After decades of staunch support and aggressive pushing of the DNC cause, the LGBT community is exhausted and dejected. We feel bamboozled. We've been sold a false bill of goods. Quite literally. We were told if we help return Washington to the Democrats in 2006 all of our dreams would come true. When nothing came of that, again, in 2008 we got fired up and ready to go to go to bat, believing the story that if we pitched in and earned the Democrats overwhelming majorities in both houses, as well as help them take the White House, our rights will finally be dealt with.
For his part, the President expanded several benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers, as well as ended same-sex partner discrimination in hospitals so that we can be with our loved ones in times of emergency, instead of relegated to the status of stranger and cordoned off to the lobby when our partners need us most, next to them, with them.
And the legislature did keep that promise, in part. In October of 2009 — after well over a decade of trying — we finally saw the passage and signing of an expansion of the Federal definition of 'Hate Crimes' to include us. This was the first time we've been explicitly mentioned in a good federal law that passed. This was a nice departure from three years prior when we were fighting to stop permanently writing discrimination against gays and lesbians into the Constitution.
The House of Representatives also passed a bill this year that included the repeal of the discriminatory "Don't Ask Don't Tell" law for the military.
However, that bill did not yet become law, thanks to the Senate. In fact, we're still waiting for the lion's share of the promises made by the Democratic establishment for this very period of time to materialize. gender-identity and sexual-orientation inclusive employment protections were explicitly promised by the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader, not just by now, first by the end of last year, then early this year, then Summer... and now... now we're edging ever closer to the reality that this just can not happen in this Congress.
To add insult to injury, their failure is being held over our head in this election. We're being told, "Well, it's not like the Republicans are going to pass the 'Employment Non-Discrimination Act,' now, are they? It's not like the Republicans will be repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' or ending discrimination against same-sex binational couples with the passage of the 'Uniting American Families Act.' You have to vote Democrat again so you can have these things."
So after months of broken promise after broken promise the blame is being shifted to us, the working, busy, out-side-of-the-beltway American voters that have trusted them over and over, only to be let down time after time.
We do not trust them, and we have very good reason. The Democratic establishment is offended and shocked that we want to hold them accountable for these failures. There really ought to be no surprise. Its shocking that the genesis of GetEQUAL was such a shock to everyone. Quite frankly, the real shock is that there wasn't a group so visibly putting pressure on the establishment before, outside of ACT-UP's successful pressure on AIDS and HIV issues in the 1980s and 1990s.
Own the anger. You have every right to be angry: you're right!
I'm glad we're angry, and I welcome it. I come from a blue collar union town. I've never in my life seen anything get done without someone getting up and getting their hands dirty to do it. This is just reality. Sitting and waiting has never accomplished anything before, why would it start now. As the old adage goes, "I can wish in one hand, and shit in the other, guess which one fills up first?"
What should really make us angriest is the establishment's dismissal of our anger, and pejorative belittling of our frustration. Don't patronize us! We may be ignorant to the way Washington really works, but we're not stupid. In fact, if Democrats are so keen on the way politics is played in Washington, they ought to have known they were over-promising in '06 and '08. They know better. Why did they do it?
I'm not going to guess at what was in their hearts. Honestly, I'm inclined to believe the Speaker and other lawmakers when they say they really did want to pass ENDA. But they knew the political realities, and they convinced us otherwise. This is fraud.
So when they pester us and arrogantly proclaim, "Well, would you rather have the Republicans? They hate you! At least we try!" you are right to feel nauseous and a little enraged. It's childish. They should stop.
But here's where you're not going to like me anymore. They're right.
Think like a hockey coach
Here's the core issue here: with the Democrats did not get the gains that we were told to expect. However, with a conservative majority in 2004 and 2006, we were fighting not to lose our citizenship.
It may be a belligerent, mocking tone, but the reasoning is sound. We are better off not allowing social conservatives take over our state houses or Washington.
Staying home on Tuesday, or voting against the progressive majority candidate is just plain throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The Democrats are brats, but we aren't going to correct it by throwing an election-day tantrum.
I can't guarantee to you that if we maintain progressive majorities in our state capitols or in the US Capitol that we'll get any of our legislative agenda passed. The Democrats may be able to keep full control of both Houses in DC — hell they may even be able to expand their margins — and we could very well still be waiting for ENDA, UAFA, and DOMA and DADT repeal.
What I can promise you is that if conservatives stack our state capitols and DC, we will be fighting efforts to turn back the clock.
Any hockey or basketball coach knows that you'd always rather be on offense than defense. A game where a goalie is bored period after period is a game with a smiling coach in the end. This isn't just true in sports, this is life.
We all have only so much energy and resources to give to this movement, and most of us are maxing out anymore. We spend time, we spend money, we spend emotions on this fight, and time after time we are met with disappointment.
However, our disappointment today is that our President's administration won't drop these court appeals of laws that have been found unconstitutional in case after case. Our disappointment is that our pro-LGBT bill doesn't have enough votes.
Does that stink? Yes. It should not be that way, I'll be the first to tell you. We should be winning. We should have a fierce advocate in the White House who isn't afraid to stand up and do what's right. We don't. We have a politically calculating coward.
