Alex Blaze

How the Gay Agenda is written: Who's up for a marriage fight?

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 28, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, ENDA, jonathan capehart, LGBT, marriage, media, priorities

Last week I posted about how the mainstream media seem to have decided that marriage is the gays' next priority after being completely ignored for several months. Last Friday, the Washington Post ran this headline:

Rights activists press Obama to work for gay marriage

gay-agenda.pngI read through the article to find who those "rights activists" were: Brian Moulton (a lawyer at HRC), John Aravosis (of AmericaBlog), and Peter Rosenstein, an occasional Washington Blade contributor. These are the people a mainstream journalist talks to when she reaches out and tries to be inclusive; last week it was the David Brock (former Republican and founder of Media Matters) and Richard Socarides (formerly of the Clinton Administration and a current private industry millionaire) Show, with some comic relief from US Rep. Barney Frank.

Of course, if I were to point out anything about the class, race, gender history, sex, and politics of these people, that would be very, very impolite, counterproductive to the movement, and just plain mean. This isn't a democracy, and if anyone else wants to be heard they should convince the mostly white, straight, cisgender, conservative, rich, male people who run the corporate media that they exist. Those self-centered minorities who think they own everything that naturally belongs to their betters should just start their own country to ask for their own rights if they don't like the system.

But I will remark that many on that list are former Republicans, folks who left the GOP mainly because of its opinions on gays. If homophobia ended tomorrow, would Obama be able to count on their support in 2012?

If you've ever wondered how the "gay agenda" gets formed, this is part of it. After a major event (in this case, DADT repeal), gays with connections run to straight media, which is unlikely to ask even basic questions real LGBT people would want answered, to talk about what they want the next priority to be. It becomes the inside story, the explanation for queer behavior that only smart people following the LGBT movement know about, and even genuinely supportive people who don't see themselves as part of the LGBT population think that's what the queers want. It's important to remember that some of the most-read defenses of dropping gender identity from the ENDA in 2007 were published in straight media.

Jonathan Capehart, whose performance at the HRC-sponsored presidential forum three years ago put him solidly in the marriage-focused camp, is already citing the above-linked Washington Post article as if it were some actual study into what the gays want instead of an article making lazy analysis and finding three DC-based gay men to quote in support of the thesis (as well as Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition for the obligatory hate group quote, although I should say that what she says is miles smarter than anything Capehart writes in his piece). He says "the tribe" wants marriage next, but how many people did he talk to in the Tribe to form that opinion? Did he get a representative sample? Because if he talked to the people in the Tribe that I've been talking to, he might have said that was the Tribe really wants is:

  1. An end to job discrimination (of which DADT repeal was a part)
  2. An end to homo/transphobic violence (which the Matthew Shepard Act did not accomplish)
  3. Legal recognition of our various realities (of which marriage is a part, but second-parent adoption, fostering, gender and name changes on ID's, etc., are as well)

Some folks I talk to articulate it in terms of laws (ENDA, DOMA, DADT, etc.), while others articulate it in terms of problems (I'm afraid to hold hands with my boyfriend in public, I avoid taking a plane as much as possible because of the ID checks, I'd come out at work but I don't want to lose my job, etc.). I'm not going to say that that's what the Tribe wants, but from what I'm hearing that what the people close to me think is important. But the people close to me don't have contacts in an establishment paper like the Washington Post, so they go unheard.

Capehart goes on to ask when Obama will come out in support of marriage ("maybe it'll happen in 2011!!1!!! OMG OMG GOMG OMG XXOXXO"... not an exact quote but the gist of what he said) and how we can coax him into supporting same-sex marriage, while ignoring the obvious: Obama supported marriage in 1996 when he ran in a liberal district in Chicago but didn't when he ran in his first statewide campaign in Illinois or his nationwide campaign for president. Like Andrea Lafferty said, he supports same-sex marriage but doesn't think it's politically convenient to say so at the moment.

That's a taller mountain to climb, to prove to Mr. Compromise that there isn't a political downside to coming out in favor of same-sex marriage, especially considering there's little he can do to advance it. He could get the Justice Department to stop defending DOMA, but as we saw in DADT, just because he says he opposes the policy doesn't mean he'll stop defending it in court. He could lobby state legislatures, but that's not really a president's role. He could talk about same-sex marriage, but why do that when he won't get credit for it and there's still plenty of things he could actually pass at the federal level.

As always, work on various issues will continue but the push from big media needed to get them passed (like DADT got this year) won't happen no matter how worthy the issue. I'd love to see Obama get lobbied relentlessly on funding for queer homeless resources and ADAP funding for HIV medication to absorb the budget cuts at the state and local levels as a result of this recession that Obama shows little desire to end, but I doubt the right people think along the same lines.

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But I will remark that many on that list are former Republicans, folks who left the GOP mainly because of its opinions on gays. If homophobia ended tomorrow, would Obama be able to count on their support in 2012?

Please.

You actually have to ask this?

All of Gay, Inc. - and a disturbing percentage of the white GLB rank-n-file - would be perfectly happy with life and law as they were 100 (or even 1000) years ago, so long as there was a gay sex exception in the law.

