No, Syrian refugees are not a gay issue
November 23rd, 2015
It seems to me that sometimes gay activists confuse causes, assuming that their worldview is the only valid perspective that can be held by a gay person and thus that any cause they support is a gay cause. And those who disagree can be immediately and vehemently denounced as self-loathing homocons and quislings, worthy of derision and scorn.
But not all gay people have the same experiences, perspectives, or lifestyles. And competing interests or different values are not resolved by a shared sexual orientation.
We may see disputes over resource allocations or military action without demanding uniformity or laying charges of homophobia. But when it comes to social issues, there is often a presumption that all gay people must lean left and that failure to do so is betrayal of the gay community.
This is irrational. There is no logical basis for demanding conformity among the gay community on issues that do not have a direct or largely disproportionate impact on gay people.
Abortion is not a gay issue. Immigration is not a gay issue. Gun control is not a gay issue.
There are within each of these areas some arguments that speak to the community. Asylum based on sexual orientation, for example, is highly relevant and specific to the community. And as we get closer to identifying genetic markers for orientation, we may find ourselves facing difficult questions about abortion.
But, as a matter of belief and policy, there is nothing about orientation that dictates ideology. And gay=liberal is a false narrative that not only leads to disappointment for activists, but does a disservice to the roughly one-quarter of gay citizens who hold more conservative positions. (And I suspect that for some of the more vocal activists, the number of LGBT persons in disagreement soars to large majorities.)
To get around this fallacy, they propose another: that because some gay people are impacted by a policy, then therefore their response is the gay response and any other position is homophobia.
Because some immigrants are gay, we must support open borders. Because some gay people are coal miners, we must support a strike. Because some gay people are Palestinian, we must oppose the state of Israel.
What never is mentioned is that gay people are also on the other side of those issues.
Yes, some immigrants are gay, but so are some of the existing residents of nations. Some gay people are coal miners, and some are customers or in management. Some gay people are Palestinian, and some are Israeli.
Obviously, some gay people are impacted positively or negatively whichever way a policy goes and championing one position does not make it any more the gay position than championing its competitor. And it is dishonest to see gay people only on one side and not the other.
Further, we should understand that these efforts can serve as a disservice to our community. They are not steps to protect gay people or to advance our common cause. Rather they are an exploitation of our community, an effort to harness our connections or our political power and employ it for a cause that does not serve all gay people equally.
In the worst of instances, it’s cynicism and self-serving. Activists who can “deliver votes” from their community gain power, influence, and financial advantage. If an activist can turn out gay support, it may be far more advantageous to them personally than to the gay people they claim to represent.
But irrespective of motivation, activists employ it far too frequently. And the latest example, a rather extreme one, comes from Michelangelo Signorelli.
On Friday, the House of Representatives voted to slow the President’s plan of resettling in the United States 10,000 Syrian immigrants fleeing the regime of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad or life under ISIS.
The House vote on the Syrian resettlement program, passing 289-137, reflects shifting sentiment on an issue where emotions have run deep in the aftermath of a deadly terror in Paris last week which left 129 dead. The House bill would require the FBI to create a background check of any refugee who spent time in Syria or Iraq after March 1, 2011.
The measure also called for the heads of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and National Intelligence to personally vouch that those admitted aren’t a threat, a requirement the White House in its earlier vow to veto the measure called “untenable.”
Among the 25% of House Democrats who voted for the bill were three members of LGBT Caucus: U.S. Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)
In statements released, the lawmakers indicated differing levels of concern, but mostly took positions that were not in opposition to immigration but rather focused on the assurance provided by greater scrutiny.
“Our nation has long stood as a beacon of freedom, but after the events of the last few weeks some leaders have given into fear and turned their backs on refugees,” said Maloney in a statement he released after the vote. “These actions are reprehensible, and present a false choice between our values and our security. It’s understandable that people are scared, and Americans have a right to know that the process we use to screen refugees will keep us safe. I have faith in our system, and I don’t believe these refugees — the overwhelming majority of whom are women, elderly, and children — threaten our communities or national security. So instead of slowing the program or pausing it, the administration should agree to immediately certify refugees if they pass the current extensive screenings and we should all refocus on actual threats.”
But this response has been deemed entirely unacceptable by Michelangelo Signorelli.
