4-17-10 – By Melanie Nathan;
David Mixner has produced a great article, where he asserts his choice of 20 most powerful lesbian leaders in American Politics.But who may I ask has with with vigor and resolve led us to “Amend the Civil Rights Act- to include Sexual orientation.”
We have been un-led inadvertently from the Harvey Milk possibilities to the mission oriented organizational forms of leadership that by virtue of their structure, having made inroads truly valid for LGBT progress and visibility, have done more to embrace the schism created by competing legislation; in the modality of either: which one is more important than the other and/or maybe we should do Hate Crimes before ENDA -because we are more likely to get it done and then the road is well paved for the rest of the bit-by-bit tortoise pace path to legitimacy! Method? Plan? Grasping at Straws?
But where is our Harvey; where is our Martin Luther King Junior; where is our Cesar Chavez; where is our Messiah? We have sunk them like anchors in a stormy sea – we have failed to allow them to emerge. We have sold the soul of our movement to politics…. to feigned caution…. and at what price? It has cost us ‘Equality.’ (thus far and for a while if we stay on the same path.)
We could have had 100% equality this sitting Congress, I truly believe that, had we been able to merge leadership into a cohesive movement with a towering personality in whom we could believe, starting years ago!
This critical mistake is blameless – each and every leader who has aligned to an organization I truly believe has done so in the utmost good faith with absolute intention to serve our community needs as honorably as possible.
NCLR , for one, has done an incredible amount of positive work – asylum cases- legal representation in matters of inequality- advocates of change on law – (E.G. SB 54, California)- Amicus briefs in critical cases such as the Prop 8 legislation, just to name a few. No one would want to derogate from this astounding achievement and hence Kate Kendell is well named in the Mixner article. I could also say the same for many other groups representing LGBT interests.
However what we do not have is a cohesive ‘master plan’- THE LGBT PINK PRINT.
A leader could helm one composite road map with benchmarks, a pronounced manifest, a concomitant of a team of best brains and an ultimate goal – full and absolute EQUALITY. If that were the case – how could one imagine, albeit seemingly naïve, the path? I may be over simplifying things; and that my tendency, I ask that you hear me out:
Piecemeal legislation subscribes to the view and creates the mindset that ‘we are less than’; that wall post says – we will take what we can get until we reach an undefined goal; we must win hearts and minds; which should we do first ENDA –no DADT – no HATE CRIMES… okay which can we get passed with most ease? All the while at the expense of the BIG ONE – and then to add insult to injury – we are barely able to accomplish the bitsy pieces of Legislation. Through all the years, and all the salaries and all the money donated, raised and spent – yes we have done a lot – but what do we have?
We have – a Hate Crimes Bill and President Obama ordering that we can visit our partners in hospitals and the right to marry in a few States. We have speculation – we have UAFA in check-mate; we have Congressman Jerold Nadler’s Respect for Marriage Act swinging on a hammock – while Barney Frank says no time to repeal DOMA – we need ENDA and DADT first! Should we continue to follow this?
Imagine if the Civil Rights movement of the sixties did not have MLK (or such persona) at the helm and if they had left the goal out of the fight? The goal – end discrimination – full equality! If they had done it our way – one organization would have been seeking legislation so that there could be mixed race marriage, another would have been advocating so that all could sit on the same park bench, another on the subject of buses and beaches and yet another for no racial -discrimination in employment or in the Military. Had that been the case – they would probably still be fighting and there would be no President Obama! They would have subscribed to the NOT- READY -YET –AMERICA- lets tread slowly view that our LGBT leaders have done. But they had MLK, they had a movement and they had one mission – CIVIL RIGHTS… END ALL racial DISCRIMINATION and that could only happen one way, an OMNIBUS in effect – A Civil Rights Act that every single organization and every single piece of effort and every available dollar and every foot marched for. A one-stop Train…
Rewind the clock 5 years – only five – and start again. Imagine if 5 years ago a PINK PRINT – the LGBT Goal and Mission had been “AMEND the CIVIL RIGHTS ACT -to include sexual orientation. Just think of all those resources and where we would be now. I believe we would have gained much more acceptance over time, visibility and with one message we may well be closer to an ultimate goal, even more than we are to just one piece of it such as DADT or ENDA. One powerful goal could feasibly yield one powerful result.
