Joe Solmonese

An important night in the fight for equality

Filed By Joe Solmonese | August 10, 2007 4:15 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: election 2008, HRC, Logo

Yesterday was an important night in the fight for equality for GLBT Americans. We pulled the curtain back a bit and gave all Americans a deeper look inside the candidates’ core beliefs about the issues that affect our community. From repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, supporting equal employment rights, providing full funding for HIV/AIDS epidemic, to eliminating the Defense of Marriage Act, these candidates went on record and committed to fighting for equality in all sectors of our society. Unfortunately, we have more work to do. The overwhelming majority of the candidates do not support marriage equality. While we heard very strong commitments to civil unions and equality in federal rights and benefits, their reasons for opposing equality in civil marriage tonight became even less clear. Over the course of the presidential campaign, we will continue to ask these questions and demand real answers from the candidates who were appeared tonight—and from those who didn't show up. The next president must be committed to not only doing what’s achievable, but also what’s right.


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Thanks for putting together the forum, Joe. It was good to see the candidates meet the gays.

And I enjoyed it as a bit of theater.... :)

Hey Joe,

Next time you have one of these things, why not just call it what it is, not GLBT issues nor anything other than an in-depth discussion of same-sex marriage issues with a few questions on other issues of importance to wealthy gay American men?

You'd really save the rest of us a whole lot of trouble.

Joe, thanks for putting together the forum. There were some rough edges, but HRC should be proud regardless. Let's just work on making the next one even better.

Rebecca, I don't think it's fair at all to say this only pertains to wealthy gay American men. Marriage may not be important to you personally, but you have to see the larger context.

I put up a much longer comment along these same lines on this entry by Alex.

Jerame,

I disagree. 22 marriage questions, no substantive questions on TG-relevant issues, no AIDS, no Real ID Act...need I go on?

This was, as Marti says, a lost opportunity. We should have gotten more than just an in-depth reexamination of SSM and we really didn't here.

I believe it is actually HRC which needs to see the wider context. It needs to share some of that precious on-air time with those of us concerned about other issues than marrying each other.

HRC could have ensured that all LGBT Americans had their issues addressed. They chose not to do that, reserving the vast majority of the discussion time to SSM. I think it's perfectly fair to call them on it.

it's fine to call them on it, but it's not fine to say that only wealthy gay american men care about it.

Kevin,

Ok, then you can certainly expand that to include both wealthy gay American men and women, but I certainly do think the agenda promoted during this thing was precisely that and nothing else. If not for Obama there wouldn't have been any mention of racial and ethnic issues, and the only trans-relevant question was an utter softball. It's clear that the poorer 90% of the community just weren't a big part of the agenda here.

Thanks for putting on the forum, Joe. I'm sure it was a lot of hard work to arrange all of it and try to please everyone.

Rebecca, I don't know who appointed you spokesperson for the "poorer 90% of the community" but I'm poor and I care deeply about marriage rights. Can you explain to me why poor people care less about marriage than rich people?

Kevin E. (trying to keep my Kevin responses orderly),

I'm pretty poor too, and I never said that poorer people don't care about marriage. I do believe however, that it's a less urgent goal for those of us making a living wage or less than other issues such as employment rights, health care, access to government and social services, and housing. It's also well-known that only a relatively small portion of our community, around 10% I believe, puts the ability to legally marry at the top of their civil rights wish list. That's why I put it the way I did.

In addition, when you add a transgender or visibly gender-variant identity into the mix, things get even tougher. Jobs a straight-appearing person would get without question are denied to many of us as a matter of course, perfectly legally for the most part. In most states, landlords can refuse to rent to us just because they don't like transpeople. In some cases, participation in government assistance programs can be denied because of transgender status. And let's not even get started on the military...

These are real-world survival issues. They concern the right and ability to maintain feed and shelter for oneself and one's family. Frankly, in my opinion, when compared with the rights that would be gained through legal marriage, these realities are vastly more in need of timely advocacy and legal protection, especially since right now it's a given that these rights are much more likely to be attainable than SSM.

Consider an average American couple in love (the gender or genders involved here are irrelevant). They decide they wish to get married and make a family. What's the first thing they do? Do they run out, rent a hall, get tuxes and flowers, and invite all their friends? Or do they first ensure that their newly-formed family unit will have an income they can feed themselves on and a place to live? Which is more basic to ensuring a happy, satisfying, and productive life for most Americans? I think we all know the answer to that one.

The reality is only different for those for whom maintaining and home and a steady income isn't aren't critical issues, those who are wealthy enough that such things don't factor into their lives in significant ways. That's the agenda and the mindset I believe we saw reflected in this forum.

Not only does HRC know this, but their public actions indicate they don't really seem to care all that much. If we'd seen a more equitable distribution of question topics during this thing, I doubt I'd be saying this. We didn't see that though, did we?

We know where the candidates stand on SSM, just as we know where most of them stand on the other issues. However, where the candidates have come out for the most part directly and honestly addressing their support or non-support of SSM, there are still plenty of unanswered questions on these other issues, questions that were ignored the other night in favor of parsing the candidates rationale on SSM to the nth degree.

