Editor's Note: Adam Williams is a public relations professional who lives in Washington, DC, and has been active in Democratic politics since the age of 16, helping elect progressives from the Midwest to the Atlantic seaboard.
The LGBT community is a bit confused right now. To be frank, we're punch drunk. Most of you know why. After years of searching for a path towards progress and equality, we find ourselves still lost in the woods after thinking we'd found one. Now we're left questioning the silence of friends, the scathing of others and searching for a better path to help LGBT individuals and families gain full equality.
Some have said we should voice louder our concerns and frustrations, while others propose a more drastic cessation of political contributions to all Democrats till change does come. I think to find our way out of the woods, we need to get into the Woods. I refer to Anthony Woods.
Anthony Woods is a progressive Democrat running to represent the 10th Congressional District of California. If elected, Woods would be the fourth openly LGBT Member of Congress. Moreover, Woods would be even more unique by being the first openly LGBT member who is a veteran and an African-American. What better advocate to have on the Hill than the first Member of Congress to have suffered the discrimination of Don't Ask, Don't Tell?
This seat, now occupied by Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, will soon open for a Fall 2009 special election once she is confirmed by the Senate to serve President Obama in her new role as an Undersecretary of State.
Woods is one of a rising class of America's next generation of heroes. Educated at West Point and Harvard, Woods is a former Captain in the US Army who served tours of duty in Iraq and received the Bronze Star. Woods was responsible for the lives of 81 men while stationed in Iraq. All of his men returned home safe and sound, a rare accomplishment in such a gruesome war.
Yet after serving gallantly and receiving the Bronze Star, Woods was honorably discharged for coming out after challenging Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Firsthand experience of this discriminatory and ineffective policy would no doubt make Woods one of the LGBT community's best advocates for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and fighting for full equality on the Hill.
Perhaps what is most striking about Woods is how his unique life experiences further his understanding of how issues directly impact varying communities across the board. Woods was born to a single mother of very modest means, one of the 46 million without health insurance. Indeed, it wasn't till Anthony joined the army that he was provided with health insurance for the first time in his life. This is why Woods has placed health care at the center of his campaign and promised to work to ensure America has a universal health care plan with a public option.
Yet Woods is also apt to point out that the higher education system in the US is not accommodating to individuals with his background. As he once told me, "My family couldn't afford health care, so college tuition was unthinkable." Recently, his campaign launched a "Service to College" petition where he proposes that the federal government should match a year of college tuition for every year of service in the military, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or other recognized full-time service programs. This idea, touted by others in Congress, lends example again to the powerful ally that Woods would make in Congress.
It is only when we work to elect candidates like Anthony Woods who have the energy and experiences of this generation that we will be able to advance beyond a paradigm set long ago. Indeed, this would be the best use of the LGBT community's voice and contributions in advocating for equality both in a post-Prop 8 California and on the Hill.
This Thursday, June 25, I will be hosting a fundraiser with other LGBT friends and allies in the Washington, DC area to show support for Anthony Woods. I invite any and all who share a dedication to equality, a passion for Woods' campaign, or hope for better days ahead to come join us that night.