Thursday, November 04, 2010

Ann Rostow: Blame HRC
for Congressional Gay Failures

This gorgeous gay gal is the fabulous Ann Rostow, who writes a weekly column for the San Francisco Bay Times, and I'm in love with her. Writer Rex Wockner took the photo.

She is a goddess giving voice to my anger and frustrations with HRC, in the spot-on piece ripping into the org. Ann is telling us all an important truth, that we must address if we are ever to enact federal protections for gays, and that is, official gay leadership is rotten to the core.

However, there is one thing I absolutely hate about Ann. She doesn't blog! This is absurd on so many levels, starting with Ann's fine, down-to-earth Texas writer who knows her way around the printed word, and the messed gay political establishment. Ann would have a larger and more devoted following, not to mention more clout, if she added a blog to her weekly column.

Oh, there's also the matter of the low numbers of intelligent lesbian bloggers, who have a clue and genuine maturity. A blog by Ann is needed, in these gloomy times, and with such nincompoops in DC ruining our hopes of affecting lasting federal change, in the middle and distant future.

Here are choice selections from her column this week. Bolding by me:

Considering the pathetic progress we’ve seen on gay rights issues over the last 20 months of full Democratic control, the notion that we can now advance anything but the most innocuous legislative proposal is a pipe dream. Whether you blame Obama, the Human Rights Campaign, the Senate Republicans, or Harry Reid, the fact is we had a window of opportunity and that window has slammed shut, leaving our entire agenda trapped in limbo with the un-notable exception of the Hate Crime law.

Personally, I put most of the blame on the shoulders of HRC, where leaders made no effort to revise our Congressional strategy well in advance of the 2008 election. Imagine if gay leaders had developed a major, and winnable, gay rights proposal, put it at the top of the list, and begun a single-minded lobbying effort well before Obama’s election.

Instead, HRC pursued the exact same list of bills they’ve been pushing for 15 years, in the exact same order of priority. First Hate Crimes! Then ENDA! Then Don’t Ask Don’t Tell! Then, whatever. The priority had nothing to do with what could actually advance equality, and everything to do with what would be most likely to pass. Ergo, we got a hate crime bill, an almost useless achievement and far less than what might have been possible under the circumstances.

The hate crime bill was not just low hanging fruit. It was sitting on the ground and could have been passed without making it our official “Number One Goal.” By emphasizing hate crimes as we did, we handed lawmakers an easy vote that allowed them to satisfy whatever small degree of pressure they may have felt to pass “something” for the GLBT community.

Meanwhile ENDA made no progress, and if the repeal of Don’t Ask won momentum, it was thanks to the many other GLBT advocates that focused on the military ban, along with the grassroots energy they brought to the fight. But more importantly, our community has had no debate on the legislative priorities themselves.

Sure, we support whatever “gay thing” might be introduced in Congress or discussed in committee. But why haven’t the “gay things” under debate changed in nearly two decades? Why are we fighting for a stand-alone bill to hamper workplace discrimination when we could be fighting to add sexual orientation to Title VII? There may be reasons, but where is the conversation? Why, for that matter, are we fighting for a workplace anti-discrimination bill instead of a general gay rights bill that would ban bias in housing and public accommodation as well?

Are these things too hard? Maybe. But there’s an argument to be made that the opponents of gay rights are hostile to any proposal while the supporters of, let’s say, ENDA, would also support a broader bill. The dynamics of the fight would be similar either way, so why fight for symbolic victories when we could fight for more substantial ideas? Even if we lose, it’s preferable in my book to lose a bid for serious change than to lose a bid for symbolic progress. America’s relationship with the GLBT community has improved dramatically since the 1990s. So why are we still working for the same tentative pieces of legislation so many years down the road?

If Joe Solmonese, Rea Carey and other Gay Inc executive directors would ever descend down out of their isolated towers and begin regular Queer Question Time forums with gay reporters and bloggers and ordinary gays, we might get some answers to Ann's queries. While we wait for that miracle to occur, let's be grateful for Ann and her sensibilities.

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