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
I 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:
- An end to job discrimination (of which DADT repeal was a part)
- An end to homo/transphobic violence (which the Matthew Shepard Act did not accomplish)
- 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.