"Senator Clinton, you said recently when speaking in support of ENDA that 'No one should be fired because of who they love'. While this statement tell us that you support the right of gay and lesbian people to be protected in the workplace, it doesn't address your support of the inclusion of gender identity and expression protections in this legislation. Will you go on record now as supporting a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act? If ENDA reached your desk as President without those protections included, would you sign it anyway or insist on a bill that protects all LGBT Americans?"

"Senator Obama, you've said in the past that you believe transgender people should be protected against discrimination. The Real ID Act, as it is currently going to be enacted, would strip away the privacy of many transgender people and legally define them by their birth-assigned genders rather than in concert with how we live our lives. How would you address this issue as President to protect the safety and privacy of gender-variant Americans?"

"Senator Edwards, some have estimated that as many as half of Transgender-Americans live at or below the poverty line. How would you help to ensure that Transgender-Americans would have access to the same rights and opportunities in this country as non-trans citizens? Specifics please.".

I could go on, of course, but you get the idea. These are real "bread and butter" issues that lower and middle class LGBT Americans confront every day which weren't even touched on in this thing, much less actually explored.

Leland Frances | August 11, 2007 3:06 PM

Because I’m an old fart who’s—how shall I put this delicately—goddamn tired of the endless supply of tireless armchair/keyboard "all or nothing" purposely never-satisfied critics and might fail to be as tolerant and gentle as some would like, I apologize in advance….

1. "Health care" IS an "urgent issue." But you fail to acknowledge [know? understand? care?] that, whatever it is called, the legal recognition of same gender relationships would bring with it for most couples the availability of health insurance benefits from one partner’s employer, including "blue collar" workers. The addition of federal benefits for couples, which all the Dem candidates support, would include the sharing of various Social Security benefits such as death insurance and retirment benefits derived from one's partner and assistance for minor surviving children. Note I said most not all so spare me the potshots back that change nothing about the basic fact which shoots at least one big hole in your rant about "marriage."

2. If you are genuinely suggesting that Hillary or anyone else should deny job protections for millions of LGBs simply because Ts are not YET included then the issue is not really transition of gender identity but transition from common sense to insanity.

3. Stating that "jobs a straight-appearing person would get without question are denied to many of us as a matter of course" and then characterizing the question to John Edwards regarding Susan Stanton as “softball” is simply softheaded.

Oops. I failed. Please forgive me everyone.

Leland,

Taking your points in order:

1. It is true that certain health benefits would come to families with federal recognition of same-sex unions, but not everyone is or wants to be in such a relationship. In addition, transitioning transsexuals have an entire set of medical issues to deal with all our own. In my opinion, the best way to deal with the problem is single-payer (please don't ask me to go into detail on this...not my area of expertise). I dunno if this hole you claim is visible to me.

2. I'm not suggesting that Hillary Clinton do anything. I do, however, think asking her how far she'll be willing to go in standing up for Transgender-Americans is a fair question. And by the way, currently TG's are included in both bills, but personally I've got some trust issues here. This is the woman who, when she was first running for the Senate, said she didn't support transgender rights because no one in the gay and lesbian community had asked her to.

3. I disagree. It was a total softball, the only hint of a policy position on it came from Edwards of his own volition.

When you consider how the questions honed in with laser precision on seemingly every aspect of the SSM question, you'd think they could ask one question about our actual rights instead of whether or not he'd be nice to a transitioning employee, no? Is that what you call hard-hitting? Not me, and, I'd be willing to bet, not a lot of people.

Leland Frances | August 12, 2007 8:48 PM

No, you did not "take my points." Apparently you didn't even read them carefully. Since you didn't get MY simple explanation of the way the fight for legally recognized same gender relationships pave the way for millions of gays, men and women, including the poor, to gain access to health care through their partners employer, NOT just federal benefits, then perhaps the shining lights, literal and figurative, in the post above, "Marriage: Not Just for the Wealthy and White" by Michael Crawford might sufficiently distract you from simply re-regurgitating your moth-eaten pseudointellectual, Socialist Workers Party Lite propaganda and Tragic Tranny Tales, Episode 84, that you might, reluctantly I'm sure, fall off your cross. But that would be could for YOU, too, as we need the wood to build bridges not monuments to perpetual victimhood.

I've been avoiding this thread because it turned somewhat heated, but Leland, can you please be more respectful to other people here? Calling someone "soft-headed", saying that she's "re-regurgitating your moth-eaten pseudointellectual, Socialist Workers Party Lite propaganda and Tragic Tranny Tales, Episode 84" or saying that she transitioned from "from common sense to insanity" isn't helping support your case, is definitely not funny, and is hurtful for no reason at all.

If you want to defend the question asked John Edwards or a gender identity-free ENDA, then, fine, go ahead. But you can make this discussion better for everyone involved by remembering that we're all people here and we're all deserving of basic respect.

The reality of the electorate is this... they don't support gay marriage, the do support ENDA and hate crimes legislation. Leland, "the poor" will stay poor without jobs, and without hate crimes legislation we'll be treated as trash. You want to shove marriage down the throat of the electorate and have 4 more years of Republican rule, be my guest. The forum could have been a lot of things, but it was nothing more than a forum on marriage.