Michael Crawford

What the LGBT Community is Up Against

Filed By Michael Crawford | January 20, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, gay rights movement, Katon Dawson, Obama and LGBT rights, Obama Inauguration

Waymon asked if the LGBT community needs new thinking for a new president. Judging from some of the predictably bitter comments to Waymon's post and the conspiratorial outrage over technical difficulties and scheduling mishaps around the Gene Robinson inaugural concert prayer, the answer is an unqualified yes.

When some in the LGBT community declared Obama a failure on LGBT issues before he had even been sworn into office, we ignore what we and Barack Obama are really up against.

"I can assure you that Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will understand that Katon Dawson will become their worst nightmare."

Dawson is one of the leading contenders to head the RNC and he's made clear that even as the country faces enormous challenges that will require swift and bold action he is committed to the same partisan warfare practiced by Bush, Cheney and Rove. He promises more of the slash and burn tactics that the Republican Party has used against the Democratic Party for three decades and you can bet your Madonna CD collection that a key part of the Republican strategy of obstruction and distraction will be attacks against LGBT people and our families.

Like Joan Garry, I believe the LGBT community and our allies should engage in a "constructive impatience" that shows political savvy, doesn't look for anti-gay slights behind every action or mishap and helps to achieve concrete gains that provide real world benefit for LGBT people and our families.

We should continue to press the Democratic Party to makes its words reality and pass legislation providing equal rights for LGBT people and we should hold Obama to the promises he made on the campaign trail, but we should not forget that it is the Republican Party that has repeatedly used LGBT people as a political wedge issue to divide us from other Americans and win elections.

In 2008 their appeals to prejudice and ignorance failed, but don't think that will stop their political gay-bashing.

Having Barack Obama in the White House and strong Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate, gives us the best chance ever to pass pro-LGBT legislation including an inclusive ENDA, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We can't afford to blow this enormous opportunity by giving in to despair over issues that while important are more symbol than substance.

Our challenge is to fuse the hope that has ignited a nationwide commitment to progressive change with our passion for justice and equality. If we do that, we can make unimaginable progress over the next four years that will make past achievements pale in comparison.

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Oh, we can do slash and burn right back at them...just tie them to Bush..remind women they oppose right to choose, and many oppose birth control...

We need to attack....defense gets us nowhere

MadCity Renee | January 20, 2009 7:14 PM

That's not really slash and burn politics, it's just telling the truth. They have a proven track record, let's use it against them. They lie, we tell the truth. Sounds like a plan to me.

Whether we are on the attack or on defense (and both will probably be required) we need to work as a team with our allies. And that involves reaching out and building bridges.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 20, 2009 8:45 PM

There's an old saw about doing the same thing over and over expecting different results being the definition of futility.

Repeatedly supporting those who do not produce for us seems rather the same thing. Platitudes and the DSCC/DCCC's picks don't cut it. Treat me like I matter and I'll treat you like you matter is my credo. And that means for me federally that they promote DOMA repeal because, as the cutting edge, if they support that, they'll support pretty much everything else, too.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 20, 2009 8:56 PM


I don't think that it is simply about waiting others to produce for us. We have to produce for ourselves.

That means that we can't wait with folded arms and an "impress me" look on our faces. we have to roll up our sleeves and do the work of building support for LGBT issues.

DOMA repeal may be the cutting edge for you, but from a practical perspective I am betting that passage of an inclusive ENDA, hate crimes and a national AIDS strategy matters more to more people in places like Indiana, Texas, Wyoming, Florida, Virginia, Michigan and other states thatr have little or no protections for LGBT people.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to make legislative gains and we should do everything we can to make the possibility reality.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 21, 2009 12:02 AM

Michael, like we don't do all our own heavy lifting already? Puhleazzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I'm obviously criticizing your pre-apology for them playing all their usual games with us -- although I appreciate getting the heads-up as to what will be the next lame excuse for refusing to risk and exercise leadership beyond platitudinal lip-service with us (except maybe when we've finally got all the ducks lined up in a row and it's time for them to do the light-lifting and credit-taking, that is.)

And, Michael, I do know how to count and do know how to prioritize a legislative agenda -- although I'll admit that I have much to learn, having only been lobbying since 1967 -- when you were like, what, in kindergarten?, in diapers?, not yet an itch of either of your parents' whatevers? The cutting edge on which I base an electoral funding decision can be different -- usually is, in fact -- than the decision about which pieces of legislation to move first. Duh!

