Hello everyone and welcome to the New Year. A new Congress, a new administration, the end of the self-indulgent holiday spirit and the return of the American work ethic. Are you ready? Me neither.
Iâ€™m even having a hard time reading my GLBT email without getting inexorably pulled into the intriguing headlines that litter the sides of my AOL screens. A six-year old boy misses the school bus, grabs his momâ€™s car, drives a few miles and crashes into a lamp pole. Much more interesting than another rehash of why we lost Prop 8, donâ€™t you think? The little fellow â€ślearned to driveâ€ť by playing Grand Theft Auto, and has been removed from his family by Child Protective Services. Iâ€™ll have you know that I was a phenomenal Asteroids player in my video prime, yet not once did I consider stealing a spaceship. Ah, the hubris of todayâ€™s youth.
Then there was the brave mule, Lou, who saved his ownerâ€™s life by braying loudly to alert her to a house fire, not to mention the man who got stuck on a ski lift upside down with his pants around his ankles for seven minutes while skiers-by took photographs. The logistics of the latter incident eluded me.
But can you blame me for getting sidetracked when my files are filled with depressing indications that our community is entering 2009 devoid of new ideas, our Prop 8 frustration draining away like gin at a summer tea dance, our so-called leaders stuck in decades-old legislative ruts at a time when â€śchangeâ€ť and â€śyes we canâ€ť are the mantra of the day?
Forward to the Past
Letâ€™s start with the Task Force. Their email urges all of us to call Congress and express our support for, you guessed it, ENDA. Ditto a similar cyber missive from the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Letâ€™s move on to the Human Rights Campaign, who offers two primary goals for the incoming House and Senate, you guessed it, Hate Crimes and ENDA. HRCâ€™s latest press release goes on to list a series of arcane GLBT family initiatives, including an attempt to give domestic partners a break on taxed benefits, a proposal for family and medical leave and other small bore ideas.
Listen, no one opposes tax equality or leave of whatever. But Barrack Obama campaigned against the Defense of Marriage Act, and no less a figure than Bob Barr, the author of DOMA, just penned an op-ed calling for DOMA to be repealed. Bob Barr can call for the repeal of DOMA, yet HRC canâ€™t even post our top priority on its public wish list? Has the world gone mad? Itâ€™s not as if we just woke up and suddenly discovered that Democrats control both branches of government. Iâ€™m assuming HRC and others have been preparing an anti-DOMA bill and trying to line up sponsors behind the scenes. But why is a DOMA repeal not included in their various action alerts?
By the way, acto-blogger Michael Petrelis scanned HRCâ€™s California website the other day to see what they were up to in the Golden State, and we can report that thereâ€™s a bowling night out in San Diego, a couple of happy hours and a bunch of L Word parties. In other words, theyâ€™re fund raising, which would be fine with me if they werenâ€™t still focused like a laser on the gay agenda of 1992.
Whereâ€™s the Impact?
Now, all is not lost, because our friends at jointheimpact.com are indeed focused like a laser on DOMA, and have called for a national rally this Saturday at city halls around the country. The rally is tied to a petition drive, aiming to collect a million signatures on a letter to Obama.
I clicked through their website to Austin, where I found that the Lone Star capitalâ€™s gay community is supposed to meet in front of city hall at 12:30. But hereâ€™s the problem. If I hadnâ€™t been looking for it, I would never have known about it. Like many Texas GLBTs, Iâ€™m on the email list of Equality Texas, but their website is flogging a March 2 Lobby Day at the state capitol and doesnâ€™t say a word about a DOMA rally. Under â€śevents,â€ť the next pending activity is the Austin â€śMerry Merry Martini Mixerâ€ť slated for Jan. 31.
Donâ€™t get me wrong. The Merry Merry Martini Mixer is exactly my speed when it comes to civil rights activism, because I am a lazy bum with a taste for merriment. Iâ€™d just like to see all the energetic sober people working more effectively, thatâ€™s all. While jointheimpactâ€™s first action was a national success, their second major initiative (the Day Without a Gay) fell flat. Here in Austin, I also drove over to their latest national â€ślight the nightâ€ť rally. While I gather some towns like San Diego drew a crowd, there were only a dozen or so people at our designated location, so my friends and I went to dinner instead.
Again, I freely admit that I am a lackadaisical community member. I might join a large group, but Iâ€™m not going to loiter around on a bridge with ten other people, even if the bridge in question is home to the largest urban bat colony in the world. Fun fact to know and tell!
But the point is that I seriously doubt jointheimpactâ€™s DOMA rally will find much success in Texas. And part of my pessimism stems from the lack of collaboration between the netroots and the state activists. Is the disconnect I observe in Texas mirrored in other states?
And finally, why are the national groups not under some kind of community pressure to reevaluate our communityâ€™s legislative goals?
The bottom line is that we have the ingredients for a powerful community surge towards a federal civil rights law. We have the grass roots anger over Prop 8. We have the Internet. We have the political support. Change is in the air and here we are, flailing about. It is moments like this that remind us how sorely we miss a charismatic leader on the national stage.
