An Online Magazine in the Reality-Based Community.

Folks, where do we go from here?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Daddy Dobson had an assortment of far-right bleaters on his radio show to do a post-mortem on the GOP defeat in the election -- Gary Bauer, Tony Perkins, and Focus on the Anus's Tom Minnery and Carrie Gordon Earll. (WND):
"In 2004 voters handed them a 10-seat majority in the Senate and a 29-seat advantage in the House. What did they do with this advantage? Very little that values voters are concerned about," Minnery said.

"We thought there finally was a Congress that was going to nail down the definition of marriage. It was like pulling teeth (to get them to talk about it)," he said.

...Dobson noted that the U.S. economy is as high, and unemployment as low as ever, so it couldn't have been reaction to economics.

"There are people who have these values, values voters haven't vanished," said Minnery. "What they're looking for is someone who will articulate their values, and then really importantly, to get them to come back, to act on those promises they made during the campaign."

Perkins said exit polling showed two-thirds of the voters expressed concern over Iraq, but three-fourths of all voters said scandals were a major concern. "That's the values gap, the values voters. The values voters of 2004 have become the integrity voters of 2006. Values are not something you can just talk about at election time. They should guide your conduct. The Republicans failed to do that and they lost," he said.
The next point raises an issue that should concern the gay community, though it has little to do with "values" (a word neatly co-opted by the fundies):
Earll noted the divide was stark in Colorado. Voters chose a Democratic governor and constitutionally protected marriage between one man and one woman and at the same time torpedoed a "gay partnership" proposal that that same gubernatorial candidate endorsed.

"The way it's being spun by the media, and some Republicans, is that this is a rejection of the pro-family agenda, the values voters perspective," said Dobson. "That's simply not true when you look at the individual races. What is happening is we're seeing values embraced and the parties being rejected."
While the Right is licking its wounds overall, there's no other way to see that vote on domestic partnerships Colorado as anything other than hatred for gays expressed in full flower. It was a measure separated from the concept of "marriage" meant to support partnership rights for gay and lesbian couples. Colorado voters -- or at least the ones who bothered to show up -- decided G&L couples are not entitled to those rights.

That's a big problem when Democrats can win at the same time homophobia is enacted by law -- particularly when the win ushered in the new breed of socially conservative pols who were elected Tuesday. What message does that send to the party? Dems at the national level will now feel that they can continue to avoid gay rights issues, refuse to talk about them, or worse, pander to the center-right for votes. The sHillary factor.

Even with control of the Hill, it's going to be a hard road ahead to convince the notoriously spineless Democratic Party work on our behalf -- we all know that they are already thinking of the next election cycle and maintaining power. We are going to be asked to be an ATM for the party and sit quietly at the back of the bus, or, worse, be tossed under it once again.

Without a doubt, gay advocacy organizations need to step up and fight for what is attainable on the civil equality front because even if Dems listen, there's no guarantee that they will legislatively act on our behalf.

The most important issue to move forward on is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). It offers an opportunity to open debate on fairness -- no one should lose their job because they are out of the closet. One of the main issues that has proven to be contentious in the past is transgender inclusion in the legislation. The conventional wisdom from timid Dems in the past was that ENDA is likely to pass without protections for the transgendered and it would fail if that language is included, though now with control of the House and Senate, this would be the time to push for passage. From a pre-election article in the WashBlade:
Democratic and Republican members of the House and Senate will introduce a new version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, early next year that for the first time will include protection for transgender persons, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said this week.

Frank, who has been a lead sponsor of ENDA in the past, said he believes a carefully drafted trans-inclusive ENDA would likely receive the same if not more co-sponsors than the earlier version did in 2004.

Known as the nation's federal gay civil rights bill, ENDA has called for banning employment discrimination in the private sector workplace based solely on someoneís sexual orientation. The revised version would also ban employment discrimination based on a person's "gender expression and identity," the term used to cover trans people, according to activists familiar with the proposed bill.
The Right already has its bigoted talking points ready and will pull them out of mothballs again to oppose ENDA. Here are just a few from the unhinged, penis-possessing head of Concerned Women of America's Culture and Family Institute, Robert Knight. According to Bob, ENDA would:
* Make peopleís sexual temptations a source of material for federal lawsuits. The law properly deals with actions, not beliefs. ENDA creates a new class based on the fuzzy grounds of perception and intention. This is far removed from laws designed to end racial discrimination, because not only is race evident but also it has no moral aspect. Sexual behavior is fraught with moral consequences.

* Elevate multiple-sex-partner relationships into a federally protected "right." By including "bisexuality" in the definition of sexual orientations, the government would go on record supporting the practice of having sex with more than one person. This is a direct challenge to the intent behind the Defense of Marriage Act and other laws designed to protect marriage.

