An Adam Bink Golden Oldie
From Feb 25, 2010. Original HERE.
Over the weekend at Rootscamp and generally over the past few weeks, I've been participating in a series of conversations concerning the relationship between traditional "legacy" LGBT organizations- such as the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)- and online communities. Discussions have centered around how there has been a lot of "infighting" over the past few months. Two prominent examples are the blogswarm last week aimed at the Human Rights Campaign around its strategy on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, along with Bil Browning's criticism of GLAAD around The Cleveland Show episode, but criticisms in general- including in my writing, as you may have noticed- have been growing louder across the LGBT blogosphere for some time now.
What is interesting to me is where healthy dialogue turns into "infighting", and why it is deemed critical that progressive movement actors- such as President Obama and Democratic Congressional leaders- need a "left flank", but the same does not seem to apply to LGBT organizations.
More on this, along with an interview w/HRC President Joe Solmonese, in the extended entry.
Following passage of the bill in the Illinois House yesterday, just now the Illinois State Senate passed (count of 32-24) a bill providing protections to same-sex couples via civil unions (as well as opposite-sex, unmarried couples). The bill will go to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has pledged to sign it, and it will take effect in July. Illinois will become the 12th state (plus DC) to provide some kind of relationship recognition to same-sex couples.
Often during these events, conversations begin about whether to settle for "halfbaked" respect in the form of civil unions or domestic partnerships rather than push for full marriage equality. For more on this, I've written about this here and here. First, I defer to Illinois couples who face social oppression, higher costs, lack of crucial family protections and so forth, want. It's not my partner whom I can't visit in the hospital, or make funeral arrangements for. That's up to them, and many couples would rather have civil unions and the rights that come with them today then marriage equality in an undetermined period of time from now.
Second, I think my colleague Evan Wolfson with Freedom to Marry, via press release, has it right:
While a welcome step, civil union is no substitute for the full measure of respect, clarity, security, responsibilities, and protection of marriage itself. States that have created civil union as a means of both giving and withholding - providing legal protections while withholding the freedom to marry and all its meaning - have found that civil union falls far short of marriage with all its tangible and intangible significance in our lives. Many of those states - Connecticut, New Hampshire, and even Vermont, which first created civil union - have since pushed past civil union to marriage, recognizing the inadequacy and unfairness of a separate and unequal status.
Civil unions are no substitute for the real thing, and we'll all keep pushing for that full recognition and respect.
Third, as commenter texas dem noted in the past, this helps move the ball down the field.
Civil unions are frequently a route to moving the ball down the field. They provide some relief to some people now, they get people comfortable with the idea of legal recognition for gay relationships, and they create the real-world proof that less than full equality is just not good enough. A few years of civil unions, and a few horror stories of their failures, can help prepare people for and convince people of the need for full marriage equality.
So good on Illinois legislators and advocates, and now onto the freedom to marry.
As the returns were coming in last night, despite the, to quote the President on this day four years ago, "thumpin'" we took, I did find several rays of light in victories for the LGBT movement and allies. I share them because while I'm not a Hope kind of guy, I do believe that finding what is positive and what worked is as important as what went wrong. We have some work to do, after all.
At the top of the list for me is that around the country, governors who pledged to sign important equality legislation were elected in key races- Cuomo in NY, Abercrombie in HI, Chafee in RI, O'Malley in MD, Brown in CA, and perhaps Mark Dayton in Minnesota who is leading at the time of this post. California is so important because of the standing issue that threatened to bring the whole Prop 8 case down, while MD, RI, NY and MN are, from what multiple sources on the ground have told me and my own observations, the four states in which we are closest to getting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples enshrined into law. In Hawaii, where Gov. Lingle callously vetoed the civil unions bill, we replaced her with proud progressive and LGBT ally Neil Abercrombie, who will sign it if/when should it pass through the legislature again. The biggest disappointment was major homophobe Paul LePage winning the governor's chair in Maine, who not only opposes marriage equality but also wants to repeal the 2005 anti-discrimination law, a law upheld even by the voters. This will make it very tough to get a marriage bill through again soon. On the whole, though, some good advances among state executives.
In New York State, where we lost the marriage vote in the State Senate 24-38 last December, we made gains. By my count, a minimum of 25 pro-equality Senators, either by previous vote or by voice, will take their seats, and that could go as high as 28 (three incumbent Democrats who voted for the bill are in tight races not yet called). 32 votes are needed to pass a bill. Between a handful who pledged to be with us should their votes pave the way for passage, and perhaps more whose minds will be changed, solid victories. Of equal concern is retaining Democratic control of the State Senate, as despite minority leader Skelos' promise to bring up the bill for a vote again, I don't believe him. At worst, it looks like a 29/33 minority and at best, retain control by the same margin of 32/30, but that is critical.
In California, Kamala Harris is putting up a fight that is a close one- it looks like with nearly all the votes in, she is up by a margin of 0.2%, but with Riverside County yet to come in, along with absentees and provisional ballots. That race is also important to the standing issue in Prop 8, and also because Kamala is as outspoken a straight ally as we'll find on the freedom to marry.
