christians in middle America who subscribe to what he calls outdated spiritual beliefs. In other parts of the world, where religious faith is not as strong, gays and lesbians are more accepted, he added.
 Swiney—who moved to New York from Virginia 24 years ago—said he thinks that many people in the Midwest and the South are isolated and “don’t know how other people live.â€?
“They don’t want to know…� he continued. “They are really addicted to religion. Half of these people can’t think beyond their ministers.� Not surprisingly, Swiney said he does not hold out much optimism for the next four years, stating that President Bush “is going to perpetuate the madness.�
 But Lavona Gabriel, 62, a traffic enforcement officer from the Chelsea section of Manhattan, could not disagree more. As a Trinidadian American who just cast her first vote in a presidential election since becoming a U.S. citizen three years ago, Gabriel was glad to be a political minority in heavily Democratic New York City. After all, her candidate—President Bush—still won the majority countrywide, leaving Kerry behind by a margin of three million votes. “I was overjoyed by his victory…â€? she said, “because I totally connect with him.â€?
 Gabriel, who is a “born-againâ€? Christian and a member of the Church of God, admitted that a significant part of her support of President Bush was his advocacy of “basic Christian values.â€?
 â€œHis values are my values,â€? she added, confirming the suspicions of her many Democratic counterparts. “I have gay friends and I’m very comfortable with them,â€? Gabriel continued, “but as far as making laws and putting a stamp of approval on gay marriage, I draw the line.â€? Even for Desiree Evans, 23, who voted for independent candidate Ralph Nader, the outcome of the election came down to same-sex unions. “I think that the conservatives really grilled into the gay marriage issue,â€? she said, “and Kerry wasn’t able to counter that.â€?
 Through it all, though, Tanya Saunders and her partner Elaine Johnson are optimistic that same-sex marriages will some day be fully recognized all across the country, despite Bush’s victory and the continued opposition to same-sex unions in many states. “It’s going to happen…â€? she whispered with a smile, referring to same-sex marriage, as she stood near her partner, Saunders.
“You know why?� she asked. “Because a lot of white people want to do it.�

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