Matt Foreman

We’re desperate. Shut up!

Filed By Matt Foreman | July 14, 2007 2:12 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Democrats, election 2008, homophobic behavior, LGBT civil rights, presidential races, Republicans

If the country seems increasingly hungry for a change in power, I’d say the LGBT community is desperate. We’ve been taking it on the literal and figurative chin for years, and the extent to which anti-gay ignorance and bigotry has infected virtually every aspect of federal policy is shocking. This isn’t left-wing hyperbole, it’s sad reality.

The Republican Party’s (choose one or all of the following)

  1. abject capitulation to...
  2. takeover by...
  3. immoral shotgun marriage to...
  4. politically expedient alliance with...

the forces of religious and political intolerance is the fundamental cause of this plague, but it’s not the whole story. During this long reign of bigotry, profiles in courage on behalf of LGBT people by Democrats have been few and far between. The other side put our lives and families on the front burner and turned up the flame; those to whom we’d given our votes and money looked away, seemingly embarrassed.

In 2004, we were largely abandoned in fighting the anti-marriage constitutional amendments on the ballot in 13 states. Grand Pooh-Bahs of the party immediately blamed Kerry’s loss on “gay marriage” (instead of a lousy campaign) without a shred of empirical evidence to back them up. More recently, during the debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment, only one senator actually spoke affirmatively about our lives, love, and family. (I could go on and one with this litany.) With the change in power in Congress, there are glimmers of cartilage emerging but I wouldn’t yet call it spine.

Now, we’re all into the thick of the 2008 presidential race. The differences between the Democratic and Republican fields of candidates on our issues are shockingly stark and profoundly depressing. Simply put – and with the glaring exception of marriage equality – the Dems are good and the Republicans are bad. (See our recent Task Force report.) On a “just the facts, Ma’am” overview, it looks like any Democrat would be better for the gays than any Republican.

Over the years, one of Task Force’s roles in the movement has been to challenge our “friends” in power to do more – a lot more – for us. Last year, we even returned a $5,000 donation from the DNC because we were pretty well shocked by a comment made by DNC chair Howard Dean. (Relations are much better now.) I recently gave a somewhat critical remark on Sen. Obama’s explanation during the last debate about why he’d gotten an HIV test. It got a lot of feedback basically saying I should be giving Democrats a pass on these sorts of things – that it’s far more important to throw the bums and their progeny out than to call our “friends” out on LGBT shortcomings. (I guess there’s no winning here: Chris Crain did a riff on this from a different angle, alleging we’d rigged our candidate analysis to hurt Rudy Giuliani – another “friend.” Sorry, Chris, we’d love to highlight the pro-LGBT positions of GOP candidates.)

I’m not inclined to let up, but I’m definitely open. Should we keep on holding candidates to a higher standard and pressing them to do and say more, to take more forceful positions for us? Or, should our friends get a freer ride in the long term interests of our people?


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charlie wonder | July 14, 2007 5:45 PM

Have you checked out Ron Paul? He is for getting the federal government, and most government for that matter, out of our private business. He might be your man.

A. J. Lopp | July 14, 2007 6:32 PM

Matt, I just checked your remarks re Obama that appeared in the Bay Area Reporter Online and I don't see any significant problem with them. It's not like you or anyone said, "Obama's a homophobe and don't support him."

Similarly, Hillary Clinton was criticized by others that she remarked about AIDS thus: "If we don't begin to take it seriously and address [AIDS] the way we did back in the nineties when it was primarily a gay men's disease, we will never get the services and the public education we need."

I thought it was a courageous thing for Hillary to say, but other GLBT pundits criticized her, pointing out that the majority of HIV-antibody seroconversions in the US still occur among gay men.

Both criticisms of Obama and Clinton constitute splitting hairs and what I will call, "prima donna-ism" --- the notion that a candidate is not our ally if they are in the slightest bit flawed. Moreover, both Obama and Clinton were under very strict timing restrictions, and they were both speaking extemporaneously under great pressure. Expecting them to be absolutely perfect under such circumstances is a standard that even the finest HIV/GLBT leader among us might not be able to live up to. So, yes, allowing them a bit of slack is appropriate, because even presidential candidates are still merely human. In the cases of these minor faux pas, the proper course is to gently educate the candidate further and continue to support them.

