Alex Blaze

How did conservatives get more political power than us?

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 15, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: DOMA, Don't Ask Don't Tell, hate crimes legislation, john berry, LGBT, marriage, rumor

Well, I'm back from my traveling weekend, and, while I was gone, two major stories broke about the Obama Administration and LGBT legislation. I wanted to tackle this one first, but I'll have a post about the Department of Justice brief later in the day.

John Berry, who's openly gay and works for the Obama adminstration, talked with The Advocate late last week about the administration's LGBT legislative goals: hate crimes, ENDA, DADT, DOMA, in that order.

But it seems like they're worried about getting these bills passed, that they might not have enough votes even for hate crimes legislation (not that I would be too upset if they left it behind and started working immediately on a fully-inclusive ENDA):

We don't have the votes to do Hate Crimes right now, we don't have the votes to do ENDA, how are we going [to get "don't ask, don't tell]?

One could argue that the Administration didn't have the votes necessary to get the stimulus package or the IMF bailout, but that's meant to be a starting point for work on this subject, not an excuse to put off the issue.

The real question is: "Why do conservatives still have so much political power?"

I've noticed that LGBT people are less patient with the Obama administration than they were with the Bush Administration. We're yelling more, we've started to call for "full equality now," and even the mainstream media is picking up on it with glee.

I suppose it was less patience and more resignation when Bush was in office; everyone pretty much knew that he wasn't going to sign anything LGBT-friendly into law and there weren't nearly enough votes in Congress to overcome a veto. So instead we put our work into getting Obama in office.

So now, some 6 months into the Obama administration, after 8 years of a Bush administration, we're left asking ourselves why nothing's really changed. The public is there on ENDA, hate crimes legislation, and DADT. Gallup reports that 69% of the public wants DADT overturned. A 2007 Gallup poll found that the public favored adding LGBT people to hate crimes legislation 68-27. Another Gallup poll found that 89% of Americans thought gays should have the same job opportunities as everyone else. And even an HRC poll found that 65% of people support transgender employment protections.

This shouldn't be too hard. Less popular laws than these have passed Congress before. In fact, when it comes to employment discrimination, it should at least be enough to have one party lock-step in our favor.

So the question comes back to why a small sector of the population (11% on SO ENDA, 35% on GI/GE ENDA, 27% on hate crimes, and less than 31% on DADT) should have the power to control those laws. Let's face it, they have more political power than the rest of us do.

I think part of the problem is that we haven't been our own best advocates as LGBT issues got set up as toxic, both when Kerry lost in 2004 and the mainstream media blamed it on same-sex marriage (the numbers didn't show that, but whatever, it was easily digestible analysis) and when, right after the election, the Washington media decided that the real problem with the Clinton administration in the beginning was the he went too far left on gays in the military, when the clearer reading of Clinton's fumble there was that it was his first skirmish with the military brass, he was a Democrat, and they had to flex their muscle on something.

Then, after all those ballot initiatives passed, even in California, it apparently convinced some of these people that LGBT issues will screw up everything else. I'm guessing they didn't separate same-sex marriage from other LGBT issues, even though it's by far the least popular of all legislative reforms out there that relate to queer people.

All that taken in with the fact that after 2004 many in the the Democratic Party decided that it had to get conservative Christian voters with olive branches (read: capitulate on LGBT and reproductive freedom issues), we were further marginalized when it comes to political power.

So now they're scared and, the way I read that Advocate interview, the Administration will try to get hate crimes legislation passed as well as legislation to stop discrimination of federal employees on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation (when it comes to benefits). Everything else, since they don't have a plan or a timeframe on them, seems to be left to Congress to lead. And we can all guess how that'll work out.

One more tidbit from the interview:

One of the first things I want to be clear about is that there are a lot of charges that there's been some secret deal or backroom deal, there isn't one. There isn't one, there is no secret deal. We are working in partnership with all LGBT groups, and all groups are doing what they should be doing, which is passionately representing their unique interests.