I began working on HIV -- included it in a speech at the University of Illinois, in fact -- when it was just a cluster of cases of an unknown immune problem affecting gay men on the West Coast -- and I haven't stopped since. I began working on gay civil rights around 1958 -- and haven't stopped since. (I don't, however, support ENDA -- inclusive or otherwise -- because it's sloppy seconds and we need an amendatory bill although, I don't oppose it and use it as a means of educating about our civil rights realities and don't hold support of it against non-gay legislators who are being led down the garden path along with the average queer by the queer-issues congressional leadership and HRC, among others.) I began working on transgender issues in the early 1960s -- and haven't stopped that since, either. I've been working on bias crimes and other police-related queer issues since before 1975 -- and I haven't stopped that. Education, prisons, mental health, antidefamation, regional organizing, military equal opportunity, etc. -- ditto. I'm not about to stop now on any of it.

But I have, in those years, also learned that playing the good little insider game only gets you so far and that pumping dollars and effort at election time into policymakers who do not produce for you just takes resources away from getting those in office who will. And not letting them in on that intent in time for them to earn my support isn't fair or productive, either. And we don't have to not yell, "Ouch!" when we're stepped on to do any of the rest of it, either.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 21, 2009 7:04 AM

No Marla. We don't do "all our own heavy lifting already." If we did, we would be much further along that we are.

I am not sure what "pre-apology" you think I am offering, but your condescending comment about my age and my "parents' whatevers" and your casual dismissal of ENDA says a lot.

Workplace protections may be "sloppy seconds" to you, but to the millions of LGBT people who could benefit from the passage of an inclusive ENDA it is critically important.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 23, 2009 10:04 AM

Would've been done already? Not necessarily, Michael. If you do a historical movement comparison, you'll see that we're actually ahead of the average -- well ahead, in fact -- revolutionarily ahead, in fact -- which is proof positive about the amount of heavy lifting that's happened. Even if you can't or won't see that, though, surely you can acknowledge that, whatever lifting has been done thusfar has been done predominantly by us.

And surely you'll agree that a fraction of a civil rights bill, which is what ENDA is, is not as good as the whole thing as covered by the combination of the 1964 CRA and subsequent updates like that fixing the fair housing loopholes. Of course, job protections are important but why are you pushing settling for only job protections when our people suffer the full range of discrimination? You have something against people wanting a roof over their heads or equal access to the doctor's office?

The actual quote comes from Einstein: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Which, by the way, is what I see from many LGBT people lately.

I will say that for the first time, the White House website has a gay rights agenda on it instead of an anti-gay rights agenda(Federal Marriage Amendment) on it.

C'mon, y'all(in case we ever miss the Buushinan style of speech) we can disagree without personalising.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 23, 2009 6:40 PM

Thanks, Monica. Mr. Einstein was a pretty interesting, down-to-earth, practical in an odd way sort, wasn't he?

I remember a story about some fellow being astonished that Mr. E. had taken his hat off and tucked inside his coat in the pouring rain, remarking later that his hat would've required a trip to the blocker whereas his wet head would simply dry off by itself.

Oh god that whole "they were trying to silence Gene Robinson" thing was annoying. I don't know how many emails I got over that one through a couple listservs I'm on, but it seems rather besides the point.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 21, 2009 12:33 AM

The latest from CNN is that tomorrow's announcement from Obama that he's ordering the closing of GITMO is now "on hold" -- no explanation but it's an interesting coincidence that tomorrow is the big meeting with the Joint Chiefs. That Magna Carta surety sword's starting to issue siren calls again -- quiet little ones, to be sure, but it had been silent there while the promise still looked fully intact. Will they get louder or will they finally be quieted and the sword put to rest back in its cabinet? I know I'm supposed to be all Hopey and all but I'll bet I'm not alone in having been conditioned for nearly three decades to expect the worst and such conditioning doesn't 'go easy.'

Yes! We can predict the end of the LGBT world as we know it from this action! We're doomed!

A little BS with our ESP this morning? No perspective whatsoever.

Just wondering, Marla. Were you a strong Hillery supporter?

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 23, 2009 10:37 AM

Sorry, Monica, that I don't fit your stereotype, but I am on record on bilerico already as not being a fan of either version of HRC. Mrs. Clinton is way too DLC-Republican-lite for my tastes. I withheld full support for any of them after the first round of eliminations because none would actively support civil marriage equality, although I did note and applaud as, one by one, the bulk of the Dem field came around at least to support of federal DOMA repeal. And I voted for Obama.

But for serious support, I try to limit my giving to those who acknowledge me equally human to them by way of their support for civil marriage equality, including candidates like newly elected Rep. Betsy Markey, who beat our old adversary Marilyn Musgrave in their Ground Zero district in Colorado. My view of such things is of longer range and dedicated to building a firmer foundation of more trustworthy support than we've had in the past.

