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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Collision course: LGBTs next major challenge will come from the Left

Call it "not-so-friendly fire," but the next major obstacle to LGBT equality will come not from the far Right and their religious zealots, but from the Left and portions of the Democratic Party.

Among some Democrats who otherwise call themselves Progressives, there's a snarling, snarky attitude toward LGBT issues that seems to be growing. Oh sure, they aren't quite as venomous as Republicans and their lap dogs in the religious reich. The far Right would prefer concentration ... opps! I mean "re-education" camps. Democrats, meanwhile, will just encourage gays and lesbians to move to the back of the bus.

So what's shrinking the Democrats' "big tent"? It's the convergence of two issues. First, the Democratic Party is terrified of being associated with the idea of "gay marriage" as it was in the 2004 election when Repugnantcans herded their sheep (a.k.a., their base) to the polls with amendments in 11 states banning same-sex marriages. Among some Democrats, LGBTs bore the brunt of responsibility for Kerry's loss. Many Democrats tried to distance themselves from the marriage equality issue. Others made sure LGBTs got the message to shut up and sit down on otherwise politically progressive forums such as Democratic Underground.

After a few months the infighting died down, but it never really was adequately addressed and it certainly never went away.

Enter reason two for the anti-LGBT backlash on the Left. Last month Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean made some major missteps in the eyes of many LGBT Democrats. First he fired his director of LGBT outreach after the man's partner penned an editorial that Dean wasn't doing enough for LGBT issues. Then he appeared on Christian mullah Pat Robertson's odious "The 700 Club" and bungled his own party's 2004 platform by claiming it stated marriage is between a man and a woman only. (For the record, the platform says nothing of the kind. For more information, check out this earlier blog entry.)

LGBT resentment bubbled over and editorials begin showing up in gay publications questioning Dean's ability to lead. Some, like an editorial titled "Time for Howard Dean to resign" from The Washington Blade, took a more blunt approach:

I’ve always been suspicious of his pandering to gay voters when he thought he needed us. It is clear now that he thinks we are a burden on the Democratic Party, and he is moving away from us as fast as he thinks he can get away with it.

To do so is wrong strategically and a betrayal of the party’s ideals. People don’t want wishy-washy statements — they want clear position statements from their politicians and their parties. That is what wins supporters and elections.

So Howard Dean must go.

No sooner did these editorials began to circlate than the Democratic anti-gay backlash began.

The editorial was posted on the LGBT forum on the Democratic Underground - usually a fairly quiet forum populated by LGBTs and their straight allies - and angry "progressives" began to pounce.

The editorial opinion was called "useless" by one straight poster. Another called it "hogwash." Gays and lesbians were accused of disloyalty to the party and the man who brought civil unions to Vermont. (For the record, Dean's action in Vermont was a response to a court order in Baker v. Vermont requiring that the state extend marriage rights to gay couples. The Vermont legislature came up with civil unions as a response, which only satisfied the Court's ruling by technicality, giving gay couples many of the same rights but not the same status. So far from being a hero for gay rights, Dean opted for a compromise position.) Other straight Democrats accused the editorial of being planted by Log Cabin Republicans - the only LGBT folks they can "officially" hate.

Throughout it all, the attitude expressed by the heterosexuals who ventured into the LGBT forum was: "Shut up. You're gonna cost us another election."

And all this in a supposedly "progressive" forum.

Those angry Democrats are what we can expect to face, at least among some segments of the Democratic Party, during the coming election season. They will excuse their own bigotry by claiming at least they aren't Republicans, but their message comes across crystal clear: Move your ass to the back of the bus and don't say a word.

Furthermore, when the Federal Marriage Amendment goes down in defeat (which it is almost certain to do) the Democrats will use it for years to come to claim they've done their job for LGBT rights. In essense, LGBT issues will be stymied. Instead of using their efforts to help LGBT rights progress, the Democrats will claim they've done enough simply by keeping those rights from regressing.

So vote for us, Democrats will say, because we aren't as bad as the other guys. Never mind that you're not making any progress under us. Just sit there at the back of the bus and we'll get around to your issues ... in 2040 ... maybe.

I'm not fully ready to abandon the Democratic Party. There are good Democrats out there. But I no longer trust the leadership of the Party and I no longer believe they have our best interests at heart.

However, I'm not above holding my vote hostage and telling the Party they can either play ball or my vote and my contributions will go to support a third-party candidate.

At a minimum, the LGBT vote makes up 3 percent of the electorate, or about the same size as the Jewish vote. Most of those LGBT voters vote Democrat. In a close election, LGBTs can provide the swing votes as we did with the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. We need to remind the Democratic Paty of that. We need to let them know that we will not take a seat on the back of the bus. And we need to let them know that without our support, the Democratic Party may once again find itself twisting slowly in the wind come election night.