Guest Blogger

Apologists Need Not Apply

Filed By Guest Blogger | June 23, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, democratic national committee fundraiser, DNC, DOMA, Don't Ask Don't Tell, ENDA, hate crimes against LGBT people

Editor's Note: David Badash is a regular contributor to Bilerico-DC. He is a writer and the founder of The New Civil Rights Movement, a blog focused on gay rights and gay marriage.

My, how far we've come! Time was, a hundred years ago, being labeled a homosexual gave you a free pass - to go directly to jail. In New York City's 1903, seven men went to prison for up to twenty years after police raided a bath house. A decade later, the term "faggot" was first used in print. Then, in 1920, the word "gay" was first used to describe, well, gays.

Speed through much of the twentieth century. We had our day in the sun in the 60's, and the 70's a bit. The 80's were not too kind to us - then in the late 90's and the early part of this decade, we started to gain some support. But all of a sudden, now, it seems, we're the most popular game in town! Why, even the President wants to hang out with us!

Yes, President Obama is trying to get a little more hip to the gay thing. He's just invited some top-notch gays to the White House for cocktails. And this "reception," just days after the DNC's flailing $1000-a-plate LGBT fundraiser - hosted no less than by that bastion of gay rights himself, Vice President Joe Biden, whom the Human Rights Campaign gave all of a 78% rating on gay rights last year and whom the ACLU gave a "mixed record" rating of 60% on civil rights.

Seems they're dropping like flies (well, no flies dare enter the White House anymore, but I digress...) at DNC fundraising HQ, ever since that nasty business with the Department of Justice's DOMA brief invoking incest and under-age marriages to support the Defense of Marriage Act. Can you believe that the Bush version of the DOMA brief was worse? My word, yes, how far we've come!

So, do we support Obama? Or oppose him? There are so many sides to this argument...

There's the radical left, who supposedly think (according to the radical right) that Obama was going to hand down gay rights to everyone on Day One. Of course, no one thought that at all, but the Right likes to say, "Finally, gays realize Obama is keeping his campaign promises!"

Never mind, they claim, that he's not on any other issue - but the Right is funny that way. Funny that way, as in the Right spent the weekend complaining about Obama taking his daughters out for custard for fifteen minutes the day before Father's Day. Funny that way, as in their 2012 poster boy Mark Sanford disappeared for four days over the same Father's Day weekend, "to get away from the kids," but they chose to criticize Obama as irresponsible instead.

Then there are the gay-supporting centrist liberals, who think Obama should keep his promises as soon as possible, repeal DOMA and DADT, get Hate Crimes passed, and ENDA too. Not all at once, but they want to see some sort of a plan, a vision, a nod, a hint that it's somewhere not-too-far back in Obama's mind. They recognize that there are other things on Obama's plate, but they also are cognizant of opportunities, not to mention the fact that civil rights should be a priority for any democracy.

And then there are the apologists. You know them. The gays who don't think gays should be married, or who think gays can't handle marriage, or that marriage would be nice, but, not right now, honey, I have a headache. Oh, I mean, you know, when you can fit it into your busy schedule, dear. Did you remember your umbrella, sweetie?

The apologists think everyone else should come first. Our President is, after all, a busy man. He's got the economy, which seems to be entering another downward spiral (and just when things seemed to be going so well!). He's got that messy business in Iran - not that he has anything to do with it really, but the Right likes to think he does - and he's got the upcoming health care legislation battle, because lord knows a few Democrats woke up with amnesia last week and thought they were Republicans.

He's far too busy to spend his time on messy things like civil rights for gays!

The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart, in a piece this past Sunday titled "For Obama, a Hit and a Miss On Gay Rights," wrote "... the Obama administration bungled the politics surrounding its filing of a brief in a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act..." So, it was the politics that were bungled? In the filing of the brief? Not the entire brief, I suppose? Capehart then goes on to write, "On Wednesday, he signed a memorandum extending a number of benefits to the partners of gay federal employees. This was the culmination of work that began in December."

Culmination of work that began in December? More like Monday, when it became clear things were getting choppy on the "gay" DNC Fundraiser. Capehart describes the criticism Obama is getting as "searing," and says "it borders on a blind rage." (I hate that word "rage," like when Michelle Malkin uses it to describe gays: "The insane rage of the same-sex marriage mob").

The apologists like to think if they wait just long enough, are polite just long enough, are the good boys and girls their mothers taught them to be, that their government will see them waiting on the corner and reward them with a goody basket full of gay rights.

Well, I have some bad news. Waiting and being polite - as much as I personally appreciate those things - aren't going to get us what we deserve, what we want, what we need. As much as I like being chivalrous, I know that it takes some pushing and some name-calling, and a lot - a lot - of speaking truth to power to make things move.

I don't know about you, but while I like my president, I like equal rights more. I value equal rights more. I need equal rights more. And just as I have no need to make apologies for who I am, I have no need to make apologies for what my president, or my Congress, does - or does not do - any longer.

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I'm glad you're not making any apologies for Obama, but what are you doing to get Congress to pass ENDA? What are you doing to get others moving? Frankly, I think the ball is in our court, and I don't appreciate the whine-fest now occurring in the gay community while I'm talking to Members of Congress who say they haven't gotten a single call from their constituents about ENDA. Sign up to meet with your Representative on ENDA at now!

Gee, could you be lacking volunteers because you require victims of abuse to submit their personal information along WITH their story of abuse?

I was going to sign up but NFW I'll send that across the internet via GOOGLE and in clear text!!

JohnVisser | July 10, 2009 12:27 AM

But that's not correct. I have called my reps multiple times. Is no one else calling?