Can that rumor die now? Please?

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Suze Orman summed up the problem for gays without full equality. It costs us hundreds of thousands of dollars in life, and after the death of a partner, without benefit of the "marital deduction" and other tax benefits, the survivor may find herself/himself in the position of having a forced sale of the business or home or both that the couple owned, just to pay the taxes due at death. Also, we are collecting our rightful social security or federal and state pension benefits from our partners. A dear lesbian friend of mine died suddenly of heart trouble a few years ago, and her partner was audited by IRS after the death, and assessed huge "gift taxes" for the money contributed by the deceased partner for their joint residence of many years. The repeal of DOMA is hugely needed, along with new legislation recognizing couples, whether married or not, since so few states recognize marriage. There needs to be a federal recognition of "couplehood" available to everyone, if this is the way that our screwy tax system is set-up.
When Bush lost the poplular vote in 2000, he roared in with Cheny and they acted like they had an 80% mandate. We keep getting Christmas cards but no presents from the Obama administration. WE NEED CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN !!!!!.

Because conservatives are loud, organized, and like the Cylons have a plan and stick to it.

The GLBT community isn't, muddles its political messages, and doesn't grasp the importance of unspoken communication and symbolism.

The flag issue is an example of that.

Whether you belive it or not, polticians noticed the GL community's decades long penchant for selling out its transgender allies to get their own rights passed and the lack of intersectionality work by dismissing it with the words 'it isn't a gay issue'.

The way they look at it, if you sell your own allied down the river, what are they going to do with us?

And if they have to face angry constituents back home, the political peeps factor that into their cost-benefit electability analysis.

Well, the way to build political power is to be a good ally first. If you help them pass their pet issues or support them with more than lip service, then they'll be on board with helping you with yours.

Angela Brightfeather | June 15, 2009 2:03 PM

I think the correct word for all of this is "Trumpted". In case people have not been listening over the past month to right and left wind radio, the talking heads on their TV's, media outlets and eveything coming out of the White House,then they are missing the big enchilada that gets the whole Obama Administration on the map, and it's not any one or combination of all GLBT issues.

It's Health Care!!!!!

I mean really. If Health Care legislation can put the economy, the war and every known issue in the world in second place and beyond, what the heck do you think it is doing to GLBT issues. I think that our issues have dropped to a level someplace lower than whale shit in the bottom of the ocean if you ask me. If we can't agree to take the prolonged fight of marriage rights that is years away from winning of the table and put the emphasis where it belongs on Hate Crimes and ENDA, I doubt that Obama will do anything, except take advantage of the discord and lack of unity and take his own sweet time to set the agenda instead of waiting for us to do it.

Is it right? Of course not. But who cares in the White House. The establishment of the "Obama Legacy" must affect all Americans fist, for it to be evewn called a legacy anytime in the future that can be measured against other great reform packages like the New Deal, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. With the money thrown at the economy issue, the reawakening of the Conservation Corp and rebuilding of America's infrastructure has become a part of his legacy. Now on to bigger and better things like Health Care and a further cemenitng -of the Obama Legacy Package.

It speaks volumes for the GLBT community that after less than 150 days into the Obama administration, GLBT people are screeming like banshees about issues that they thought were important, but are actually considered about as important as last years news to this administration. First thing first is their attitude right now and when you really look at the mess that was left by Bush, is it any surprise that our issues are remaining at the bottom of the list, when our alternative to begin with was between Obama/Biden or McPain/Pailin? They aren't worried at all abut our vote and where it's going.

It gives me no pleasure at all to ask how it feels to be GLBT and to have your life put on hold after having had it done to the Trans community with ENDA. But what goes around, comes around and two years ago Trans people were screeming at the top of their lungs that if GLB people put us at the bottom of their list, what kind of example is that giving everyone else about their issues and the extent that we are organized to care about each other? After that fiasco, is it any wonder that Obama and his people have adopted the word incrementalism when it comes to GLBT issues and are now telling us all to stand in line and wait until they become so famous that they can do anything they want and therefore lessen the danger of not being elected for a second term.