Look Whoâ€™s Not Talking
Lastly on the subject of leadership, I gather that some 150 activists are meeting in LA later this month for an Equality Summit geared towards finding a new path forward in the wake of Prop 8. The strategic sessions will be closed to the press in order to avoid letting our opponents gain access to our secret plans. And hereâ€™s what bugs me. The botched Prop 8 campaign was due in large part to a mindset that thinks all of this is a tactical game between â€śusâ€ť and â€śthem.â€ť
Whatâ€™s our strategy! Donâ€™t let them know! Shhhh!
Itâ€™s time for a forthright and open community agenda, light on focus groups and self styled experts and heavy on heart, intelligence and perseverance. Do we want to organize a repeal vote in California? Letâ€™s talk about it, do it or not do it. Do we want a push for a DOMA repeal? If yes, is there some reason to keep that idea behind closed doors? And finally, why canâ€™t we have such a discussion in public? If we are hiding a team of mad gay scientists who are building a mind control ray gun that will sway the opinions of several million voters, then fine, letâ€™s keep that technology to ourselves. If not, letâ€™s let the sunshine into the back room. Whatâ€™s the worst that can happen? Tony Perkins learns that weâ€™re trying to win marriage equality? Plus, if thereâ€™s something really really really secret, you know there are back rooms behind the back room.
Sigh. Prop 8.
Prop 8 opponents released two reports this week. The powers that be at the Task Force and elsewhere issued a high tech rehash of David Binderâ€™s post election demographic breakdown, basically a bunch of number crunching that tells us nothing we donâ€™t already know. Support for Prop 8 rose with age.
Religious people and Republicans were more likely to vote yes than were secular people and Democrats. Support for same-sex marriage rose in the years between Prop 22 and Prop 8. Thank you so much.
One of the goals of the report appeared to be the â€śdebunkingâ€ť of the myth that blacks helped pass the proposition. But in truth, most of the discussion of the racial element in the Prop 8 vote involved people warning everyone else not to blame the African American community for our defeat. There was very little actual blame going around in the first place. The report agreed with the conventional wisdom that religious intensity - a key determination of oneâ€™s Prop 8 vote - is higher in the black community, and that religion, not skin color, contributed to the higher black vote in favor of the bad guys. Another fascinating revelation!
Over at Marriage Equality USA, activists produced a more useful document, positing five key reasons for our defeat, to wit:
Underutilization of the clergy, lack of outreach to communities of color, vague namby pamby advertisements that ignored gay families, an incompetent field campaign and a lack of effort in the Central Valley. (I am paraphrasing.)
Without exhausting much more effort on the subject, I think we can agree that people over 50 and ideological conservatives did not defeat us on Nov. 4. It was our inability to convince enough of those demographic groups to see our side of the issue that put Prop 8 over the top. It was a bad campaign. It wasnâ€™t the votersâ€™ fault. It was ours. We had more money than the other guys. Turnout was nearly 80 percent. The state was more or less divided on the question. We just blew it.
As for our court fight over the future of Prop 8, the California Supreme Court is accepting briefs until the middle of this month, and has yet to schedule oral arguments. They could hear the case as early as March, which would leave us looking for a decision by June.
I just reread this column and detect an underlying negative ambiance in the tone. Could I possibly be in a dissatisfied mood? Moi? Quick. Get me to the Austin Merry Merry Martini Mixer! Or just get me a merry martini.
Iâ€™ve also used up most of my inches bitching about hard working activists who are trying their best to move us forward, albeit in ways that do not meet my personal armchair standards. And I have yet to tell you that the Arkansas American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the new statute banning adoption or fostering by unmarried cohabiting couples.
Lambda has also announced two court victories. First, an appellate decision out of New York upholding marriage recognition in Westchester County. Marriage is now recognized throughout the state under an executive order from Governor David Paterson, but our friends at the Alliance Defense Fund continue to beat their heads against the Empire State court walls with challenge after challenge. Knock yourselves out, boys. In another case, Ohioâ€™s top court declined to review a lower court ruling in favor of a lesbian mother. Therese Leach and her former partner Denise Fairchild signed a court-approved custody agreement in 2001, when their son was five. Fairchild later tried to argue that the agreement was moot under Ohioâ€™s 2004 ban on marriage and partner recognition. The appellate court upheld the custody scheme, and the high court has tacitly agreed with their thoughtful colleagues on the lower bench.
Finally, in Anglican Communion schism news, the California Supremes have unanimously ruled that breakaway Episcopalian parishes cannot keep possession of their buildings and other property owned by the Episcopal Church. The decision, we hope, may have an effect on other conservative renegades. If they want to drop off the Episcopal map, let them go build their own churches, and pick up some new hymnals and kneeling pads while theyâ€™re at it. I think Linens & Things might have some pillows in stock. Theyâ€™re practically giving stuff away over there.
I, for one, would like to see the denizens of the anti-gay ex-Episcopalians stuck in a strip mall, gazing longingly at the graceful old cathedral they once called their spiritual home, listening to piped in versions of â€śHail Thee Festival Dayâ€ť while their gay friendly parishioners enjoy the menâ€™s choir in the triforium gallery. Thatâ€™s sounds kind of un-Christian doesnâ€™t it? So sorry.