Losing the judges in Iowa who ruled in favor of the freedom to marry hurts, and is frankly offensive. As one colleague wrote to me this morning, another new low in NOM and the anti-gays playing with fire near the state constitution.
But, NOM's top dog in California, Andy Pugno, the author of Prop 8, went down in an Assembly race to a staunchly pro-LGBT ally. And they lost around the country, from Paladino (who they weirdly sued for the right to advertise in favor of without having to follow state law) to DC City Council candidates to NH Gov. John Lynch, re-elected despite heavy NOM advertising slamming him for signing the marriage bill.
California and Maryland now has seven openly gay members of the state legislature, highest in the nation (still too few, but the arc of history). David Cicilline also became the fourth openly LGBT member of Congress, and Barney Frank won in a walk over FreedomWorks with gay staffers GOProud endorsee Sean Bielat. In Lexington, KY, Jim Gray was elected mayor as an openly gay man. The Victory Fund reports a record number of openly LGBT candidates elected to office.
In the losses that perhaps hurt the most, LGBT heroes Sen. Russ Feingold, Rep. Patrick Murphy, and Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet- three candidates I worked perhaps hardest for, and many of you contributed to- all went down. I think in almost any other year, good men like these would have won- and I hope they all run again. Other openly gay candidates some of whom had a shot and some who did not, lost. Barbara Boxer returning to the Senate is the one good step on the national level.
Some of the losses yesterday felt like a punch in the gut, while others a ray of light. All in all, a step forward for marriage equality nationwide and LGBT people and allies. And the fight to return our strongest champions in those who lost continues anew.
For those of you who follow LGBT politics, you'll know there's a lot of what some call "infighting". Infighting over tactics, messaging, how much Obama should be supported vs. criticized, and the like. It can get distracting and sometimes very personal.
A few weeks ago, myself, along with Joe Sudbay over at AMERICABlog and Rick Jacobs at the Courage Campaign, were chatting about all this. We agreed that (a) while debate over tactics etc. can be healthy, the division can threaten to undermine votes for LGBT equality coming up on Election Day (b) Despite the headlines, this community is more united than divided. There are a lot of voices in the pro-equality chorus, and like brothers and sisters in a family, we all sing in our own unique way. But when push comes to shove, we are always singing the same song.
So we decided to ask some of the bigger names in all these headlines if they would set their differences aside and come together on a common cause: that cause being re-electing Rep. Patrick Murphy, who led the fight to pass repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the House.
Murphy, who stormed back from being down double digits in the polls to being up 46-43 in yesterday's The Hill poll, is in a tough fight in an economically depressed district. DC Conventional Wisdom told him to stop working on that gay stuff and focus on jobs, jobs, jobs. Needless to say, he ignored them, worked side by side with those of us in the LGBT and allied community (online AND offline), whipped the votes, went on Maddow and anywhere else he could find to talk loud and proud about how important this cause is to him- a straight veteran- and got it done. He kept his promise.
So with the help of Dan Manatt at ManattMedia.com, we produced this video to send that message: that we're coming together to get Patrick's back because he got ours. Everyone was so excited that they recorded it right where they are, day of- wherever they could.
I see that GOProud, an organization that was billed to be a new kind of Log Cabin Republicans but has turned into a hybrid Uncle Tom apologist for kind-of-pro-gay-but-only-when-people-ask-about-it, not-anti-equality-but-not-gay-bashing-either Republicans, is now working to take down Barney Frank. Today, they've endorsed his challenger, Sean Bielat, and are actively working on his behalf.
This isn't anything new for GOProud. I wrote here about how they're the same organization that endorsed Mary Bono Mack, a woman who voted against DADT repeal, refuses to support an inclusive ENDA, voted to ban same-sex adoption in DC, and refuses to take a position on Prop 8, over the man who would be the first openly gay married parent elected to Congress, Mayor Steve Pougnet. A clear contrast here, but they didn't care. I wrote here how they tripped over each other to defend Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI), who said he voted for DADT repeal because of that serious problem we all know exists in the military:
DJOU: On that particular issue, it comes from personal experience. I have served for nearly 10 years now in the United States Army Reserve. What concerned me about the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy is that it just simply doesn't work. And I have seen too many instances as an army reservist, soldiers would sign up for a re-enlistment bonus. Get this gigantic sum from the American taxpayer. And then as soon as the unit gets called up to mobilize to Iraq and Afghanistan, they suddenly claim they are gay, with no prior indication of that whatsoever. Get the discharge and keep the bonus. That's wrong, that's unfair and that's why this policy should be changed.
Ohhkay. When LGBT activists rolled their eyes, GOProud ED Jimmy LaSalvia snapped:
"The fact that any on the gay left would analyze why Charles Djou voted for DADT repeal, rather than the fact that he did, shows that they are more interested in affirmation and the group hug than actually delivering results for our community," he said.
So let's look at their press release announcing how exactly kicking Barney Frank out of Congress will advance LGBT equality.
"If we really want to protect gay jobs we don't need to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act [ENDA], we need to fire Barney Frank," said Jimmy LaSalvia, Executive Director of GOProud. "From his perch atop the Financial Services committee, Barney Frank was one of the architects of the financial meltdown that cost millions of Americans - including gay and lesbian workers - their jobs.
