I was originally going to do a post trying to respond to a few of the misleading statements AMERICAblog has been making about the DOJ DOMA brief, because even though I agree that the brief is offensive and homophobic, misrepresenting it and criticizing the fact that it was even written (when the DOJ, with a few, exceedingly rare exceptions, has to defend standing law) cheapens the entire discussion and makes it easy to dismiss.
So I went over to see their latest posts on DOMA, and here are a few headlines I found on the front page as I write this last night:
Barney Frank throws us under the bus. Lauds incest brief. Says language was appropriate.
They're lying about DOMA too
HRC's Solmonese attends Obama's benefits signing
President Obama betrays the gay community
Gibbs: President stands behind incest/pedophilia brief
When Republicans are better than Democrats on gay rights, the Democratic Party had better take notice
Show Obama you mean business. Donate to AMERICAblog.
Well, actually that last one explains a lot.
So it doesn't seem worth it to actually respond to anything going on there as if it were a reasoned argument. Instead, Aravosis and his crew are the leaders of a sector of the gay community that's simply lost its mind over the past week. And if we think that losing our heads is going to make any of our battles easier, we're sadly mistaken.
Yasmin Nair, in a brilliant post earlier this week, admonished the gay community:
Second, I'm intrigued at the level of personal bile and anger leveled at Obama and the paradoxically high level of expectation that people seem to have for him. The sense of betrayal around the Smelt case exposes the extent to which people seem to have over-invested in Obama's supposed munificence and good will towards the gay community. Yes, he's clearly brilliant. Yes, he may well be to the left of Bush, which is not saying very much. But come on people, he's not your daddy.
I laughed there, because "He's not your daddy" is the best way to put it. A few people in the comments mentioned that they never thought he was their daddy, but the point isn't that everyone who's angry with him this week (like myself) did, it's that there was definitely a group of gay people who are acting like the power of their demand for full equality should supplant real work, and that what Obama and the Administration did this week was a "betrayal." (I'm imagining the Harlequin cover already....)
Which is an interesting way to start discussing the matter at hand, since Aravosis was one of the most off-kilter Obamabots out there back during the primary. He was enthralled with all things Obama and relentless in his attacks on Hillary Clinton. Again, I was going to try to find a juicy statement or two for this post, but seriously just check out a week or two from his archive if you need convincing.
So no wonder he feels betrayed here. He fell in love with the man, who turned out to be a standard-issue establishment Democrat when it comes to political ideology. Obama sold himself as more... but he's a politician. That's what they do. And nothing he does now is going to convince me that he's worse than McCain.
The bizarre irony is Aravosis's infamous crusade a year and a half ago to get the trans folks kicked off the ENDA. He arrogantly condemned the "angry" transgender community for having the audacity to think they needed employment discrimination protections and dismissed anyone who called him transphobic as just not getting it. (Apparently he's changed the software he uses for comments on his site since that time, so they're all gone. But I do remember a few comments bringing it up on this post, and him responding with smarmy dismissals like "Oh, it only took 6 minutes for someone to call me a transphobe.")
That was a situation that was understandably interpreted by transgender people as a betrayal. And it wasn't a politician who was moving too slowly, but their supposed ally in the trenches saying they didn't deserve equal protection. And he couldn't stop at just opposing trans inclusion in the ENDA, he went so far as to call trans women "men who wants to cut off his penis" and trans men "transgender anatomically female person (i.e., born with female genitalia), dressed as a man." That's probably about as close as we can get to a transgender equivalent of comparing same-sex relationships to incest.
(I'm not going to say pedophilia, because the brief cited cases about marriage of a 16-year-old, and in my book that is neither "pedophilia" nor "child rape.")
But the betrayals continue. It's not just John Berry and Barack Obama who betrayed John Aravosis. The two other main figures from his side of the ENDA debacle - Barney Frank and Joe Solmonese - have joined the dark side. Barney Frank, for realizing that the DOJ almost always has to defend existing law and discussing just how fucked up it would be if every administration just chose which laws it wanted to defend when it came in, threw "us under the bus. And Joe Solmonese, for attending the signing of a memorandum that, while not a huge LGBT rights advance, was an LGBT rights advance nonetheless, provided "cover" to Obama.
Now Joe and Barney aren't focused enough on the needs of establishment gay men for John Aravosis? The Democratic Coalition of Treachery is bigger than we all thought!