And, of course, there were also the referenda on the ballot (predominantly to organizations doing the grassroots voter ID/GOTV work that the main campaigns in both Florida and California foolishly poo-pooed) as well as the need to shore up our defenses against a backlash in the Iowa legislature (should we win the marriage case there as we have considerable hope of doing), where the bulk of our giving went in the last election cycle. That giving helped grow needed infrastructure as well that we have every reasonable hope will continue to serve in the long, difficult fights ahead.

You can stop screaming, now. He closed Gitmo. Just because he didn't do it on your schedule is no excuse for complaining. I suppose you wanted him to closed Gitmo ten seconds after he brushed his teeth this morning? Gees.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 23, 2009 11:23 AM

Hold your horses. He's not closed it yet -- they've only pledged to do so and are saying it could take another year to get it done, although I've already sent my thank you note for getting that far that fast.

Why are you holding me responsible in a kill the messenger manner about this, btw? I just passed on what CNN reported -- and they're not responsible for the trepidacious being the trepidacious, either.

But don't think that a promise to close the prison at GITMO means mission accomplished, end of story. Don't fall into that out-of-sight, out-of-mind trap. For one thing, the fate of the GITMO prisoners has yet to be determined, including that of the Uighurs there who have long been acknowledged by our government as completely innocent.

And that's not the half of it. Take, for instance, the prison at Baghram air base just outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, that has been termed GITMO II.

The Baghram prison now holds over twice the number of prisoners that GITMO did at peak occupancy and a new prison is being planned there that will raise that to over 150%. And, unlike at GITMO, prisoners at Baghram are being completely denied access to advocates of any kind, including complete denial of legal counsel. Military commissions proceedings there have been referred to by Human Rights Watch as mere "paper shuffling".

They are denied any opportunity of contact with the outside world, including their families. Even the Red Cross has not been able to get even a census of them, so we are limited in our knowledge to leaked reports and word from those who have been released.

We do know that the prison population includes prisoners situated exactly like those at GITMO -- people kidnapped, typically by the CIA, from places like Somalia, Dubai, and Indonesia, typically transported to even more secret CIA facilities for "questioning" (if they're lucky enough not to suffer rendition to prisons in places like Egypt for even more harsh torture), then shipped to Baghram for detention which, for some, has dragged on for seven years thusfar.

They are not informed of why they are being detained or what evidence, if any, underpins that and, typically, if released, are dumped unceremoniously out in strange places -- sometimes thousands of miles from home -- with no explanation or anything but the clothes on their backs.

And the most recent Supreme Court ruling on which the closing of GITMO is being based hinted strongly that, as long as the Military Commissions Act remains in its current form, the situation at Baghram will be permitted to continue sans judicial relief.

So yes, rejoice for the good first step but see it only as the first step it is on a journey that has a long and probably bumpy road ahead.

Bush is gone. But not his policies. Obama is now the problem. His constant refrain “god’s in the mix” was used to torpedo same sex marriage in California, Florida and Arizona by Warren, the mormons and the catholic hierarchy. Obama out-pandered and-Roved McCain and captured a big slice of the christian bigot vote and ran us over with the Route 8 bus. Warren's invitation means only one thing: Obama fully intends to keep his bigot voter base and expand it.

He’s a typical Democrat. Biden voted for DOMA which, along with DADT were the two worst laws to come down the pike in decades. Democrats (sic) voted for both overwhelmingly and they were rushed into law by Clinton. Kennedy and Pelosi ditched the Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill and how many of us died as a result? Frank gutted ENDA. And etc. ad nauseam.

Then there’s the Democratic National Committee. Its run by a hard-boiled bigot named Leah Daughtry. She’s an ordained pentecostal minister (like Jimmy Swaggart) who opposes same sex marriage, abortion and probably doesn’t eat shellfish. She, John Dean and the DNC are being sued by the DNCs own former GLBT outreach director for anti-GLBT hiring and firing practices.

Is it any wonder that Dobson has a smirk on his face these days? Bigots use a revolving door in DC. The old ones are leaving as the news ones take over.

Building mass action movements to oppose Obama's war, fighting against Obama's gifts to the rich and his austerity program for working people combined with the many struggles against racism, misogyny and homophobia are the keys to organizing our own communities and making allies.


Michael, I don’t mean rain on your parade. It’s just that your imitation of Dr. Phil’s two-bit talk show jargon to describe opposition to Obama’s war, bigotry and trillion dollar gifts to the rich as ‘bitter’ needs some polish. Try sour, acidic, harsh, callous, unforgiving or vindictive.

And if that doesn’t work try to answer those mad dog critics of HE WHO MAY NOT BE CRITICIZED politically. If that’s not asking too much. And please, stop asking us to have faith. This is what happened to all those GLBT folks who had faith in Clinton: http://youtube.com/watch?v=BXCUBVS4kfQ

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 21, 2009 2:05 AM

By that logic 53% of the American public are bigots! This is the first president INITIALLY elected by a majority of Americans since who? Papa Bush I believe, in Reagan's afterglow?