This is the biggest crock of bullshit. ENDA doesn't really matter, and Barney Frank created the financial meltdown. I'm guessing this is why they closed comments on the website post announcing this- they don't want people saying they're full of it.
Sean Bielat is a common-sense conservative who supports policies that will grow our economy, create jobs, and improve the lives of all Americans, but especially gay and lesbian Americans."
"After almost 30 years in Washington, Barney Frank is everything that is wrong with politics today," continued LaSalvia. "Instead of supporting pragmatic approaches to healthcare, social security and tax reform that would help gay and lesbian families, Barney Frank has preferred to play partisan politics and serve as the all-too-willing attack dog for the most radical elements of the Democrat Party."
"Unlike Barney Frank, Sean Bielat supports free-market healthcare reforms that will make domestic partner benefits more available to gays and lesbians and will give individuals - not the government - more control over their healthcare," said LaSalvia. "Sean also supports reforms to Social Security, creating personal savings accounts allowing gays and lesbians couples to leave their Social Security to their partners or whoever else they choose - reform opposed by Barney Frank."
Sean Bielat believes that marriage is a state issue and opposes a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Bielat strongly backs 2nd Amendment rights, supports efforts to aggressively fight terrorism and the spread of tyrannical anti-gay radical Islamic regimes, and favors school choice.
Basically, GOProud's recipe for finding "pro-LGBT" Republicans to support is :
1. Taking FreedomWorks' altar-of-the-free-market solutions for America- school choice, privatizing Social Security with personal accounts, give every newborn a Social Security card and a gun because it's his/her Constitutional right, etc.- and then throwing in the a random mention of "which will of course benefit gays and lesbians" or some variation thereof to describe the policy
2. Making sure the potential Republican doesn't support lynching gays or anything crazy
3. Finding some random issue they can claim to be a measure of LGBT support, like opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment or "my neighbor down the street is gay" or whatever works
and Voilà! You have a pro-LGBT Republican! Basically, under this model, nearly any policy can be worded to be a pro-LGBT policy, and any Republican can be a pro-LGBT Republican.
I had the privilege of speaking to New Organizing Institute's LGBT Bootcamp a few days ago, and tonight they're holding a party at NGP Software which the GOProud Chairman, Chris Barron, has been invited to attend. Since the Bootcampers learned about the concept of "theory of change" a few days ago, if Barron accepts, I'd love to hear a report on Barron's theory of change regarding how defeating Barney Frank and Steve Pougnet, along with being apologists for Republican homophobes, dismissing the importance of ENDA, and generally sucker-punching our movement out of our best advocates and votes, will advance LGBT equality.
Bringing Republicans on board is one thing. Being another FreedomWorks with gay staffers in charge who justify their work to bring down our best LGBT advocates by throwing around "gays and lesbians" in a press release here and there is another.
Please join us at 6 PM EST tonight for a live chat with Rep. Paul Hodes, the Democratic nominee for the open Senate seat in New Hampshire.
I am a big believer that if you're going to make a criticism, be specific. If it's of a tactic, prove that there's a better one. If it's of an organization or group of people, show what the problems are and/or who the bad actors are.
That's why I cringe lately when I hear a lot of friends and colleagues in the LGBT community have been (rightfully) complaining about "the Democrats" in Congress and the White House, and how "the Democrats" don't deserve LGBT support this fall. Because every time I hear it, I think back to the aftermath of the New York State Senate vote on marriage equality, where all of the post-vote narrative- including from Democratic State Senator and bill sponsor Tom Duane- was "This is all the Democrats' fault." I wrote at the time that aside from Democrats being responsible for the bill getting as far as it did in the first place, such rhetoric makes people who aren't into politics identify "Democrat" with "sucks" or "no better than Republicans"- something that's not helpful when strong progressives run. It also creates this false notion that the solution is simply to engage in as many primaries as possible, even if there are Republicans who are equally vulnerable. And while we've been kicking anti-equality State Senators to the curb- another one last night- we'll never get a vote on marriage again under Republican control.
The same is true on ENDA, DOMA and other issues under Speaker Boehner. If we're ever going to build a pro-equality, and progressive majority, in Congress, our community has to seek and find our allies. That's a one-by-one process, not a party-by-party process. The LGBT community has to continue to find our enemies and our champions, and that's what I want to talk about today.
Today, OpenLeft along with AMERICABlog, Pam's House Blend, Bilerico Project, and Good as You will be launching a series of live chats with selected pro-equality champions in tight races. Rep. Paul Hodes from New Hampshire's 2nd District is the first candidate. He's from one of five states where same-sex couples have the freedom to marry- and he's a strong marriage equality supporter himself. He's a co-sponsor of inclusive ENDA legislation, as well as the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA. And he's voted to add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal hate crimes statutes, and to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And he's a straight ally, and running against an extremely anti-LGBT equality Republican. He's exactly the kind of champion I believe the LGBT community needs to get into the Senate and start moving the ball down the field.
