I am of the opinion that our failure 32 times on gay marriage props, along with other problems holding back basic advancement of our civil rights, is not just because our opponents have more money or better arguments and leaders. Our non-advancement is also a product of weak, sometimes misguided, Gay Inc leadership.
After we lost gay marriage in Maine, our leaders trotted out the same old glass-is-full and we're making incremental progress despite losses. They reaffirmed their marriage to the hollow equality arguments and rendering the word gay invisible for future ballot props, which is also the context in which Gay Inc fights for us, day in and day out.
And when Gay Inc leaders are publicly asked to account for the state of our progress, all too often they absolve themselves and their orgs of any genuine responsibility for the stagnancy pervading the movement.
Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign engaged in such absolution in an August interview with US News & World Report. Using the framework of Obama's campaign promises, versus his actions in the White House and HRC's relationship with his administration, Solmonese said:
But where the LGBT community is feeling frustration is that the road map and timetable have not been made as clear to them.
And who might make the road map to victory visible to the community? Maybe HRC's well-funded and state-of-the-art public relations division? Joe, er, never makes it clear who hasn't shown us the road map. The basic problem for Joe is what the community can't see, not who is obscuring the plan for advancement.
The thing is, another member of the Gay Inc leadership circle, Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, marches in lock-step with Joe on this. Adam Bink spoke with Rea last week, about the state of the movement, for the Bilerico.com group blog, and she eerily echoed Joe's "blame the community" thinking:
One of the things about marriage and the dominance in the media and the public sphere is that we've actually made all this other progress. Unfortunately, not a lot of people know about it, unless you're playing insider baseball.
Gayja vu, all over again. So, there's been lots of progress made, but the problem isn't that NGLTF, HRC and other professional advocacy and educational gay orgs are failing to achieve significant, significant and wide-reaching goals, then using their well-staffed communications departments to explain the progress. For Rea, the failure is that the millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans who don't work in Gay Inc are ignorant of the progress, if they're not policy wonks.
If there's been an actual and true achieving of all this other progress, why the hell don't I feel and know it? Sorry, Joe and Rea, the big problem is not that the larger gay community can't see your road map or that the progress made is only understandable to baseball fanatics. Stop blaming the community for you and your orgs' weak advocacy.
A comment at Bilerico.com from "TanyaM" raised important questions, that should be posed constantly to NGLTF:
I am sorry but how is NGLTF relevant any more? What do they do to earn their budget? I am not a huge fan of HRC, but it is HRC that is the lobby shop for the community in Washington, and that is involved in grassroots political work. When is the last thing that NGLTF did anything notable, on its own initiative, instead of taking "me too" credit primarily earned by HRC or a statewide organization?
If gays don't ask Gay Inc to justify themselves and their relevancy, who will?