However, I don't doubt his intention to someday do the right thing--when he can. I don't doubt this President is more pro-trans, pro-gay than anti. We've seen it again and again. This President has done more for our community in the executive branch than any other in history. Though I agree with Pam Spaulding that if you look at the opportunity that other Presidents had had to do for our community, and then you compare that to the monumental opportunity this President has had, you see that he's certainly failed to act in so many instances he could; I think the gains ought to count for something.
The President made a mistake by signing presidential memos for the federal benefits and the hospital visitation. Not only were these arguably token gestures (surely important for some, but minimal in the grand scheme) they go away after he does.
The President continues to make mistakes by not ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," by signing a stop-loss order halting the policy, and he continues to make mistakes by allowing his Department of Justice to aggressively appeal the unconstitutional provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act and the military's ban on LGBT troops serving openly.
However, we really need to start passing Safe-Schools laws in states around the nation, and in the US legislature, if we want to empower teachers to combat bullying and try to decrease the overwhelming rush of bullycides that are the result of anti-LGBT bullying. This will not be done in conservative legislatures.
We need gender-identity inclusive employment protections in more places, places like Michigan or Georgia or Utah, and that will not be done in conservative legislatures.
Our families need recognition in order to be alleviated of many of the fiscal, social and policy strains that complicate house-holds headed by same-sex couples. This will not be done in conservative legislatures.
And in DC, we need DOMA repealed, we need DADT repealed and we need UAFA passed. This will not happen in a conservative legislature.
What will happen in conservative legislatures? We'll see gains we've made stripped from the books. Here in Illinois I've already reported to you that our front-runner for governor, Bill Brady, in his capacity as the Republican big shot in the Senate, attempted and almost got away with a sneaky maneuver back in March that would have allowed for the quiet passage of a bill that would have made our inclusive employment protections law unenforceable.
In Florida they've just ended a thirty-three year law barring openly gay people from adopting--a victory that may be allowed to be challenged by referendum by a conservative legislature.
In Iowa the pro-marriage-equality governor could lose his job and conservative leadership is vowing a recall of the Justices that unanimously decided that no loving, adult couple should be kept from the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage. Certainly we could also see, in that state, a conservative legislature send to the people a proposition to end marriage equality in the only state outside of the East Coast to have won it.
In state after state we'll be fighting defense instead of offense.
Let's Make a Deal
Rock and a hard place, I know.
Listen, we can't let the Democratic establishment off the hook for all the grief they've caused us. We need to dog them, no matter how much they protest, until they can be upfront and honest with us, and until we can see some results for all of our work.
So let's make a deal.
I am asking you--as much as its going to hurt--to promise to vote on Tuesday. Not only am I asking you to promise to vote, I'm asking you to promise to vote for the Progressive in every race on Tuesday. This will require you to go to your county clerk's website, look up your ballot, visit Project Vote Smart and do a little research on your candidate.
This is step one.
For step two, I'm asking you to show this post to your other angry, hurt, frustrated friends. Tell them to feel free to vent their frustration (of course, keeping in mind tact and good taste, and never making death threats, allusions to violence or personal ad hominem attacks) and then make them look up their ballots, do the research and go vote. If you can vote early or absentee at your clerk's office, all the better. You can get your part done now and spend the rest of the week recruiting your friends.
Sure, this post hasn't been a ringing endorsement, but in the end the principle is clear. Vote for the progressive candidate in every case. If, by some chance, you live in one of those strange districts where the Republican is actually the progressive choice, go for it. Just make sure you vote for the candidate that supports LGBT issues and the other issues that are important to you. There are some tough choices out there--like in the Illinois Senate race where our Republican candidate has been a long-time supporter of ENDA in the US House (though we have no idea if he'll toss gender-identity under the bus if given the chance, he's co-sponsor of the bill, but he's not on record in terms of a Motion to Recommit). However, Mark Kirk voted against DADT repeal, and he's against marriage equality. Our Democrat, Alexi Giannoulias, wants to repeal DADT and is for full marriage equality. Stack them up and really examine them.
To be perfectly honest, issues that are important to me are LGBT issues, a women's right to choose, public education, social services, public transportation, improving health-care access, the environment, comprehensive immigration reform and small businesses (as opposed to big business) so we can guess where a lot of my candidates will come from. However, if a Republican sides with me more than the Democrat, I will vote my conscience.
I challenge you to vote your conscience too. Just think hard about every choice you make, and make sure you're voting to send someone to Washington, not make a statement. Don't vote in anger, vote strategically.
Its going to hurt, and it should. The so-called progressives haven't held up their end of the bargain in most cases. I'm still sore we had to fight Democrats to get the measly, watered-down, unhelpful healthcare bill through that we did get through.
Hold onto that anger. We're going to need it starting November 3.
However, vote for a pro-LGBT majority.
As for my part of this deal, I promise that I'm going to be a bear to them. I promise to do whatever I can to hold them accountable, demand answers and results, and push them to the proverbial wall when I think we're getting lied to again. I'm not going to be a good soldier, I'm going to be a pest, and you can expect it to be especially harsh this time around--after the terrible four years we've had to put up with.
No, I will not apologize for criticizing the leadership, and I sure as heck won't stop.
But on November 2, I'm going to go vote progressive. I'm going to make sure all of my friends go vote Progressive. And on November 3, I'm coming out, keyboard blazing, demanding that this time, we get some honesty.