Friday, January 13, 2006

Gay Rights in 2006

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The following is an editorial published by In Newsweekly and written by a columnist and journalist I have come to enjoy reading and with which I find myself agreeing with many times. He makes some awesome and important points about the LGBT movement in his editorial below, including being able to be inclusive of more conservative viewpoints and that conservatives are not the enemies of gay rights. Enjoy! Getting clear on gay rights in 2006 James Lopata In Newsweekly January 11, 2006 Remember when being gay meant opposing abortion, protesting against the military and only voting for liberal Democrats? Oops, that's right, despite the broadening of identities for GLBT people, many of us still operate in that world mind-set. We'll we'd better get up-to-date, or we're likely to fall behind. First, let's get clear on the fact that abortion rights are not gay rights. In announcing their opposition to Alito's nomination, three of the nation's most prominent gay advocacy groups cited his abortion rights record as a primary concern. "[Alito's] record shows open and declared hostility to reproductive rights," said National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman. "[Alito] has worked actively to undermine Roe v. Wade," said National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell. "We also share our allies' concerns about his record on reproductive choice," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. There are many reasons for gay people to be concerned with Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, but his views on Roe v. Wade are not among them. At one time the right to privacy, as espoused in Roe v. Wade, seemed the most important linchpin to gaining gay rights. But that changed with Lawrence v. Texas. Notable about the way that the Lawrence ruling overturned sodomy laws was that it barely referred to a language of privacy, emphasizing instead the language of "liberty" as written in the 14th Amendment's Due Process and Equal Protection clause. Legal experts see this as a shift away from the Court's highly politicized "right to privacy" language of years past. With Lawrence v. Texas the Court has begun to separate gay rights from abortion rights. So must gay-rights activists. Second, the case against the Solomon Amendment is not necessarily good for gay rights. The universities that are suing the government in order to keep military recruiters off campus to protest the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy are well-intentioned, but misguided. Anyone who donates money to a university or other organization has a right to earmark those funds the way they see fit. That's been the premise for federal government grants for decades. And, notably, under Title 6 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Title 9 of the 1972 Education Amendments applying to sex discrimination, universities have been required to abide by government rules concerning non-discrimination in order to receive funds. Striking down the Solomon Amendment means that conservative Pepperdine University could just as easily turn away a pro-gay government organization as Harvard can turn away a government entity that discriminates against gays. From the way the Court questioned petitioners, it seems clear that most of the justices, including new Chief Justice Roberts, won't endanger well-established civil rights precedents by overturning the Solomon Amendment, understanding that it cuts both ways. We hope that more gay rights activists will understand this as well. Finally, we need to be sure that the gay rights movement is not so completely entrenched in liberal politics. After all, 25 percent of self-identified GLBT people voted for George W. Bush in the last presidential election. 25 percent! Astoundingly enough for many of us who are rooted in a very blue, ultra liberal area of the country, there are many gay people for whom marriage rights are not the most burning of issues. Many gay people actually like George W. Bush's stances on the economy, feel safer with his approach to the war on terror and love his faith-based funding. Gay people don't fit neatly into any particular mold any more. We must not lose sight of that. Gay-rights activists who conflate vilification of the Iraq war, evangelical Christianity and other right-wing issues, do so at the risk of alienating many GLBT people and some straight supporters. As Log Cabin Republican President Patrick Guerriero observed in a recent interview, "A question I ask myself all the time: ¦ Is there a way to realize full equality for LGBT Americans in my lifetime without the work that Log Cabin Republicans do? The answer I come up with is no." Conservatives are not the enemies of gay rights. Republicans are not the enemies of gay rights. The great danger to the gay rights movement today is being too closely tied with partisan, antiquated liberal Democratic thinking. (That's not to say that there isn't great, forward-thinking liberal Democratic thinking as well - that's a great thing to be tied to.) Our rainbow coalition must include all who support gay rights when they support gay rights, including: John Roberts, as when he provided pro-gay pro bono work for Romer v. Evans; Samuel Alito, as when he wrote in favor of gay rights as a senior at Princeton University; and - odd as it may seem - conservative justice Clarence Thomas, as when in his Lawrence v. Texas dissent he called the sodomy law "silly," saying that if he were a Texas legislator, he would vote to repeal it. There is a dawning awareness, even among arch conservatives, that gay people and the rights of gay people are not tied to anything but gay people and gay rights. Let's resolve in the new year to make gay-rights issues be about gay-rights issues. Any other approach is not just silly, it's detrimental. Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,