So what we have here is a case of someone who feels betrayal quite easily and quite deeply, and he's not at all alone. His front page betrays the interests of his readers: everything about DOMA and the DOJ has over a hundred comments, everything else has around ten. I decidedly don't think that it's fair to say that all LGBT people are "single-issue," but there's definitely a sector that is, and, well, there they are.
At the same time, he's someone who doesn't really have much trouble betraying others. And there was a sector of the community willing to along with that. But it's all incredibly consistent when viewed through the lens of a single person's needs instead of any broader politics that takes into account the fact that there are many different people who want something out of Obama, some of whom we should be working with, and instead becomes about personal demands instead of making the world better.
It's all very messy because many aspects of this week's outburst fundamentally make no sense and will do little to advance LGBT rights. Does anyone think the White House is impressed with our ability to completely lose our minds? Does it demonstrate our ability to stay in it for the long haul when we can't even wait six months for advances on our agenda? Does it show our strategic brilliance when the last straw is the fact that the DOJ responded to a lawsuit our activist community didn't like anyway? Does it show our commitment to liberal/progressive/leftist politics when the only issues we care about are those that specifically mention LGBT people? Does it demonstrate an ability to unite people outside of our 5% of the population for our cause when we'll eat anyone alive, even other establishment queers, for not following lockstep in our anger and beliefs? Does trumping up charges and flinging insults demonstrate the maturity, emotional or political, to sustain a social justice movement?
I'm happy that people are getting mad about these issues. I'm glad that there's increased involvement and awareness here from the community. And I'm absolutely thrilled to think about the action that this can all be directed towards. But what I don't like is a group of people stoking the fire with half-truths and untruths, histrionics and exaggerations, to help some people work out their emotions in a public setting to the detriment of real action.
I was going to go more specifically through some of the... creatively truthful statements on that site (like mis-paraphrasing the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times, suggesting without any evidence that Barney Frank was bought off by Obama, saying that OPM director John Berry said "yes" that all the rights in the memorandum are have already been granted when I was on the same conference call and can tell you that that's not what Berry said), but it's not the point. I realize that most of what we're dealing with is emotion instead of intellect. Lawdork has a few pretty good reads up on the topic of Aravosis's issues with honesty, if you're interested.
The one that I did want to address, though, was his repeated assertion that the DOJ had a choice when it came to defending existing law here, which it really didn't. He found four cases over the last thirty years where the DOJ didn't defend an existing law, and the circumstances in each case were far different from the current situation. But, as someone pointed out in the comments of my last post on the topic, I'm not a lawyer like John Aravosis. Fair enough. So if you want more information on the topic, please read from the following gay and gay-friendly lawyers, any of whose opinions on the topic I trust more than Aravosis's: Laurence Tribe, Adam B, Chris at Lawdork, Barney Frank, Robert Raban, and Nan Hunter, whose post on the topic goes into the sorts of cases where the DOJ can refuse to defend existing law and is worth reading if you want to know the more wonky details. I was mainly discussing the issue from a policy perspective on Tuesday, and a president or the DOJ or an AG just choosing which laws they want to follow seems like a terrible idea.
But frankly I wouldn't care if it weren't for the power Aravosis has as the netroots representative of LGBT people generally. He had a frontpage article on Salon about this topic where he purports to speak for the community (just like for when he had that article on Salon calling for trans people to be cut from the ENDA where he made creepy and Nixonian "silent majority" arguments about us). As Phoenix Woman put it on DailyKos, a "known crapmeister" is being taken by the netroots' brightest as an honest source on the mood of LGBT people at the moment.
(Trust me, I want to projectile vomit every time I write that "T" when talking about the people who think Aravosis represents the LGBT community, but these folks aren't making that distinction and it's a really sad state of affairs when anyone thinks that Aravosis can represent transgender people.)
The issue is there are lots of people who think they can surmise my opinion on LGBT issues based on what John Aravosis says. And, normally, I don't really mind if straight people who don't follow LGBT issues closely read a few blogs or people who aren't exactly representative to get an idea of where we stand. But Aravosis's views are so repulsive I don't want to in any way be associated with them.
What's worse is that the ENDA debate is about to restart, and you know who Salon and CNN and the big liberal blogs are going to be calling when it comes to finding a representative of the "LGBT community."
I've seen a few of the most hysterical memes of the past few days start on AMERICAblog, and while I know that the Religious Right generally uses fear-mongering and half-truths to rally the troops.... Well, I just thought we were better than that.
But I'm learning this week that many of us aren't. Oh, well, that's just another way in which we're the same as everyone else.