On Thursday, Representative Barney Frank gave an interview to Michelangelo Signorile on SiriusXM. Frank was alternately defensive and apoplectic. He spent the entire time blaming the LGBT community for lack of movement in Congress. He was full of rage and contemptuous of the community. It was a shameful performance.
The incredibly unflappable Signorile asked about the failure of Congress to move on ENDA and DADT, and the President's failure to lead. Frank's angry response was that the LGBT community has failed to lobby Congress. He characterized our community as "lazy" and "whining". He said "that is why we will lose" on ENDA and DADT. It was obvious he was more interested in defending himself and his cronies than in providing any leadership.
Have we failed to lobby Congress? Frank gave not a scintilla of evidence to support his accusations. In fact, one need only take a look at the blogs to see many, many stories about the efforts people are taking to call and write their Congressmembers. Advocacy organizations like the National Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National Center for Transgender Equality were busy organizing phone banks and working with local communities in target districts last Fall. There is lots of evidence that our community has spent a great deal of time and effort and money in lobbying Congress. There is also evidence that Congress has been busy ignoring us.
Are you trying to lead us, Representative Frank, or to intimidate us? I know you're one of the most powerful U.S. Representatives and all, but with all due respect, cut the malarkey.
I believe that Representative Frank is living in the past, when we did not do much effective community lobbying on ENDA. In 2007 and 2009, however, we saw very effective community lobbying for ENDA. He would have been right to direct his criticism against the community in the years 1994-2003. But he is not right now.
It is not an easy task to measure lobbying effectiveness. We have no way to measure directly the number of calls or letters to Congressmembers. Congressman Frank knows this, and he is counting on this to give him political cover. But there are indirect ways to measure the effects of lobbying by the community, and these show that Congressman Frank's contention that we have not lobbied Congress to be against the available evidence.
I took a look at the past ENDA bills since 1994, and how many original co-sponsors there were at the time the bill was introduced. As in all political events, this number is the result of many different factors, including the social climate of the country, the party platforms, other issues that may dominate the agenda, effectiveness of political insiders. It most certainly did not, however, result from community lobbying for the bill, since the bill did not exist until the time of its introduction.
I then took a look at how many co-sponsors signed on after the original co-sponsors. Again, that is probably the result of many factors, but that result includes a new factor: the community lobbying for the bill. Any increase in the number of co-sponsors after the introduction of the bill has a direct relationship to the amount of community lobbying.
What can the numbers show us? If we see that there were few co-sponsors added after the introduction of the bill, then I think it is fair to say that our community lobbying was not terribly effective, though of course other factors are involved as well. If, however, we see that there were many co-sponsors added after the introduction of the bill, then I think it fair to say that our community lobbying was effective.
Here are the numbers.
In 2007 and 2009, the co-sponsorship numbers changed dramatically in the House. We added 117 additional co-sponsors in 2007 and 80 in 2009. This is far, far, far above the few that were added in past years. The Senate numbers tell a different story. We never got to the Senate in 2007. Because the House has taken so long to get its act together, we also have not had much of an opportunity to focus on the Senate.
What was different in 2007 and 2009? There was a explosion of community lobbying. We still lost. Yes, the community must continue to lobby, and increase its efforts. On that we can agree, Representative Frank. But, honestly, when you so harshly criticize our efforts, giving us no credit for anything we've done, and calling our Equality March pitiful, you suppress community interest. When you delay, delay, delay, you suppress community interest. You, George Miller, Nancy Pelosi, President Obama - you're all acting like the anti-lobby. Whose side are you on?
I also note that, in addition to the 197 co-sponsors we have now, there are another 26 likely yes votes, bringing us to a total of 223. Of course, we cannot rely on this count, and we must do our best to lobby the remaining 29 unconfirmed votes. But don't tell me we haven't worked hard on this.
I know you're the only game in town, Representative Frank, so when ENDA does move forward, I will be right there alongside you lobbying hard. I've already made many painful personal sacrifices to lobby for this bill, as have many of my friends and many in our community. I acknowledge you for the years, and the time, effort and heart you have put into moving ENDA and many other important community issues forward. You have made remarkable progress. Why spoil the love the community has for you?
Please, stop blaming us and start leading the community.