Tonight we celebrate the election of Barack Obama. The first black President of the United States of America did not get elected based on the color of his skin, but on the content of his character. His landslide election win is also seen by many of us as a referendum against the fear based politics of the last eight years.

But as we celebrate this great victory for hope in our country, we grieve the anti-progressive passage of Proposition 8 in California—the constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. In a 52 to 48 split, California voters chose to add discrimination against gay and lesbian couples to their state constitution.

The polls were close before the election with proponents of equal rights ahead by five points. The almost 10 point difference between the polls and the election tally seems to show that many people were uncomfortable admitting their support of the amendment in public, but, behind the veil of voter anonymity, these voters expressed their willingness to codify discrimination.

Supporters of this amendment told voters that it was okay if they felt conflicted about gay marriage, that there were a lot of people out there who did not think gay people should be able to get married, and they even indicated that feeling uncomfortable about these prejudicial views meant that their ‘rights’ were in jeopardy—that they themselves were victims of discrimination.

Supporters said that this constitutional amendment would not hurt same sex families, but that it was a vote against “activist judges” that were forcing equality on an unwilling electorate. Apparently, we fail to remember that it was the nation’s judicial system recognizing the fundamental inequality in laws aimed at African American people that set this country on the path to righteous treatment of all people.

Supporters of this discriminatory amendment did everything they could to make voters not think about the people they were voting against. The truth is this vote hurts all of us, and it hurts the gay community intensely.

My WIFE and I are devastated by the passage of this proposition. It is possible that our marriage license may be invalidated. It is possible for businesses and government institutions to continue to discriminate against our family, and we now may have little legal recourse. It is now possible even, that if one of us were incapacitated or deceased, then our families could have more legal standing to make financial and medical decisions than our spouse.

The addition of this amendment to our constitution, in effect, makes people like me second class citizens. It changes the law to say that one group is not deserving of the rights bestowed on the other. It makes any sort of attack feel like a possibility, as those on the fringe of our society may now believe the law gives them a “right” to discriminate…or worse.

But while tonight represents a giant step backwards for the people of California, and for those of Florida and Arizona where similar amendments were also passed, it also represents a giant leap forward for the people of this country.

Martin Luther King, Jr. did not live to see the election of Barack Obama to the highest office in the land. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony did not live to see the 19th amendment pass. And although Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon lived long enough to legally marry in California after 56 years together, Mrs. Martin passed away before this legal right was taken away.

While tonight we grieve, tomorrow will soon be here. 48 percent of Californians affirmed tonight that “separate but equal” is not, in fact, equal. We, as a people, agree that equality and freedom from fear are fundamental human rights, and we will continue to stand in solidarity and fight for the recognition of equal rights.

Now, more than ever, “we mean business,” as Dr. King said, “and we are determined to gain our rightful place.” Because we, too, have “been to the mountaintop.” And we, too, “will get to the promised land.”