If we are very lucky, GLBT issues may rise to the top of the list under two conditions. The first is if we make them important by being almost as rash and obnoxious as the right wing radicals and some of us die in the process. The second is if Obama wins a second term in office and has solved enough of the worlds problems that he can now find the time to worry about our issues and not have to worry about the blowback after he has left office. In other words, I'll care about you when it doesn't stand the chance of costing me anything.

But what goes around, comes around and two years ago Trans people were screeming at the top of their lungs that if GLB people put us at the bottom of their list, what kind of example is that giving everyone else about their issues and the extent that we are organized to care about each other

And thank god trans people and their allies screamed about that. It did change some minds.

I don't think it's health care that's pushing this back, especially since health care was left to Congress, but yeah, I see that there are other priorities. And you're right about the screaming, I've never seen anything like this and I said that back when Prop 8 was passed.

People's patience is definitely wearing thin. I just hope we don't get stupid as a result.

It's worth noting that the Senate, compared to the House, is by its very nature both a more little-c conservative body (it tends to deliberate more, has filibusters, etc) and more big-c Conservative (has more representation from small-population states with more conservative and moderate voters). You might easily expect a Senator from the Northeast or the West Coast to support part of our legislative agenda. For ones from the Midwest, Mountain West, or South, it's a more tenuous political calculation as they consider how it plays back home.

There are several reasons that Cultural Conservatives have more power than we do. The first is that they have an agenda to which they are united and committed. Secondly, they have aligned themselves with a party that is sympathetic to their views. Thirdly, they have infiltrated that party, and succeeded in placing their agenda in the Republican party platform.

Despite all the fear-mongering about a "gay agenda", there isn't one. The first I ever heard of the so-called "gay agenda", I thought it had to be about having sex with as many partners as possible within a given lifetime. One need only read a few articles on this blog to figure out how scattered and disorganized we actually are. We seriously need to stop arguing and start supporting one another.

We have aligned ourselves with a political party that, on a national level at least, doesn't give a damn about us or our issues. At the Gay Presidential Forum, only Kucinich and Gravel endorsed the idea of same-sex marriage. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, they are politically spineless, too, constantly waffling and worrying about the Republican spin in the media and by election opponents. Make no mistake, the Democratic Party cares ONLY about our money and our labor during election season.

Now, I'm not sure about the rest of the country, but there's a way the LBGTQ community in my state, California, can give the Democrats a real wake-up call, and that is to align ourselves with a political party that does give a damn about our issues, and already has equal rights for LBGTQ folk as part of its platform:

If LGBTQ people in California deserted the Democrats loudly and en masse, and registered Green, there would be a significant shift in the voter rolls. Such an action would give the Dem party pols reason to change their underwear.

Actually a nationwide shift to Green would do that across the board.
I'll have to do that.

The Christian Radical Right's mission is to turn this country to a Theocracy, with rule by Bible instead of Constitution. They're imbedded in all major positions of government (a mormon wrote the brief defending DOMA) many of them Bush carry overs. They control the military, the media, the schools, the justice dept. and will stealth fight to defeat gays, women's rights, stem cell, etc. They are strong, wealthy (mormons and catholics and evangelicals)and were money behind Prop.8. We need to expose their control of the so called Culture War, Religion as a valid science, and fight like hell for our equal rights. They're not insurmountable, but they are formidable, dedicated to earsing us, and VERY DANGEROUS.

Rick Sours | June 17, 2009 8:57 PM

Just read something rather scary; in the state of
California 50% of the money (20 million dollars)
spend to pass Prop. 8 came from the Mormans.
Yet Mormans are a small % of the total population
of the state of California.