* Put the federal government in the position of adopting a view of sexuality utterly at odds with that propounded by the major faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. All major faiths support marriage and oppose homosexual conduct. The U.S. government would be placing people with traditional views of morality into opposition to their own government. King George never intruded this deeply into Americansí lives.

* Lead to further demands by homosexual activists to force others to celebrate abnormal and unhealthy sexual behavior. Many corporations that adopted "sexual orientation" policies soon found themselves besieged by demands for outright "gay pride" celebrations. Anything less than open promotion is regarded by many homosexual activists as "discriminatory."
So much for sanity. I hope they play this card over and over for our sake.

On another front, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is another feasible win, given the sorry state of the military thanks to this administration. When qualified, available, highly-trained professionals are not able to serve their country simply because of their orientation -- while others are serving second and third tours of duty in Iraq -- we have a broken system and change must occur

According to SLDN, 4 out of 5 Americans support gays serving openly in the military. There are Republicans and Democrats on board for the repeal of DADT -- 123 members of Congress have co-sponsored the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. It's certain that more will come on board in the 110th Congress.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a ludicrous law -- we already have openly gay men and women serving in the military. It's not their colleagues that are the problem, it is the Pentagon.
A recent Annenberg Survey also found that a majority of junior enlisted personnel support their gay colleagues serving openly.

Statistician Gary Gates has estimated that at least 65,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans are on duty in the armed forces today, and another 41,000 would possibly enlist if the official ban on their service were repealed. Since 1993, more than 11,000 men and women have been dismissed under "Don't Ask, Donít Tell," including nearly 800 with skills deemed 'mission-critical' by the Department of Defense. The Pentagon fires an average of 2-3 people every day because of sexual orientation.
With Democrats in charge on the Hill and looking for a way out of the quagmire of Iraq, repealing DADT is a chance to make a difference in support of the military -- and fairness.

***

All things considered, what I said on National Coming Out Day, rings true in light of the election results. It's clear what gay folks and allies need to think about -- and work on -- in order to continue progress on civil equality.

* If you are gay and if it is at all possible for you to safely come out, DO IT. No one ever regrets throwing open that closet door, even if the path is difficult for a while. The more that people realize we are your neighbors, co-workers, teachers, police officers and leaders in the community, the less effective the "fear and loathing" demonization campaign by the Right is.

* Make states that pass marriage amendments and anti-gay legislation know that our gay dollars can go elsewhere. If a state has determined that civil rights for a group can be determined at the ballot box, we can speak with our feet and our wallets.

* If you are straight and an ally, make it known. Support your gay friends and loved ones when you hear intolerant conversation, politely engage ignorance with information.

* Make the Democratic establishment get off of their asses on this issue. Too many are DINOs, ready to sacrifice all principles for a vote as a career politician. Courage is in short supply, apparently, so these losers need to be threatened with the electoral boot. Party hacks need to be held accountable. Write them and call them out in emails and in the blogosphere.

* Don't assume potential allies are educated on the issues. I find that a lot of sympathetic straight allies are woefully undereducated about gay rights issues. Kate and I had a conversation with an otherwise politically progressive woman who thought:
1) same sex marriage was legal in several states (only in Massachusetts; Vermont and Connecticut have civil unions);
2) we could marry in Massachusetts (out of state same-sex couples cannot if their home state doesn't recognize gay marriages);
3) a Canadian marriage is legal here in the U.S. (nope);
4) states aren't successfully passing marriage amendments (every one that has made it to the ballot has passed so far).

The patchwork of domestic partnership laws adds further confusion. Until we can educate people who would support us and get this issue on the radar for them, how can we expect to fight the Right wing?

* Don't give a dime to candidates or parties unless they are willing to take an actual position, not a punt of "marriage is between a man and a woman" so there's no need for a constitutional amendment, "unless the courts see otherwise."

Here's a simple question for candidates: Are gay and lesbian couples entitled to benefits at the local, state and federal levels that currently automatically convey with civil marriage? If not, why not. Political figures need to be on the record on whether they believe -- and would legislate -- that we are entitled to those rights, whether or not it's called "marriage." We already know we have closeted allies who believe in equality, but won't fight for it until they feel it's "safe" politically. Those days are over.

I can respect a pol who says they truly don't believe in civil equality for LGBT citizens. What I can't tolerate are pols who want you to donate time and effort to their campaigns and won't defend you in public or commit to voting for equality.

* Hold gay advocacy organizations accountable when they don't support candidates that are the most equality-positive on the issues, regardless of incumbency. That's what advocacy means at a time when compromise has allowed state amendment after amendment to pass.