For as long as we have these twenty astounding leaders (and others unnamed)– why can we not cast caution to the side? Why can’t we come up with the big merge- of leadership and goal?
I believe we can and I believe that it will take the greatest of risks and I know critics will scream – foul- foul- not possible.
Use all resources to one task – give up advocating now for ENDA, DADT, DOMA, don’t fall prey to the allusion of hospital visits (it is a crumb and a ploy to detract from what was used as the trophy right for the repeal of and the right to same-sex marriage,) and even set aside every piece of State advocacy and everyone of us – should take to the streets with one simple banner, literally and figuratively, in every possible format:
“FULL EQUALITY NOW – WE DEMAND OUR CIVIL RIGHTS” – Goal – Amend Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation before taking one more step forward… on anything else. I ask with tears in my eyes – what the hell do we have to lose?
We have nothing of worth now; nothing. President Obama is already in political trouble and he will be no matter what. But we do have a majority for another few minutes.
I am angry that a politicia’’s election is an excuse for us, our families, our friends, our exiles and our community to be denied our basic and inherent right to equality. Did MLK look toward a November day and say – ‘oops, we better wait until there is a better moment?’ What would that have said about the right itself and the people so entitled?
How dare we allow the politicians to expound the view, whether tacit or otherwise that Gay rights are bad rights – because yes that is what happens if its a right that they refuse to fight openly for at every moment in time. The attitude to not take up the issue just yet – only serves to exacerbate the negative connotations attached to gay rights and our organizational leadership has allowed us to fall prey. How many of you out there are so over that?
In response to Mr. Mixner’s piece – I say ‘mazeltov‘ to those named and now its time to do the real thing. Who will have the courage? Who is the gay messiah?
So I send my hails and praises to the forgotten but most viable -to those who care to take chances – those of you who have built what is in effect emerging as an astounding movement, regardless of any particular leaders telling you what to do or what you should fight for first. This is a movement in development – it is organic and surfacing from the very frustration I describe above.
People, men and women, teens, lesbian, gay and straight, transgender, bisexual, QI out and not out, allies, family, from all over the USA, the world, big cities, woodsy retreats, nooks and crannies, East West, Mid, South North, are linking to each other with one simple word – their banner – “EQUALITY” –!
Hundreds and thousands are using the word ‘Equality’ as their middle name – example ‘Jane Equality Smith’. I have noticed in particular during this last month that this is soaring. It is viral. We are ‘friending’ each other and connecting through our common cause and goal – and that one can become full equality – blogging and writing; and getting to know each other at the speed of lighting. We are seeing that we are all friends in a cause that impacts all of us in a deep and profound way. We are gaining a grass root facebook momentum, more and more powerful by the minute.
It is up to us now to link in a way where we can use our numbers as clout to influence the imperative correction – to make this our movement -NOW – to avert away from piecemeal to asking for it all.
Civil rights cannot be won without great risk, courage and sacrifice. You either want it or not! It cannot be won in pieces it is either the recognition that LGBT rights are civil rights or it is nothing at all. We have Julian Bond and Ben Jealous all refer to gay rights as a civil rights. these are people who are directly associated with MLK and they who may otherwise have claimed ownership in a sense to civil rights are informing us that we belong!
So with a combination of our organically emerging equality activist community – perhaps we can all let go of our separate interest legislation – perhaps our leaders can come together as one and merge with an NAACP type endeavor that proclaims “EQUALITY NOW – Amend Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation.”
As for the gay messiah – maybe it is Face Book – the one which will deliver us to each other and raise the voice as if one ….. but we all need to act and we need to do it now.
Happy Weekend, Mel.