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Task Force: Democrats 2008: Déjà vu, all over again?

News release:

BY MATT FOREMAN, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Matt_smile_sml_2The Democratic candidates for president, as a group and individually, express more support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues and legislative and policy initiatives to improve our lives than any prior set of presidential candidates in the history of American politics. These new standards of support for LGBT people are worthy of our applause, our appreciation and our accolades.

Still, no major Democratic candidate has made the kind of sweeping statement of inclusion as did Gov. Bill Clinton in 1992, when he declared to a huge crowd of LGBT people in Los Angeles, “I have a vision for America and you are part of it.” His words brought tears to the eyes of the audience and rang out across the United States. Even the most skeptical of us in the LGBT community knew that we heard something previously unspoken by any major political figure.

We also know and painfully remember that Clinton’s vision of America did not translate into much of anything positive for us at the federal level. We can recount our bitter disappointments during Clinton’s time in the White House: the crash and burn of the effort to rescind the Department of Defense policy of discharging gay and lesbian service members, the secret late-night signing of the Defense of Marriage Act, and an ushering in of abstinence-only sexuality education in the public schools. Clinton couldn’t or wouldn’t deliver on the specifics, but at least he held us in his larger vision of a healthy society.

Since 1980, we have suffered the gross indignities of defamations and slanders from a ravenous and rapacious right-wing anti-gay movement, a veritable industry churning out anti-LGBT propaganda at every turn. We endured the AIDS epidemic and the Reagan administration’s cruel indifference while our people fell to illness and then to death. We saw the U.S. Supreme Court uphold state laws that branded us criminals for our sexuality. We have been clubbed by an onslaught of ballot questions that put our lives up to popular vote. Time and again, we’ve been thrown under the political bus by politicians either in the White House or those who want to get there.

All of this misery has been exacerbated exponentially by the spinelessness or unwillingness of all but a few national leaders to take a stand for us and denounce the animus unleashed on us. Many of our “friends” have simply looked the other way.

We bear our scars and yet remain unbowed. But, we are still waiting for the country’s political leadership to defend our right to live and thrive as a matter of principle, not parse our dreams as a matter of misguided political calculation.

This far into the 2008 race, things don’t look all that good. People who think GOP candidates are backing away from using us to inflame and divide are simply wrong. Republican rhetoric is peppered with code that thinly disguises — and affirms — anti-LGBT sentiment with references to safeguarding the family, the sanctity of marriage, the foundation of civilization. For example, Mitt Romney said in Derry, N.H., “The source of America’s strength is the American people…family oriented American people.” And, John McCain on his official Web site: “The family represents the foundation of Western Civilization and civil society and John McCain believes the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman.” Let’s be clear: Romney and McCain do not include our families when they speak of “the family.” The Web sites of other Republicans, except for Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani’s, explicitly reject full and equal recognition of our relationships.

But, what of the Democrats? Sadly, mostly silence. You can find our issues explicitly referenced on only three candidates’ sites (Kucinich, Richardson and Gravel). Frontrunners Clinton, Obama and Edwards carefully parse their support of our people into specific reforms. We find no evidence that the Democratic frontrunners counter Republicans’ anti-LGBT speech with routine and positive inclusion of LGBT people in their visions for a whole and healthy society.

It’s déjà vu all over again — the GOP often slyly and sometimes audaciously whips us for political gain. The Democrats include us — sorta — but only in response to a direct question and typically in the language of careful legislative reform.

This must change, starting now, because at this moment in history, reforms are both important and insufficient.

We deserve and we must demand from the Democratic 2008 presidential candidates the simple and straightforward statement that our humanity requires full respect and fair treatment by all and, further, an equally simple and straightforward condemnation of those who seek to use our lives for political gain. This needs be said in front of all audiences — not just in front of us.

We need leadership. We need strength of vision. And we need to know that the promises of reform come from the candidates' understanding of LGBT people as inseparable from the national community in which we live. There can be no more equivocating or silence about the goodness of our personhood, our families, our relationships. Period.

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Yes, Mr. Foreman. I'm experiencing deja vu, too. But it's less what you wrote about than "Nader Raiders 2000." Remember them and their scorched earth, all or nothing strategy which succeeded only in raiding enough votes to throw the election in dispute and throw Bush in the White House?

I'm also experiencing extreme indigestion from your stew of indignation, exageration, contradiction, and misinformation. Your boiling rant is all the more surprising after the release of the Task Force analysis of candidates' positions showed all Democrats essentially the same except in the area of marriage. Unfortunately, your latest oratory serves only to muddy the perceptions of those who have not seen that report and, therefore, is untruthful, unnecessary, and counterproductive.