I think it is smart to pick your battles. Consequently, marriage is the next logical battle choice due to public opinion softening on the issue. It seems to me that to shift any major social legislation a group must fight battles that are winnable and build upon them. And fight like hell we must.

President Roosevelt’s legacy is a prime example of how one moves social issues forward. Moreover, while I abhor the overall GOP agenda I would be the first in line to work with them where we can agree. My dislike for a political party or another person’s stance on other issues should not stop us for working together where we agree. If it does, we become just become like them. This is just one opinion from a tribe member who is a fundraiser for democrats in N.C. Thanks for the good work you all continue to do.

Same sex marriage and it's relative importance has always been centered on a defensive fight responding to the aggressive bigotry of the two right wing parties.

Bill Clintons federal DOMA followed by the Bush-Rove state DOMAs were aggressive attacks on our communities that have successfully blocked progress and ignored shifting legal and public opinions about marriage for 15 years.

There are no signs that the Democrats are willing to reverse themselves on DOMA, in spite of the political wet dreams of naive innocents like Capeheart, the leaders of HRC and most state Equality groups.

There is no tribe, no GLBT community and no GLBT movement. Instead there are increasingly sharp divisions between communities and a myriad of national and local groups where, with few exceptions, people with money and connections to the Democrats call the shots. These divisions reflect the broader polarization of society as reaction to the depression passes from shock to anger.

If moneyed LGBT groups are allowed to draw up an agenda of compromise and accommodation because of the disorganization of the LGBT left we'll continue to be saddled with an agenda of defeat in spite of the vast changes in public attitudes and the militancy of the grassroots movement in response to Obama's aggressive attack against retaining same sex marriage in California in 2008.

Absent a national organization of grass roots activists with internal democracy, a mass action perspective and explicit independence from the two parties of bigotry, little progress will be made developing an agenda and a leadership that represents the goals of working class LGBT folks.
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It's probably worth noting that when same-sex marriage happened in Canada, it galvanized the religious right like never before (partly with start-up funding from groups like Focus, of course). In 5 short years, they've become a significant political influence, with resources to mobilize thousands of their "flock" on issues they're poorly educated about, while the progressives have all gone home. (and in some cases, are now closeted about being progressives, let alone LGBetc.)

Right now, nothing would play into the fearmongering about the "gay agenda" more than pressing for SSM first and foremost.

I see some serious "Storm Clouds Brewing".

1. The fact that AFER openly admits to "recruiting plaintiffs" for their lawsuit against Prop 8 could eventually result is some kind of investigation, in my opinion.

2. If after DADT goes down there turns out to be not all that many military personnel who elect to be openly gay in the Military, people are going to then ask what else on the Gay Agenda is fabricated. Personally, I don't see a lot of men deciding to be openly gay in the military.

3. Every single study coming down the pike on Marriage in the US and Europe shows that there is a decrease in marriages and that younger people think marriage is obsolete. There exists now in America essentially a way to duplicated the PACs alternative to marriage n France. Gay People have so far not been proven to be genetically different from any other people. And, I don't think Americans are all that genetically different from the French.

There's one fast and easy way to get rid of both the federal DOMA and its bastard children in the states, and it's too bad Gay Inc. refuses to realize it.

Every one of these laws dictate that marriage is between "one man/one woman", yet NONE of them codify what *is* a "man" and "woman"!!

Because of that, the real way to eliminate these immoral laws is to have those who defy those simplistic categories: transgender and intersex people!

Just what gender is someone if they have missing or extra sex chromosomes? Did you know I can have a *legal* lesbian relationship with a cisgender woman because my state of Ohio refuses to change my birth certificate from M to F?

What if a transgender person who can change their gender on their birth certificate (say they're MtF) marries a cisgender male, then moves to Ohio? Will their marriage be recognized by the state as required under the 14th Amendment, or will they act like Kansas in the J'Noel Garnier case and proclaim that this is a "same-sex" marriage?

In the case of intersex folk, there are numerous examples of people being raised as women, look like women, sound like women and identify as women, but are XY (and vice versa for men who turn out to be XX).

The American Taliban and their allies are always trying to claim that chromosomes are the key in dealing with transfolk in prisons or in athletics, and are always spewing that being gay is a choice, yet can't fathom the fact there are those who blur their pretty lines which make them comfortable in their bigotry.

Well, my dear bigots... how do you explain intersex folk then?

It's time to focus on those of us who've also faced discrimination, but based on our gender identity.

Just today, there's a report on Pam's House Blend of a FtM who was forced to return his marriage license, because the clerk claimed he had to have a penis to be considered a man! Civil suit, here we come!

Uhm...

Would that it were so.

What happens all too often lately is that trans peoples' marriage attempts are invalidated regardless of the sex of their spouses-to-be and identification notwithstanding, for fear that one way or another the marriage might be considered a same-sex marriage.

And increasingly, intersex people are being treated the same way that trans people are: http://www.tbd.com/blogs/amanda-hess/2010/12/female-inmate-sues-virginia-prison-for-housing-her-with-men-6574.html