How to Argue for Gay Rights

Pam reports from the International Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference. She writes about Howard Dean’s expectably laconic speech, good gay rights strategies, and black homophobia. I’ll gloss over Dean’s speech – I find criticizing him to be even more repetitive than criticizing Bush – and concentrate on the other two points, which are incisive.

The [Arizona anti-SSM] amendment failed because of a couple of factors, which I mentioned while at the conference: 1) the voters were targeted about how the amendment would affect unmarried seniors and heterosexuals, and almost completely ignored the “fairness” argument, avoiding the use gay couples in promotional materials, and 2) Arizona has a libertarian, government-out-of-my-business streak that further eroded support for the amendment. The latter is one of the reasons that the amendment nearly failed in South Dakota.

The fairness argument was used extensively in Wisconsin; gay families were prominently featured by Fair Wisconsin, and the anti-amendment forces were well-funded and organized, yet the measure easily passed. The difference? — people vote their self-interest. Sad, but true, fairness really isn’t enough of an argument unless you have a critical mass of het allies who are well-informed and motivated to do the right thing — our movement, desperately needs to educate our allies; way too many straight folks simply don’t have equality issues on their radar even in states like Wisconsin, where people thought there was a chance to defeat an amendment.

The sort of people who would read UTI are the most natural constituency for gay rights. Brent and DarkSyde are radical centrists, but they’re libertarian enough to think that governmental regulation of marriage is idiotic and secular enough to think that the religious argument against SSM is bunk. It’s a lot easier to frame SSM as an issue of small government and individual responsibility than as an issue of fairness and equality.

Incidentally, the same principle applies to issues of poverty and race. Arguing for more public spending on health care because 15% of Americans are uninsured is brain-dead, as is trumpeting an economic policy’s benefits for people below poverty. The Democrats have to show how their economic policies help the middle class. In particular, the Evangelists who say the Democrats should talk in moral instead of pragmatic terms should be ignored.

As for black homophobia,

In the case of amendments in Virginia and Arizona, a majority of blacks voted for them. Celinda Lake, a pollster who was also on the panel, chimed in to concur and added that the data shows religious black women are particularly hardcore in their views in opposition to marriage equality and Latino men are an equally troubling demographic in this area. The GOP saw big losses in the Hispanic vote this election cycle; while the Dems see an opportunity in this demo, silence on the homophobia that exists in this groups comes directly at our expense when our rights are placed on the guillotine of the ballot box.

(…)

And I pointed out that Falwell and Robertson would have been held accountable for these unbelievable statements — but black pastors like those mentioned have been given a pass time and again in the MSM. I explained that the reason for the radio silence by Democratic establishment and political figures of any stripe is because, as we’ve discussed here — race is a third rail topic — whites are afraid of being called racist, blacks are defensive. It leaves everyone unable to address basic, common sense issues of accountability.

Instead of calling these bigoted pastors out, no one wants to talk about the matter for fear of offending a significant voter base. How cowardly is this? For those out there who believe they are “not qualified” to talk about race, there is no reason on earth that anyone should be afraid to call out naked bigotry and homophobia, no matter the color of the person uttering it. These men are in charge of large churches and I only wish I had time to read more quotes I have from other black homobigots in the pulpit (if you click here or here).

That is exactly the point I’m making in my book. The Republican fundamentalist, Reeves, is straightforwardly a religious nut and comes under fire from the left. But the Democratic fundamentalist, Reynolds, gets a free pass because he’s black, to the point that his primary opponent refuses to make effective political attacks on him for fear of looking racist. When the protagonist brings up Reynolds’ waffling on abortion and open hatred of gays, senior Democrats deride him as a privileged white Anglo-Saxon.

One Response to How to Argue for Gay Rights

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