Totally shameful and Victory Fund & Institute should dump them just as it doesn’t accept anti-choice, racist candidates even if they’re LGBT. Equality should be litmus test of anyone in “LGBT Equality Caucus” in Congress. And realize that these individuals voted against desperate LGBT Syrian refugees — there was hope 500 of the refugee spaces would be set aside for them. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema is the worst: She was actually an attorney for an Iraqi refugee in ’07, arguing that his vetting was taking too long, over 2 years, discriminated against based on his nationality. Now she votes this way. She’s a total fraud. We don’t need these people folks. Let’s get pro-LGBT, real progressives (on all the issues), gay or straight, in office.
To Signorelli, because “equality” means accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country without personal assurances from the heads of the FBI and Homeland Security that each immigrant has been vetted, this is a gay issue. It’s a litmus test issue which Victory Fund should use to determine whether gay candidates receive support.
That is absurd.
The majority of Americans, perhaps as many as three-quarters, are skeptical about the government’s process of review when it comes to controlling access to the country. And this cannot be simply written off as religious bias – all polls show a vast majority of citizens think that any refugees accepted should not be given preference based on their religious faith, that Christians and Muslims should have the same access.
And among that large majority of Americans who are concerned about possible terrorists infiltrating the refugees are gay people. Real living breathing gay people. And some of them are Democrats and progressives.
But but but there are “desperate LGBT Syrian refugees” so this is a gay issue!
And Equality California has jumped on board.
“Last week’s vote was a victory for ignorance and fear. We are deeply disappointed that the list of ‘ayes’ included members of California’s congressional delegation, including members who have been champions of LGBT civil rights, and several LGBT members of Congress outside of California.
Among the millions of Syrians fleeing their country in fear for their lives are thousands of LGBT people, who face even harsher cruelties if they were to stay than the others, who are fleeing already unspeakable atrocities.
See, it’s a gay issue!!
No. The resettlement of Syrians fleeing the Assad regime or ISIS is not a gay issue. Even if some of the refugees are LGBT.
Though no doubt some here will disagree with me, I do not see this issue as a simple matter.
On the one hand it seems callous and selfish not to come to the aid of a fellow human in distress. On the other, our government has not shown itself to be singularly skilled in detecting and preventing threats. And some, including members of the LGBT Caucus, wish to help those in need but do not find it unreasonable to expect that each refugee be vetted so as to weed out someone who might shoot up a shopping mall or bomb a restaurant.
So how do we respond to those like Signorelli and EQCA who seek to co-opt the gay community for their position?
First, we should look at this in perspective.
At a dinner I attended last year, Equality California announced that would be shifting some of their focus from gay issues to more general progressive issues such as opposing barriers to immigration and seeking greater power for labor unions. Seen from that perspective, EQCA has narrowed their voice from a representative of gay Californians to speak only for the progressive segment of the gay community.
And Signorelli has clearly illustrated that his greater loyalty is “real progressives (on all the issues)” rather than to inclusion of gays and lesbians among the people’s representatives. As is his right.
Or yours. You have every right to think that only one position is reasonable or humane or just.
You just can’t claim that you speak for all gay people or even that gay people should agree with you because they are gay.
Victory Fund was correct in dismissing Signorelli’s demands. Their purpose is to support the campaigns of LGBT candidates for public office, not advance progressive policies. They are non-partisan and do not base their support criteria on how whether an individual office seeker is in complete agreement with Michelangelo Signorelli, or any other activist.
And policies around the resettlement of Syrian refugees are not a gay issue.
EQCA takes a smart step
November 2nd, 2011
I continue to believe that Equality California is a defunct organization that just hasn’t realized it yet. However, they have taken one step that I think is wise: (from a Send Us Money email)
So we are excited to share with you that, thanks to a generous leadership grant from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, we have engaged veteran LGBT civil rights leader and nonprofit advisor, Joan Garry to serve as EQCA’s chief strategy and transition consultant over the next few months to conduct a focused assessment of the organization, create an interim management plan and develop a short-term strategic plan that will serve as a roadmap for a new executive director search. Joan will be joined in this effort by Dr. Julie Anderson.
I respect Joan Garry. Back when GLAAD was changing Hollywood (instead of being the Word Police), Joan’s instinct and hard work was instrumental in ensuring that gay people on film were not just demeaning stereotypes.
