PREFACE: If the following strikes a nerve, please help replace the money NGLTF had to give back to the DNC in order to maintain NGLTF's integrity. Call S. Ezra Towne at NGLTF's Washington Office: 202-639-6312
or go to the Task Force website.
Never one not to say, "I told you so", irritating cuss that I am, let me remind people that I tried to warn them about Howard Dean, who this morning appeared on the 700 Club emphasizing his view of the Democrat's national platform plank on gay families, which is that it supports the notion that "marriage is between a man and a woman".
NGLTF has already taken umbrage, chastising Dean and giving him back the donation they recently got from Dean's Democrats:
Roberta Sklar, Communications Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force denounces
DNC Chair Howard Dean's misrepresentation of party platform
Returns $5,000 donation from Governor Dean in protest
WASHINGTON, May 10 -- In a Christian Broadcasting News segment aired today on The 700 Club concerning how Democrats are reaching out to evangelicals, Howard Dean, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said, "The Democratic Party platform from 2004 says that marriage is between a man and a woman. That's what it says. I think where we may take exception with some religious leaders is that we believe in inclusion, that everybody deserves to live with dignity and respect, and that equal rights under the law are important."
In fact, the DNC 2004 platform says, "We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits, and protections for these families. In our country, marriage has been defined at the state level for 200 years, and we believe it should continue to be defined there. We repudiate President Bush's divisive effort to politicize the Constitution by pursuing a 'Federal Marriage Amendment.' Our goal is to bring Americans together, not drive them apart."
This plank was considered a victory for its inclusive references to gay families and activists. We are proud that two of our current Task Force board members -- Roberta Achtenberg and Jeff Soref -- fought hard for it. The platform was approved by the more than 4,000 elected and at-large Democratic delegates who met in Boston in 2004 to pick a presidential candidate, and there have been no official revisions of the platform since 2004.
Statement by Matt Foreman, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
"Governor Dean is wrong about what the Democratic platform says about marriage equality. Disturbingly, this is not the first time he has misrepresented this important and affirming plank, and he has been asked before to correct the record and to cease making these misleading statements.
"Governor Dean's record on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues since becoming DNC chair has been sorely and sadly lacking. The Democratic Party chair should stand by and fight for the party's own platform and values. In light of Governor Dean's pandering and insulting interview today with the Christian Broadcasting Network, we have decided to return the DNC's recent $5,000 contribution to us. We do so with great sadness, knowing that the Democratic Party has long been a champion of our rights. Once again, we urge the governor to accurately represent the party's commitment to equality for LGBT people and our families, and to do everything in his power as chair to realize this vision. This would include but not be limited to fighting anti-gay ballot initiatives in various states this November. We urge him to take the money we are returning today and spend it to defeat these attacks on LGBT people and our families."
Founded in 1973, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation (the Task Force) was the first national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights and advocacy organization and remains the movement's leading voice for freedom, justice, and equality. We work to build the grassroots political strength of our community by training state and local activists and leaders, working to strengthen the infrastructure of state and local allies, and organizing broad-based campaigns to build public support for complete equality for LGBT people. Our Policy Institute, the community's premiere think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a world that respects and makes visible the diversity of human expression and identity where all people may fully participate in society. Headquartered in Washington, DC, we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Cambridge, and Miami. The Task Force is a 501(c)(3) corporation incorporated in Washington, DC. Contributions to the Task Force are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law.
A little history is in order:
Howard Dean has never been a friend of the equal right of civil marriage for same-sex couples. I know that many were led to believe otherwise but he isn't and never was. Yes, he was the architect of Vermont's civil unions statute but he did that to prevent equal marriage, not promote it. You see, at that time, the legislature was deadlocked on the issue and, had they not acted, it would have gone back to a court which had already said it would resolve the issue by simply ordering the state to issue us marriage licenses. Dean had his eye on a run for the presidency by then and, true DLCer that he is, just couldn't let that ruin his chances -- and neither could he afford to be seen as anti-gay by vetoing what many feared would be a protest measure by conservative forces in the legislature designed precisely to force Dean's hand. According to people who were at that time my colleagues and counterparts in LGBT organizing and lobbying in Vermont, Dean strong-armed gay organizers to accept his civil unions sellout, warning them that opposing it or even openly criticizing it or him would cost them other things they held dear such as funding for antiviolence programs and even state AIDS funding.
The 2004 platform plank in question was, at the behest of the Kerry/Edwards campaign with DCL leadership's approval -- Dean and the Clinton forces included -- left intentionally vague to accomodate Kerry's outright opposition to equal marriage and Edwards' politically expedient one and to give the party leadership the sort of plausible deniability wiggle room Dean exercised this morning on the 700 Club. Just as important, they knew they had a tough enough row to hoe to get Kerry elected and they couldn't afford to be so clear about their position on our status as full human beings deserving of equality under the law that we would jump ship in favor of the third party candidates who don't think so little of us. Added to that, we had gay Dems who were tasting the illusion of power in the party and found that faux meal strangely satisfying enough to play along. Thus a statement that looked good at skin level but lacked muscle to support it was born.
It is a good thing that Matt Foreman and the Task Force are trying to hold what little line it gave us but Dean is not altogether incorrect simultaneously. The platform just intentionally left too much to interpretation.
It is time to force the issue with the party: Are they with us or, when the storm winds blow and the sharks threaten, are we just going to be the first to be pushed off the lifeboats again? Are we humans with the fundamental right to marry that that comes with or not in their eyes?
The first thing is to replace what Matt and the Task Force gave back to Dean and the DNC this morning. Next is to insist that the Dem's platform be unequivocal about our right to marry. If they turn us down, at least we'll know where we stand instead of being stuck in the quagmire of virtual equality.* We'll then be free to craft strategy based in reality, however unpleasant that reality might be.
*Virtual equality: a state of conditional equality based on the appearance of acceptance by straight America rather than on actual civil equality