Rep. Hodes will be joining us, along with allied blogs AMERICABlog, Pam's House Blend, Bilerico Project, and Good As You tonight at 6 PM. We'll be using CoverItLive.com. This isn't just another chat to talk about his race to replace anti-equality Republican Judd Gregg in the U.S. Senate, although, that's an important one I'll discuss tonight. We'll be asking, and want you to ask, about the holdup on LGBT issues in Congress, how we can get more straight allies in Congress and in the public on our side, what resources pro-LGBT activists can leverage to get more members of Congress elected and on our side, and how to move our movement forward. It's more of a "salon" than a live chat because if you're going to be asked for your support, you deserve that.
Please join us tonight at 6 PM EST for a live chat with Rep. Hodes, and bring your best questions.
Update: Going back through a memory of Hodes, I came across his live chat at Blue America, back when the No On 1 campaign was raging. Here's Howie on Hodes:
Today, he's asked us to let our readers know that he'd like anyone who was considering donating to his campaign during this live blogging session, instead donate to the No on 1 campaign in Maine. Paul isn't a frightened, mealy-mouthed congressman tiptoeing around equality with a "separate but equal" non-solution for marriage rights. You don't hear him talking about domestic partnerships. He favors equal rights under the law for all couples regardless of gender. "The legislation passed in New Hampshire," he reminds us, "will ensure that all Granite Staters have equal rights under the law. And the law is consistent with the spirit of New Hampshire expressed in our state motto 'Live Free or Die.' Marriage equality gives equal justice to New Hampshire residents. I will continue to work for those same principles as a US Senator and I am a proud co-sponsor of the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act."
Note: You can watch Steve's debate tonight at 9:30 EST here.
I don't normally take a close interest in Congressional races unless it's someone I personally know, have believed in enough to work for (Ted Kennedy) or is a personal hero of mine (also Ted Kennedy). I want to hit on one race that's different.
I've been in touch with Steve, who is the current Mayor of Palm Springs, CA, and his team since last year. Steve, who is openly gay, is running against Mary Bono Mack in CA-45, a district Obama won with just over 51% of the vote that is centered on Palm Springs and Cathedral City that stretches east to the Arizona border, and includes Joshua Tree National Park. Aside from being generally terrible on plenty of issues, including the stimulus and health care, Bono Mack parades around as this faux LGBT-friendly member of Congress, mostly because heavily gay Palm Springs is in her district. Then she voted for the Largent Amendment in 1999, which would have banned same-sex parent adoption in DC. She refused to take any position on Prop 8, despite being a CA member. She refuses to co-sponsor an inclusive ENDA. And the final straw for me was voting against repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, despite compromise after compromise being made, and characters like Powell and Cheney coming out in favor of it, to pave the way for supposed LGBT-friendly moderates like Bono Mack. Didn't matter.
Back to Steve. A lot of candidates reach out to online organizers and blogfolk, and Steve's team was no different at first. They know I write about LGBT issues. That was until I started talking more and more with him personally, and discovered that he actually reads blogs, and even more importantly, he actually gets it.
I use that expression a lot, and people use it a lot with me, and it's hard to define "it". Taking a loose stab at "it", I would say it means he gets the need to organize in and outside of Congress. In fact, he used that term with me- "organize" when I first talked with him on the phone about six months ago. I took notes on what he said to me:
I know you do online organizing. I would like to do that same kind of organizing, but colleague-to-colleague. I would be the first openly gay parent elected to Congress- I've got two daughters. I would be first legally married gay man elected to Congress. I really think kind of colleague-to-colleague contact makes a difference. I want to go to DC to build those kinds of relationships and bring straight allies onboard.
It really struck a chord with me. Aside from what I believe is the need to have more out LGBT members of Congress- there are only 3 out of 435- having someone who runs for the first time as a married gay dad just sends jitters through me when I think about what kind of difference that could make. I often wonder to myself, how many moderate, squishy members of Congress who are hedging on their co-sponsorship of ENDA, or aren't sure if they believe in marriage equality, have ever actually talked to someone like Steve? Arkansas voters recently enacted a ban on same-sex parent adoption, and it's become an issue in Florida statewide races. How many members from those delegations know someone who is a in a same-sex relationship and raised kids just as well as any two opposite-sex individuals?
And, perhaps most importantly, he would be the only member of Congress impacted by DOMA, as he told John and Joe:
He continued to tell me on the phone:
I'm not going to Washington look for a job. I have children. I'm very passionate about my politics. All my employees and my bosses knew that I'm gay and who my partner is, despite going to a conservative school. I'm never been afraid of that and I won't be in Washington. Do I plan on making it very difficult for folks to vote against something that will hurt my family? Absolutely. There's nothing my family is going to do that's going to hurt your family. So will I be a strong force on those issues? Absolutely. You'll see very quickly the leadership role we play in the LGBT movement.
I don't think it's a silver bullet, but having an openly gay dad in Congress could make a difference.
Aside from that, Steve is boldly progressive on many other issues, including his concentration as Mayor on clean energy, his support of a public option (his father is a physician, his mother a nurse, and talked my ear off about health care), and his concentration on the environment (he's a big outdoors guy). He married more same-sex couples than any other mayor in California. He took the time to come to Netroots Nation this year. He was a DFA Grassroots All-Star finalist. He diaries on Kos and raises on ActBlue from boldly progressive communities. He reads progressive blogs, including our little space here. I'm proud to try and help him get to Congress.