Perhaps she and Anderson can find a purpose and focus for Equality California. But I’m still not betting on it.
Thomas Sowell makes a point or two worth considering about bullying
October 25th, 2011
Economist and conservative commentator Thomas Sowell has a new complaint out about the efforts to end gay bullying. Oddly, I find that while our reasoning and perspectives are far apart, he says some things that we should consider.
The premise of his column is that media attention and activism follow trends and popularity rather than even handedly reporting facts with context and perspective enough to allow the customer to see the full picture. I hardly think that is worth debating; we all have felt frustration over what has and what has not received media attention.
Sowell compares the attention given to gay kids being bullied to that of Asian-American kids being beaten in Philadelphia. I don’t know much about that situation, but it appears to be localized, a year or so old, and does not appear to have resulted in suicides. And Sowell’s general snittiness and petty whininess discourages any sympathy that he might have otherwise elicited.
The school authorities can ignore the beating up of Asian kids, but homosexual organizations have enough political clout that they cannot be ignored. Moreover, there are enough avowed homosexuals among journalists that they have their own National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association — so continuing media publicity will ensure that the authorities will have to “do something.”
Had Sowell used google, he would have discovered the existence of the Asian American Journalists Association. Or he could have glanced at a news station to see some avowed Asian Americans with his own eyes.
And had he been even peripherally aware, he would know that the anti-bullying stories were home grown, finding life first on gay blogs and then through efforts to send messages of encouragement to our own and only after paid advertising by a socially responsible corporation did America really take note of the problem.
But, despite the inaccuracies and false comparisons, what Sowell said next is interesting and worth a careful look by our community.
But political pressures to “do something” have been behind many counterproductive and even dangerous policies.
A grand jury report about bullying in the schools of San Mateo County, California, brought all sorts of expressions of concern from school authorities — but no definition of “bullying” nor any specifics about just what they plan to do about it.
Sowell is right on several points.
The programs put in place by schools to “address it and move on” do not seem to be significantly reducing the abuse. Often they are just the process the administration goes through in order to deflect blame or criticism. And even those schools which care and in which administrators genuinely and sincerely are trying to stop the bullying, the programs have not proven to be as effective as we would like. The problem of bullying is a cultural problem and one which needs to be addressed on a grander scale.
And (though this may anger some readers) sometimes our goals fall victim to a emotion/reason divide in which we have an abundance of people who feel and care and love and support but not too many who are cranky but make tough decisions, plot out strategies, and know how to effect change in real and tangible ways.
We have a narrow window before the public gets bored and the latest and newest urgent issue fad sweeps bullying into the corner. We simply don’t have the time to let our feelings drive our response.
We need specific definitions; we need exact and evenly applied consequences; we need to let the greater community know what it is that we are trying to accomplish with clear and specific language and get their support; we need to set aside hostilities and partner with the churches in town including the most conservative – as tempting as it is to believe otherwise, they don’t want gay kids to be bullied into suicide and if we don’t make this about taking sides then they could be our most powerful allies.
I am appreciative of the support our kids have gotten from the President to the small town citizen who all offer encouragement. And I’m thankful for the efforts of those who have worked tirelessly on this issue long before it came in vogue and will continue to do so when attention is elsewhere. Let’s take this opportunity to corral our energies behind them and bring about real structures of change.
This is a rare moment – lets use it to change the culture and teach a new generation that choosing to bully will come with social consequence: visibly disappointed family (and that is a tough role for parents who want to rush to their child’s defense), religious condemnation, and social rejection. If all of society tells a child that bullying has no supporters or defenders, if his peers consider bullies to be jerks, then this can be beat.
And that message will not only save the lives of gay kids, it will make the beating of Asian American kids in Philadelphia less likely. So even if Thomas Sewell is the one to inspire it, let’s make it happen.
But finally, Sewell discussed in his concluding paragraphs an issue that I have been reluctant to address. I’ve started and stopped a dozen times in my mind and even drafted a few times. I know this is not going to be popular and may well be seen as traitorous, but I think I need to say it.
Meanwhile, a law has been passed in California that mandates teaching about the achievements of gays in the public schools. Whether this will do anything to stop either verbal or physical abuse of gay kids is very doubtful.