Unfortunately, we live in a world and an era in which the essence of successful politics is often compromise. It appears that even now in 2008, the set of few Democratic candidates that appear to support full marriage equality does not overlap with the set that is likely to be electable.

But we do have other objectives that clearly are within reach: it is very possible that the next President will end DADT, hopefully he or she will not call for Congress to pass the FMA, that president might get the chance to sign the ENDA into law, talk of universal health care (which would, presumably, include HIV/AIDS care) has never been at a higher pitch. And I only need mention one more critical phrase: US Supreme Court.

Marriage equality will come, I believe, but probably not for many states within the next four years (New York and California, maybe). Thus, perhaps marriage equality should not be top on our list when other very worthy goals are closer within reach.

Matt, you ask:

Should we keep on holding candidates to a higher standard and pressing them to do and say more, to take more forceful positions for us? Or, should our friends get a freer ride in the long term interests of our people?

There is no simple answer to this question. It is a balancing act, a conflict of tensions, it always has been and it likely always will be. But we can see this clearly: When it comes to educating candidates who want our votes, some are responsive and desire to be educated, and others would rather pander to a voting base that they think is larger and safer and more easily win-able. What does that tell you?

P.S. Charlie, Ron Paul has matured surprisingly during his political career, having first begun in the Libertarian Party. But as a Libertarian, he subscribed to the standard Libertarian view that individual freedom included the freedom to discriminate as one chooses; thus, he opposed non-discrimination laws, even for race. Now that he is in the GOP, has that position changed any? And if so, can we believe him?

Winning this battle means realizing that anti-gay sentiments are not just dumb ideas that appear out of nowhere. They are ways of mapping conflict about class and economic issues onto other realms of public life. If we don't address the economic issues at the root of homophobia, it's not going away.

Kevin, I always like it when you drop by and comment. You should do it more often!

What's with all the Ron Paul supporters lately? He's polling at like less than 1%, and all of his supported seemed to have found TBP and comment in his support. What's up with that?

You have to wonder, don't you Alex? I've never seen so many different Ron Paul supporters in one place. Apparently I should call his campaign and ask for a statement. LOL

The Dems positions are "starkly" better than the Repubs'? I must have missed something the day that General Pace called us all 'immoral.' Remind me again how many tries it took for Hillary, Barack and Hillbilly John to manage to disagree with him?


Neither party represents gay interests.

Lynn David | July 15, 2007 10:10 PM

The Democrats are the lessor of two straight evils. My family is heavily involved in unions and heavily democrat. So what was I doing in 1980 voting for Ron Reagan? Ok, I got smart and didn't renew that vote in 1984.

I'll stick to my roots. It's what the working-class Roman-Catholic would do against the better judgement of his bishop.

Matt -
It's a good question - one which Chris Crain and I considered when writing our piece on Bill Richadson's "maricon" moment (still up on www.gaynewswatch.com).

Last week (July 11) I wrote a post on this site about how Richardson was shocked that I asked him the marriage question in front of the national press corps. Here's some of what I wrote:

"I shouldn’t have been all that surprised by his chiding. Time and again politicos who are good on LGBT issues are shocked when the LGBT press writes anything inconsistent with their agenda. Sometimes there is a subtle hint that support might be withdrawn or dampened if the story is too critical.

Call me old fashioned, but I never agreed to give anyone a pass on anything. And there have definitely been times when I’ve had to alert my publishers that they might get an angry call. Luckily, I have publishers who might ask questions but stick by me."

However, I confess that I have pulled my punches at times when some element was not absolutely necessary to a story but could potentially damage passage of a pro-gay bill.

I don't like Situation Ethics - but I'm not an absolute purist either - especially since I live in West Hollywood and I know the tactics LGBT activists use here may not work in other parts of the country.

But the bottom line is: we are officially second-class citizens in the eyes of the federal government. How do we secure equal protection under the U.S. Constitutiion and how do we convince our fellow Americans that we, too, deserve the right to the pursuit of happiness if we don't challenge those who are supposed to represent us? Anyone up for another Tea Party -perhaps somewhere other than Boston this time?