I'm telling you all this because Steve is debating Mary Bono Mack tonight- her first debate since 2002- in their only debate of the year at 6:30 PST/9:30 EST. I'm kinda looking forward to it, if only because I haven't seen a candidate debate since, I think, Obama/McCain.
You can watch it here (and if the embed works, I'll embed it here). Check him out, watch the debate and see what you think.
Questions have come in on why this ruling applies only to married same-sex couples living in Massachusetts, and how to expand it. The simple answer is that was the arena for the case in the District Court. The case now goes to the First Circuit, which includes New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine and Puerto Rico. If it is upheld there and not overturned at the Supreme Court, it would affect couples in New Hampshire as well, where same-sex marriage is legal- and of course, couples if/when marriage becomes legal in those other states/Puerto Rico. Kent Greenfield explains:
The rulings apply to Massachusetts, but if a higher court with a broader jurisdiction were to hear an appeal and agree with the judge's rulings, their impact would spread, said Boston College professor Kent Greenfield, a constitutional law expert. The rulings might encourage other attorneys general who oppose DOMA to sue to try to knock it down, he said.
While it's likely to be appealed, FWIW, Courage Campaign has a petition up urging President Obama to direct the Department of Justice to not appeal.
Tobias Barrington Wolff from UPenn Law School, a colleague and expert in constitutional law and LGBT issues, was on The Rachel Maddow Show (guest-hosted by Chris Hayes) discussing next steps, a possible DOJ appeal, and the scope of this case with respect to marriage.
On responses to cases like this, and Prop 8, I've noticed an interesting trend in political and legal strategy, which is to engender similar discrimination upon heterosexual couples as is upon same-sex couples. One example is the ballot initiative attempt in California that would ban heterosexual divorce. Another was described by commenter BBCWatcher yesterday:
States which recognize same-sex marriage, such as Massachusetts, could pass mini-anti-DOMAs that strike recognition of all marriages conducted in states that do not recognize all marriages conducted in Massachusetts. In other words (Massachusetts could say), if you don't recognize ALL our marriages, then we'll recognize NONE of yours.
That would be a neat tactic to accelerate a case through the courts that honors the "full faith and credit" clause in the U.S. Constitution. And it would sweep away mini-DOMAs everywhere. I don't see how the courts could do avoid purging all those mini-DOMAs. The full faith and credit clause is incredibly important.
I'm no legal expert, so I can't speak to the potential of legal success on these strategies. I do think it would be hard to get legislators- particularly heterosexual ones- to enact such a law. Legislators would probably believe it to drive away all the heterosexual couples considering moving to Massachusetts (which it probably would). And as a means to obtaining equality, while doing something like advocating for a ban on heterosexual divorce and refusing to recognize out-of-state marriages may "enlighten" many people with respect to discrimination that same-sex couples face and bring them to the pro-equality side, it may also anger many, many others. I'm not one to believe that giving comeuppance "you did this to us, so we'll do this to you" is as effective a tactic as public education. It may be the slower and less sexy way, but it may also be the best.
This afternoon I wrote about The Today Show's wedding contest and its exclusion of same-sex couples from entering. At the time 2,600 e-mails were sent to NBC urging them to reconsider, a number that is now just shy of 3,500.
This evening, some good news from GLAAD, which has been leading the effort to allow same-sex couples to enter:
Late this afternoon we received a phone call from NBC asking GLAAD to meet tomorrow with Today Show Executive Producer, Jim Bell and key NBC communications representatives.
We have accepted NBC's invitation to sit face to face and discuss the Today Show wedding contest. We will be standing firm in urging the network to do the right thing and open the contest.
What GLAAD wants is the same thing that the thousands of people who wrote to NBC want. We want committed same-sex couples to have the same opportunity to share our stories of love and commitment and to be considered for this exciting wedding competition.
We will report back to you with any new developments after the meeting.
I've noticed that the first response to any kind of institution with which people have an economic relationship doing someone they don't like is to automatically call for a "boycott", "buycott", or something similar. Sometimes it works, many times it doesn't.
Karen Ocamb over at LGBTPOV spoke to Donald Bentz with Equality Hawaii, examining that question in the wake of Gov. Lingle's outrageous veto last night that would have legalized civil unions for same-sex partners:
As for a boycott of Hawaii, Bentz said he understands the inclination but it poses a "quandary" for a lot of businesses in the tourism industry. Last April, the right-wing-lead executive committee of a business roundtable sent a letter to the governor urging her to veto the civil unions bill. Bentz said the full membership didn't know the letter was being sent - and it forced them to take a stand, which many did, calling for full marriage equality. A boycott, Bentz said, would hurt those businesses - the airlines and hotels with progressive policies. Bentz said Equality Hawaii will have to discuss how to proceed with other LGBT groups and allies after they cool down and can "think logically." They may consider a "buycott" which directs LGBT spending to specific businesses with good LGBT policies, and an implicit "boycott" everything else.
"Right now we are all raw emotions," he said. "This is really difficult. There is a lot of anger. We know people on the mainland are already calling for a boycott. So do we get behind that? How do we want our friends and allies on the mainland to know where we want to be?"