Pray tell how they can simultaneously "carefully parse their support" yet remain "mostly [silent]"? And, how WOULD "our issues" be redressed other than with "specific reforms"? And your assertion, "Democrats include us ... but only in response to a direct question" is simply untrue. While expressing knowledge of what Repug candidates' official campaign Websites say, you demonstrate a reckless ignorance of the official campaign sites of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards while ludicrously trumpeting the sites of well-intentioned but irrelevant losers-before-they-started Kucinich and Gravel. And, again, you contradict yourself. Which is it, "explicity reference" or "only in response"? And are all Democrats betraying us or just some?

Your other hero, Richardson, who has some chance of being selecting as the Democratic VP running mate but zip to lead the ticket, does include support for hate crimes legislation and domestic partnership among his official site’s "Issues" pages, but the language falls far short of the "strength of vision" you call for, and there’s that recent sticky issue of his sudden amnesia about what “maricon” means, as he once used it on the Imus show.

For your information, as of a couple of weeks ago, Edwards' site included OFFICIAL endorsements of gay rights four different times in press releases published by the his campaign for any and all to see. And Hillary's had two. Both candidates encompass the kind of "simple and straightforward statement[s]" and "condemnation of those who seek to use our lives for political gain" that you claim they have not. [Unfortunately, Obama's site had none, though we know he has expressed in other venues essentially the same degree of support as Edwards and Hillary save for Edwards’ strong statement that HIS administration would not interfere with any efforts to advance gay equality INCLUDING gay marriage. [Campaign site details below.]

Yes, I get that you're wishing for them to call some kind of press conference devotely solely to embracing us, but you know that's unlikely to happen and why. If you need a hug so much, talk to your partner. Otherwise, please note that Election Day does not coincide with Christmas so save your wish list for Santa Claus and your litmus tests for Republicans.

Obviously the greater reason your raging is because the leads have not endorsed gay marriage? You already addressed the issue when you wrote earlier, "Politically, being for civil unions but against marriage doesn’t bring a single voter over from the other side.” True, of course, but you're too bright not to understand how many voters are open to civil union but actively opposed to "marriage" and any candidate who would support it. What makes you think they wouldn't club us with an onslaught in the 2008 Presidential election? Unlike our supporters, including too many LGBTs, such ideologues will crawl naked through quicksand to polls if they fear gay marriage has a chance of advancing. THAT is the larger zero-sum loss you're demanding the Democrats engineer in the name of some personally-satisfying "moral victory." Is that so important to you that you'd be content for us to continue living an anemic second-class citizen life under the next Republican President as long as your stentorian self-righteousness can fat and sassy?

I agree we need greater leadership, but it is from you not them.

Thank you for your attention.

Leland Frances

FROM EDWARDS OFFICIAL CAMPAIGN SITE:

NATIONAL LGBT LEADERS ENDORSE JOHN EDWARDS FOR PRESIDENT. Pull quote: “I am honored to have the support of so many well-respected LGBT leaders,” said Edwards. “They work hard every day to make our country a better place and I am proud to join with them to fight for equal rights for all Americans.”


EDWARDS STATEMENT ON THE MILITARY’S ‘DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL’ POLICY. Pull quote: “It is long past time to end the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy and to allow openly gay men and women to serve in the military.”


JOHN EDWARDS STATEMENT ON NEW HAMPSHIRE’S RECOGNITION OF CIVIL UNIONS. Pull quote: “New Hampshire’s decision to recognize civil unions and grant gay and lesbian couples the same rights granted to heterosexual married couples is an important step in the fight for justice.”


EDWARDS STATEMENT ON SURGEON GENERAL NOMINEE. Pull quote: “Dr. James Holsinger’s anti-gay writings and beliefs suggest that he will undermine, not advance, the cause of equality and fairness in health care.”


FROM HILLARY’S SITE:


CLINTON CAMPAIGN ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF LGBT AMERICANS FOR HILLARY STEERING COMMITTEE. Pull quote: “I am proud to have the support of such distinguished leaders in the LGBT community,” said Clinton. “Together, we can move our nation closer to the promise of fairness and equality that all Americans deserve.”

STATEMENT FROM HILLARY CLINTON ON GAY & LESBIAN PRIDE MONTH. Pull quote: “For six long years, the Bush Administration has only seen the families that matter to them. It’s been a government of the few, by the few, and for the few. And no community has been more invisible to this administration than the LGBT community.”

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