Voters in Maine appear to have approved a ballot measure overturning a never-implemented law legalizing same-sex marriage. It's infuriating and tragic and wrong and unAmerican to deny some American citizens their full and equal rights, indeed, to deny them their very humanity.
But I think the results, this year in Maine and last year in California, are also a reminder of how genuinely difficult it is for people in the majority to understand what it's like to be part of a minority group.
The year I spent in Israel was unique in many ways. As an American Jew living for the first time in an overwhelmingly Jewish country, it was a fascinating and sobering experience to be on the other side of the majority/minority divide.
There are tangible signs: the displays for your holiday are at the front of the supermarket and you don't have to take a vacation day from work to celebrate it. And you never have to fumble around for what to say when someone wishes you a Merry Christmas.
Then there are the intangible ways you know you're in the majority. You never have to listen to anyone say the United States is a Christian nation and feel like they're excluding you. And you never have to think about the minorities in your midst.
It's not even a conscious decision to ignore them. The majority in any society is so overwhelming, so omnipresent, that if you belong to it, you don't have to think about the people who can get left out - through ethnicity or race or gender or sexual orientation.
In most cases, I think it requires an unusual strength of character or a personal connection to break through that indifference. You have to make an effort to put yourself in the other person's shoes. A lot of people simply don't understand, aren't willing to take the time, don't see why they ought to do so.
For me, it's personal. As a Jew, I look at the votes in Maine and California and think: What if they want to put my civil rights up for a popular vote next? Jews are a tiny percentage of the U.S. population. We'd probably lose.
It's not personal solely because I'm Jewish.
It's also personal because I have wonderful friends who are gay and lesbian, who enrich their communities and my life every day I know them. And I don't see any reason for my friends who are in committed relationships to be denied the right to marry the person they love, to be denied the benefits and protections of civil marriage.
It's incredibly disheartening that people would vote to take civil rights away from their fellow citizens. I don't have any answers this morning. I just know how difficult it is to get through, especially to straight people who think they don't know anyone who's gay or lesbian.
I wish they would realize what they've done - to their neighbors, their coworkers, maybe even to their friends and relatives by denying them equal protection under the law. I wish they'd realize what they've done to themselves, to their state and to their country when bigotry and fear triumph over reason.
But we have to keep trying to make them understand. I have to keep trying.