This harkens back to the widely cited Colorado boycott after the passage of Amendment 2 in 1992, which banned state and local municipalities from enacting laws protecting "homosexual" individuals as a protected class (eventually overturned in the Romer v. Evans SCOTUS case). The resulting boycott, according to Director Terry Schleder, led to over 60 companies canceling conventions or meetings in the state, 20 U.S. municipalities severing ties, New York City divesting stock holding in Colorado-based companies, companies canceling their planned relocation of headquarters to the state, etc. There was a clear economic impact. On the other hand, there was also a significant increase in violence and a backlash against the LGBT community.
I think taking a minute and figuring out the best theory of change to achieve a smart response on this, as Donald suggests, is indeed the most important thing. Many of the companies which would be hurt by this, according to Don as he told Karen, stood up for the civil unions bill, as did many of their employees. In my view, the strongest amount of resources should be directed at electing Neil Abercrombie as governor. The problem here is a lack of support and veto by the governor, not by legislators or Hawaii residents (which, according to polling, support the bill at an 80% clip). The two situations with respect to Amendment 2 and this one, and what's the appropriate response, aren't parallel. The most immediate opportunity for change comes in November, here. Our side needs to elect a pro-equality governor and maintain support in the legislature to win on this next year, and those should be the first priorities- partly because they directly affect the problem, and partly because they are the most immediate opportunities to effect change. Efforts outside of that have to reward, or hurt as little as possible, supporters of the bill, while extracting a message and punishment for those who went the wrong way- as well as communicate the results of successful efforts to legislators.
Unbelievable. Jeremy Hooper has audio of the press conference. The House had passed the bill 31-20 and the Senate 18-7, but action on this will have to wait until the 2011 legislative session as legislative leaders have stated they will not go into special session to attempt a veto override. My deepest sympathies for couples in the state, and those who worked hard on this.
More background on the mess to get this bill through the Legislature is here. For some reason, it took Lingle weeks and weeks to make up her mind to not even be able to get to a place of basic fairness for same-sex couples. I'm putting highlight quotes in the extended entry (h/t Rex Wockner), as some of them make my blood boil so much this post would take up another page to respond.
In response, the ACLU and Lambda Legal are preparing to file a lawsuit.
For all of the hammering of what is known as "Gay, Inc." in online spaces, (although I prefer the term "legacy" organizations) it is nice to have some examples of how things could work better. I found one great example in my inbox today.
One Colorado Education Fund, an arm of the LGBT equality group in the state, commissioned two polls- one of 4,600 LGBT Coloradans (including special efforts to reach people of color and transgender individuals) as well as 1,000 non-LGBT Coloradans on their perspectives regarding issues important to LGBT people. Colorado is a moderately pro-LGBT state at the legislative level, enacting housing, public accomodations, employment and hate crimes protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as allowing unmarried same-sex couples to adopt each other's children and make certain medical decisions for each other. State employees also can have their domestic partners on benefit plans. But the polling demonstrated that about a third of those polled were unaware such protections existed. And the state both enacted a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as well as defeating a proposal to enact domestic partnership benefits. There is still a long way to go on that front.
The poll is a smart endeavor at accomplishing several things. One is obviously to communicate how pro-LGBT Coloradans are to lawmakers and the rest of the public. But to me, the most interesting part is how the numbers get at what LGBT Coloradans face and how they live. The numbers include percentage of those with health insurance, income levels, employment that all elicit some concern, and even figures like 83% of LGBT Coloradans have given money, goods or services to non-profits in the past year, and 31% of transgender people have served on a committee or board for a charitable group. I view this as a great way to communicate that LGBT Coloradans and families face the same struggles everyone else does, and give back the same way, too. In many places I've traveled, there is a perception that the gays are all well-off, living in fabulously decorated condos and never spend time giving back to their community. These numbers push back at that.
Equally important is how the numbers describe startling percentages of those who are not out of the closet at home or work, or have faced harassment on the street, in a public place, or in school- also an important way to communicate how Colorado is still not "live and let live". It goes back to what I keep repeating on the national level, how people can be fired just for who they love in 29 states, and how they appear in 38 states. This is that, except on a micro-level. Very important. You can check out full results of the poll here.
What I like almost as much as the polling idea is the town hall meetings across the state to open the floor up for ideas on how to build a better LGBT equality movement in the state- and in partnership with other progressive groups across the state. From my inbox:
YOU spoke. WE listened. Check out the results!
Join One Colorado and our community partners for a series of townhall meetings throughout the state. We will present the findings from the recent Needs Assessment of LGBT Coloradans, engage in an open dialogue, and seek your input about the next steps for a fair and just Colorado.
Boulder - July 13: 7:00 PM - RSVP HERE
Fort Collins - July 19: 7:00 PM - RSVP HERE
Colorado Springs - July 20: 7:00 PM - RSVP HERE
Denver - July 21: 7:00 PM - RSVP HERE
Durango - July 27: 7:00 PM - RSVP HERE
Grand Junction - July 29: 7:00 PM - RSVP HERE
Invite your friends, family and neighbors. All are welcome to attend and help shape the future of a statewide LGBT equality movement!
Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, Progress Now, New Era Colorado Foundation, ACLU of Colorado, 9to5, National Association of Working Women - Colorado, Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance, Latina Initiative, The Kaleidoscope Project, Two Spirit Society, Gender Identity Center, Colorado AIDS Project, LGBT Community Center of Colorado, Denver PFLAG, PFLAG Boulder County, PFLAG Durango/Four Corners, PFLAG Fort Collins/Northern Colorado, Boulder Pride, Western Equality, Lambda Community Center, Denver Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Babes Around Denver, Inside Out Youth Services of Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Community Center, Out Front Colorado, Four Corners Gay & Lesbian Alliance for Diversity, Denver GLBT Commission, Sisters in Lesbian Kinship, Men's Supper Group of Fort Collins, Fortitude Men's Group, OGLBT, City of Fort Collins Recreation Department, CU-Boulder LGBT Resource Center, Imperial Court of the Rocky Mountains, GLSEN Colorado
I mention this because one of the most frequent criticisms of national "legacy" organizations in our movement is the lack of openness and accountability. I suggested the idea of once-a-year town hall meetings in cities across the country to HRC President Joe Solmonese in person last November, and it's something I still strongly suggest his and other groups take up. There will always be vociferous critics of positions groups like HRC take, but I find much of the criticism is simply not grounded in fact. A simple example is "HRC hasn't done anything", which is one I hear a lot, and debunked here and here. I got a ton of e-mails after each of those pieces from pretty apolitical LGBT friends who said they didn't realize HRC did more than just concerts and fundraisers- and from political colleagues who admitted the group was better than the vociferous criticism leveled, in some respects at least. On top of that, Joe himself told me in an interview he welcomes constructive criticism. You won't always find well-informed or reasonable viewpoints from some who attend town hall meetings, but you will find many. And among those who aren't, you might find that minds are more open after engaging them. What I see from our community is a cry for more dialogue and being able to question strategies, have questions answered, and simply engage with our leaders who go to the White House and Capitol Hill and represent us. I'd love to see more of that, not just from HRC, but from groups across the spectrum- and One Colorado is setting a good example.
The point here is that you won't always win over those who disagree on strategy, but you will open a dialogue, and you will dissect and eliminate some misperceptions. I'm glad One Colorado is moving toward that, and it's something like to see on the national level, too.
This morning, I wanted to share with you two things: one is the live streaming video of the committee hearing. Lori Knowles from the University of Alberta is currently giving an amazing presentation on how the policy stigmatizes all gay men as diseased and a threat to society, that AIDS is a gay male disease, and that the AIDS test is unreliable.
Next up at approximately 10:00 AM, Gay Men's Health Crisis, an organization with which I've been working on this issue and a group that eventually became the first major organization to help those living with HIV/AIDS back in the early 1980s, will be presenting a case for revising the ban for about half an hour or so. If you'd like to see experts make a case on why the ban should be revised, I urge you to watch. It really is a fascinating discussion. Later this morning at 11:05 AM EST, there will be an open public comment period. You can view the live streaming video and the agenda for the rest of the day here.
Second, I want to share something with you. A number of people felt inspired by the call to action yesterday and forwarded me the letters they submitted to Dr. Jerry Holmberg, the Executive Secretary of the Committee tasked with accepting public comments. With his permission, I've republished a letter in the extended entry from Tim Kerr below (which is where the title of this post comes from), who read about our blogswarm on Pam's House Blend and Joe.My.God and took action. I'll be sharing a few more throughout the day.
Please read Tim's letter and if you have not already done so, please submit a public comment to email@example.com, and urge that the ban be revised to improve the nation's health, meet sound scientific practices, and eliminate discrimination. You can view talking points and a form letter for your convenience in my post here.
Thanks for taking action.
Thankfully I haven't yet needed a blood transfusion (knock on wood), but I have been personally affected by the ban on blood donation by gay men and I'd like to share with you how.
I've always been active in my community and worked hard to try to improve the world around me in ways both large and small, for example by representing indigent clients in the courtroom and administrative hearings, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or just helping someone with a baby carriage down the steps of the subway or through a door. In high school and college, once I was old enough, I gave blood during every blood drive, wore my stickers proudly, and guilted those around me into doing the same. I gave blood even when there was no blood drive going at school. This was the natural thing for me to do. It's how I try to live my life. But I haven't been allowed to give blood for over a decade now, and I've never truly understood why.
Yesterday, the New York State Senate Judiciary Committee voted down GENDA, which would have added gender identity to the state's anti-discrimination statutes. Sexual orientation is already protected as a basis for discrimination. The vote was 11 in favor and 12 against, with every Democrat except resident homophobe Ruben Diaz in support and every Republican against.
In examining what happened and checking in with folks on the ground, I've noticed a few striking parallels that exacerbate my frustration with both New York State politics as well as the pro-equality leaders in my home state.