There is only one president at a time and there is a long list of things to do. His staff only got into the White House after he was sworn to start working. Have you ever run anything complicated? All good things never happen simultaneously.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | January 21, 2009 9:45 AM

How wrong can you get?

You claim that people fooled by bigots are themselves bigots. They’re hope for real progress si going to be dashed and turn into rage. But how does that make them bigots?

Do you also think that people fooled by hustlers like Obama actually approve of Obama’s plans to give trillions to the looter rich and impose austerity on us (not you, I refer to productive working people, not the rich.) If so you’re wrong again. They don’t.

Are people who mistakenly voted Democrat (sic) in the vain hope that paytriots like Obama will end it somehow pro war? Again, they’re just victims of the two party system with no real choices.

Support for the war drops sharply when the body bags and coffins of GIs murdered by paytriots come home as it did during Nam. That’s why the military won’t let the press anywhere near airports while they unload their cargo of death. The Russians and the English are sullenly aware of Afghanistan’s reputation as the Graveyard of Empires. I wish for the sake of all the GI’s and Afghani civilians that Obama took that into account but he won’t and the death stats will climb again. The paytriots want their oil pipeline. (Rent Fahrenheit 911 if you’re unsure of what that’s all about.)

You claim that 53% percent of the American people voted for the bigot from column A instead of the bigot from column B. Given the ‘analysis’ you presented above its unsurprising that your math also lacks credibility.

We’ll have accurate figures soon but it looks as if only 60.7% to 61.7% of voters actually voted, or roughly 6 in 10. In any case this years figure to very close to the 2004 figure of 60.6 % and the popular votes are also close. Which means that the real figure (as opposed to your fanciful and wildly exaggerated figure) will be roughly 30% of voters. The story titled That huge voter turnout? Didn't happen is at http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1108/15422.html

As usual a very large chunk of voters were tired of the latest model lesser evil and pronounced “a curse on both your houses”. Is your brand of tortured thinking and cooking the books on the actual vote common among business types? If other business types are as sloppy could that explain their economic train wreck?

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 23, 2009 11:41 AM

Huzzah, Bill!!

Excellent post, Michael.

Thank you Michael, Waymon and Dale, for saying things that need to be said, IMHO.

To Marla and Bill: how is a pre-apology any better than a pre-condemnation? As a candidate, Obama made some big promises to our community and to the country and we'll need to hold him accountable if he doesn't follow through. But it's DAY ONE HERE PEOPLE! Are you really ready to write him off because he hasn't undone eight years of the Dubya's damage on his first day?

And I agree that the blind allegiance to Bill Clinton, by HRC and others, even after he screwed us was infurating. But the point is, he screwed us first. I will be the first one in line at the protest if Obama throws us under the bus. Until then, pre-emptive attacks on his administration make as much sense to me as pre-emptive attacks on Iraq did.

Sam, the flaw in your thinking and that of most liberals is the delusion that elections change things. That each new inaugural is day one, that US capitalism reinvents itself and there actually will be a ‘Chicken in Every Pot and a Car in Every Garage’, a ‘New Deal’, a ‘Fresh Deal’, a ‘New Frontier’: that ‘Its Morning Again in America’, with ‘A Kinder Gentler, Nation’ or that Clinton’s ‘Putting People First’ would prevent DADT, NAFTA and DOMA. Hopey’s ‘Change We Can Believe In’ is just more tired hype.

These decades of hype and lies versus the enduring realities of bigotry, war and now probably depression prove that Phineas T. Barnum understood the system all too well. There is one born every minute and they all vote. (The only slogan I put any credence in was Hillary Clintons ‘Read my Lips, No New Interns!’)

The inaugural and the administration that will follow are a tired replay of a system that consciously uses homophobia, racism and misogyny to divide and rule. It's the renewal of a system that permits, even encourages the self-indulgent greed of business owners, financiers, managers and big stock owners who looted the economy until it collapsed. It’s a system the puts real teeth in the saying ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”. And it means the murder of more US service members by their political leadership and the escalation of the genocide from Palestine to Pakistan.

Obama is firmly planted in the traditions of pandering to the rich and the bigots and to making war. That’s what you should prepare your self for and the only real question is what you’re going to do about it.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 23, 2009 11:47 AM

Sam, do not mistake lack of puppyish gullibility for pre-condemnation. It is possible to sustain both hope and rational skepticism simultaneously.

Yeah.. THIS is what we're up against:

A stupid, Southern-drawling, "oh jeSUS!" douchebag.

Over time his voice will be drowned out by the changing of times.

Do not fear this man. He's nothing.