Gee, Dr. Jillian - blame the victim why don't you?

It's gays fault that they don't have civil rights.

Politicians can't be expected to assert leadership, do the right thing, or act on campaign promises.

While I agree that more action is needed, more action is always needed, and no matter how much is taken, it will never be enough to satisfy you and the rest of the blame the victim crowd.

Why, Dr. Jillian, are you wasting your time here instead of doing something constructive like picketing the White House?

You're right about the politicians. I agree that they should be doing the right thing. What I have should have said more clearly is that we as a community should not only take President Obama to task, but also our elected officials, who are the ones who have the actual power to pass laws.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 24, 2009 6:12 AM

That is a really tough, tiring and irritating issue for everyone is no surprise. We are all grown up enough to know that the chess game has to be played. Now for those who think that Obama, being a minority, should know better are somewhat naive.

We have graduated. We are the new third rail of which all politicians are afraid from coast to coast. Once again, if we can fly to Ft Worth and write our "Gay Bill of Rights" why cannot all heads of major LGBT persons think of themselves as a "union" for once and coordinate resources around lobbying and activism issues?

Picking at one another over it is pointless. It really ticks me off that so many feel so empowered to commit so much for others while working at cross purposes with no knowledge of one anothers plans. It is well overdue that there is a national congress of Gay organizations.

One would think that if you asked if the DOMA brief was worse than anything the Bush admin filed that you would gave bothered to read the briefs the Bush administration filed. The SF Chronicle did:

But the department also defended the 1996 law's restrictions. Its court filing steered clear of the justification of the law it had offered under President George W. Bush: that it promotes a traditional form of marriage best suited for procreating and raising children.

Instead, the Obama administration argued that the law preserves long-standing state authority to define marriage while saving taxpayer dollars.

With societal attitudes in flux, the department said, the law adopted "a cautious policy of federal neutrality towards a new form of marriage," allowing states to expand the traditional definition of wedlock but declining "to obligate federal taxpayers in other states to subsidize a form of marriage their own states do not recognize."

"This policy of neutrality maximizes state autonomy and democratic self-governance in an area of traditional state concern, and preserves scarce government resources. It is thus entirely rational."

Personally, I think your categories are completely misrepresenting the discussion. The radical left did not think that Obama was going to hand everything down right in the beginning. They were generally smarter than that and more cynical with a political process that loves to kick hippies that they really weren't expecting much. There's a reason they're being kind of quiet about this whole thing.

The apologists seem to be two categories of people: the actual radical queer left, which has many people who are against same-sex marriage because they don't believe in the institution of marriage, and establishment folks who really aren't all that surprised by the fact that the Justice Department defended standing law and are wondering why everyone's mad at Obama instead of Congress who, you know, actually has to pass this legislation. They're two very different groups of people, and there's really no reason to lump them together.

The people who are upset here are generally the people (and usually center-left/centrist gay people) who bought into the "Obama is messiah" stuff and are now upset that he didn't pass every piece of legislation for us in 6 months. They've become more single-issue as a result of this brief, but they were already pretty much there in the beginning. They tend to dismiss wanting any legislation that doesn't specifically mention gay people (since we saw how they care about the new federal protections for trans people) and sometimes pretend like wanting anything else form the government is a personal betrayal.

People who didn't think he'd be a "fierce advocate" are generally the ones who aren't upset now because they're left wondering what changed, exactly.

Anyway, I'm with Jillian on this one - don't get angry, get organized. If we spent half this energy working on ENDA instead of picketing the White House, as someone suggested, we could get it passed. That's not blaming the victim - it's realizing that no one else is going to do this work for us.

So, what's your plan for getting ENDA passed?

Are you going to talk sweetly and rationally to your elected officials? They'll smile and give you lip service, then do exactly nothing unless you take action to force them do what they already know is the correct thing to do.

I am withholding all funding from Democrats until ENDA is passed, DOMA is repealed, and DADT is repealed.

We will be picketing their offices, so that they know that bigots who don't believe in equal rights for all, like Obama, and cowards who refuse to do the correct thing will not get our vote next time.

Even if you think LGBT voters only comprise 5% of the voters, that is still more than enough to make these bigots and cowards lose their elections.

They already know that equal rights for all people is the correct thing to do, so it does no good to attempt to persuade them to do something they already know is they should do.

I'll be in DC to picket the White House at my first opportunity.

I'm also encouraging college students I know to go down to their local armed forces enlistment office and get themselves arrested.

Dick Cheney supports same-sex marriage. If he's the Republican nominee for President in 2012, I'll vote for him and that will the first time I've ever voted for a Republican and I've been voting since 1968.

Thank you, David - for drawing a line between apologists and people like me, who simultaneously rejoice that Obama/Biden defeated McCain/Palin in '08 AND are committed to holding their feet to the fire and moving on our equal rights.

So many gay people (and straight allies) are working hard to make this happen, but refuse to join in with the Obama-hate that has taken over (what I believe to be) a tiny segment of our demographic - and for this, we are called traitors and worse.

I like Barack Obama. And, he's not doing enough for gay rights, and I am committed to doing what I can as a private citizen to further the cause of equality. I'm making calls, writing letters, and (what's been actually sort of difficult for me) not donating a dime to the DNC, DSCC, or DCCC until some kind of real action is taken on behalf of my community. Every time I'm solicited, I cut and paste my "no, thank you, I'm unable to commit to you until you commit to me" note and send it right back.

Hopefully, these tiny actions that I and others are taking will multiply into something that finally gets the attention of those we elected to represent us. And if that happens, and Barack Obama signs ENDA and legislation to repeal DADT and DOMA, I will smile and say, "I always liked that guy" ... and it will be the truth.