Once again, there was either a rampant case of Democratic leadership wrongly assuming they had the votes, or Republicans lying straight-up, or both. Either way, it's not a good sign. For background, see here for more of my thoughts on how we could have lost the marriage vote by an embarrassing 24-32. There are a lot of echoes of that yesterday, as we went into the vote knowing we needed a Republican. Sen. Lanza from Staten Island actually voted yes before Diaz shouted at him, at which point he actually changed his vote to no. Seriously. Sen. Maziarz was a possibility, but also voted no. The question remains whether or not it was presumed Lanza was in hand when he was not, and also why to hold the vote at all instead of waiting to shore up support.
I say "shore up support" because if you read the transcript of the committee vote, (h/t Jillian Weiss) there was actually confusion over what the bill would actually do. Part of that is because our supporters fielded, as Jill rightly put it, a "B-team". Sen. Savino, who made very strong arguments during the marriage debate, was not very good yesterday, almost casually trivializing arguments in opposition to the bill instead of taking them head-on. Even the legislative counsel in support of the bill could not adequately explain how "gender identity" was defined in the bill nor what it meant in terms of the workplace for the purposes of restrooms and so forth, despite the Assembly having voted on this and passed it twice already, just like it did on- wait for it- the marriage equality bill. Most shocking of all, the bill's own freaking sponsor and the only openly gay member of the body, Sen. Tom Duane, did not even show up. If you take Sen. Lanza as a gettable vote for the bill- and I do- it was clear from the transcript his clearly stated concerns were not answered at all.
Part of that is because of the once again less-than-noteworthy performance of Sen. Duane. This is the same State Senator who said four separate times in five months some variation of "I have the votes" in reference to the marriage bill, only to fall flat by several, which led to zero Republican support for the bill when it was clear it was going to fail. This is also the same State Senator who cracked jokes on the floor during debate on the marriage bill instead of giving a heart-wrenching oration that might have won over the last few. Now it's the same State Senator who was the lead sponsor of the bill yet couldn't actually manage to show up to debate yesterday, leaving committee members after the vote actually wondering out loud where he was.
Disagreement over tactics. With the marriage bill, there was a strong disagreement among advocates- behind the scenes with colleagues of mine, as well as openly between Empire State Pride Agenda and Sen. Duane, on whether to hold a vote. Similar was true here. In New York State, the committee system can be bypassed and bills are often brought directly to the Rules Committee and then straight to the floor. While Housing Works, a lead advocate, reported the other week that 32 votes existed on the floor for passage, the bill sat in a hostile committee for weeks, then at the last minute moved by the conference leader, Sen. Sampson, to the committee he himself chairs, and still could not pass. Duane, the lead sponsor, blames that process as being a key reason for the bill's failure. From NY Daily News:
Duane attributed the defeat partly to a difference of opinions on legislative strategy.
"it is now yet again confirmed that the Senate is a cesspool of homophobia and transphobia," said Duane, who is openly gay. "The advocates wanted to go through a committee... I believe that we should have brought GENDA through Rules and brought it right to the floor so as to deny the right-wing fringe the ability to organize against GENDA with their lies and distortions."
Housing Works said the same. It's distressing to so often see advocates inside and outside the chamber who are not on the same page, and that this route was chosen and ended at failure. And it once against cost the LGBT community.
Sometimes it is hard to tell which is more depressing, the ineffective pro-equality leadership in New York State, or not having pro-equality votes. Probably the former, because if someone like Pelosi were running the show, she would be able to marshal the latter who were gettable. I do know that it is embarrassing to lose like this on two major LGBT bills in the same cycle, and to have wasted a rare opportunity of a pro-equality Assembly and governor along with a Democratic Senate that was willing to move bills previously stuck.
While I was working on No On 1/Protect Maine Equality, I had the privilege of meeting lots and lots of other online organizers- some from the straight community and some from the LGBT community. What was notable was how much talent for organizing there is out there, and how many new creative ideas. From the Volunteer Vacation campaign to Call and Drive for Equality to creative fundraising ideas, there were a wealth of organizing ideas. There were also a wealth of smart ways to build public support for marriage equality itself across the country.
That's what it comes down to- building support piece by piece across the country. In the 2012 Republican primary, I think marriage equality will be in the spotlight, as it's now legal in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Somewhere out there, there are some very smart organizing ideas to get Republicans onboard for the freedom to marry, and lots of other cool ideas that can incubating at Netroots Nation this summer. And that's what today's post is about.
I'm happy to announce OpenLeft is partnering with Freedom to Marry, a national organization winning marriage equality state-by-state, and DailyKos, The Bilerico Project, Rod 2.0, AMERICABlog and Courage Campaign in announcing three organizing scholarships for marriage equality activists to attend Netroots Nation. We conceived of this idea for two reasons (a) Like you've shown at OpenLeft, there are activists out there in the netroots willing to take a stand for marriage equality (b) There are smart organizers who can continue their work and start putting together good campaigns to win the freedom to marry across the country. We aim to help kickstart that.
If you're interested in applying, first, submit two blog posts OR one video demonstrating your work in support of the freedom to marry. Kind of like an e-resume, since this is online organizing, after all! The video can also be a short (2-3 minutes) recording of yourself speaking to camera describing your efforts, too. Be creative.
Second, respond to the questions on the application form here. Note especially that this is open to online organizers- you don't need to be a blogger per se.