Editor's note: Advance Indiana started this dialogue with a post entitled, "The Word Turns Back On Carson--Endorses Kiser.
As many readers of this blog know, I write a monthly column for the Word, a Midwestern gay newspaper. I really like the editor, although I often find myself in disagreement with positions he takes, and/or with his reasons for taking those positions. This is emphatically such a time, and while my next column will set out the reasons for my dissent, it won't appear until March. So with your indulgence, I'm using this post to explain my concerns.
The movement for gay rights is at a critical juncture. There is considerable progress; but there is also a worrisome amount of backlash. All three branches of government are controlled by people who are hostile to gay civil rights--let alone gay marriage. On these issues, as with many other national issues, America at a tipping point. We can go forward, or backward.
In such an environment, it would seem prudent to reward and support those who--sometimes at considerable personal risk--have stuck their necks out to stand up for equality and human dignity. In Indianapolis, one of those people has been Congresswoman Julia Carson--and I find it inexplicable that a gay newspaper would endorse her primary opponent.
Not only has Julia consistently and visibly supported legislation important to the gay community, she has used her considerable political capital when she didn't have to get involved. When timid Democrats on the Indianapolis City-County Council voted with the GOP to defeat an amendment to the City's Human Rights Ordinance--an amendment that would have extended protection against discrimination to gays, lesbians and transgendered citizens--Julia called them in and told them to do the right thing or answer to her. The amendment passed. Without her support, it wouldn't have.
She has also been consistently supportive of local gay organizations. I remember one fundraiser that she lent her name to and attended, knowing that it would be widely covered on television, despite the fact that her opponent that year had made her support for "the gay agenda" a campaign issue. That's what we used to call "walking the walk."
I can only assume that the Word decided to support her primary opponent because he is a gay man. But it is a profound mistake to assume that people who share an identity will also share political and social goals. I am Jewish, and I can assure my readers that I share very few positions with Senator Joseph Lieberman.
I remember many years ago, when some of us "women's libbers" created an organization called the Women's Political Caucus. Its mission was to support women's rights and especially women candidates. In the legislature at the time was a female state senator who consistently voted for conservative Christian "values" that had the effect of perpetuating discrimination against women. Redistricting had thrown her into a primary battle with a pro-choice, progressive male legislator. The Women's Political Caucus (properly) endorsed the man.
When we engage in "identity politics"--supporting people because they are members of our "tribes"--we are perpetuating the attitudes that support inequality. If gays don't support their friends, they deserve their enemies.