But it will advance the agenda of homosexual organizations and can turn homosexuality into yet another of the subjects on which words on only one side are permitted. Our schools are already too lacking in the basics of education to squander even more time on propaganda for politically correct causes that are in vogue. We do not need to create special privileges in the name of equal rights.
Bullying is too important and the consequences are too real for this issue to be squandered on political grandstanding and organizational fundraising. And that is what California’s Senate Bill 48, the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, seems to me to be.
California’s laws are about as inclusive as it is possible to be. Other than marriage – about which the legislature can do nothing – gay and lesbian (and to a great extent transgender) Californians have full civil equality. In much of the state social equality is a given and in some places religious equality is the norm.
And while that is great for gay Californians, it isn’t so great for the employees of gay organizations who don’t want to go out of business or for politicians who rely on the contributions and votes that come with being “your champion in Sacramento”. It isn’t even good news for anti-gay activists who need to have a good scare to stir up the masses.
And consequently, in the past few years we have seen the California legislature deal with the establishment of Harvey Milk Day and SB48. They were created expressly for the purposes of giving State Senator Mark Leno a pretense of defending the community, giving the Democratic super-majority an opportunity to demean the minority party, giving extremist Republicans a chance to pander to the base, and giving Equality California a reason to ask for money.
And so they did. Especially Equality California, who emailed me about the need to defend the legislation from “enemies of equality” who were employing “every dirty trick in their handbook” so please send money. Repeatedly.
Harvey Milk Day is unnecessary. It does nothing, it mandates nothing, it impacts nothing. But at least it is benign. There isn’t much harm in naming a day after someone, even if the motivations were an example of politics at its most cynical.
But the FAIR Act is not symbolic. It changes what will be taught in public schools and does so with arrogance and intentional disdain and in language so blatantly biased that when I first read the bill I thought they had to be kidding.
Sewell is not being hyperbolic when he said “it will advance the agenda of homosexual organizations and can turn homosexuality into yet another of the subjects on which words on only one side are permitted.” That is exactly what the bill says.
- Instruction in social sciences shall include the early history of California and a study of the role and contributions of both men and women, Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.
- A teacher shall not give instruction and a school district shall not sponsor any activity that reflects adversely upon persons on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, sexual orientation, or because of a characteristic listed in Section 220.
- The state board or any governing board shall not adopt any textbook or other instructional materials for use in the public schools that contains any matter reflecting adversely upon persons because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, or ancestry on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, sexual orientation, or because of a characteristic listed in Section 220.
Actually racial minorities already had law requiring inclusion and banning discrimination. This bill makes two changes: it adds LGBT Californians and changes the prohibition from “discriminatory bias” to “reflects adversely”.
Ignoring the complete nonsense of lessons about the numerous and significant contributions of LBGT Americans to the early history of California, and setting aside the political cover provided by pretense that this only addresses matters which are “on the basis of” a characteristic, we can readily know what this bill does in real terms and practical application.
A teacher should introduce role models, successful politicians, admirable persons, and celebrities so as to or reference his minority ethnicity or that she is lesbian. However, should any person be discussed who is disreputable or a villain, any mention of their ethnicity or orientation should be discouraged.
And this is to be done so as to accomplish the goal of contrasting the positive contributions of ethnic and gay groups with their “role in contemporary society”.
I suppose it could be more blatant. After all , the bill does not seem to mandate that membership cards be distributed or a collection plate be passed to assist those organizations who represent such groups in their current “role in contemporary society”.
And though I share Sewell’s doubt that this law will reduce bullying or even improve self-esteem, it is certain to further increase division and to give a tangible example for those who scream that ‘homosexuals are trying to brainwash our children.’
But what is most frustrating to me is that by prioritizing their own personal goals, Leno and Equality California ignored a real problem and squandered an opportunity to draft a law that could significantly impact the way in which gay people are viewed by society. Rather than attempt to draft soldiers for the Great Culture War, they should have focused on what is perhaps our society’s greatest example of heterosexist presumption: the whitewashing of the sexuality of the people whom these kids already have in their textbooks.
Although it serves partisan politicians, there is little real value to extolling the virtues of Harvey Milk, to whom our community owes a debt of gratitude, but who ultimately was a politician with a checkered history and questionable ethics. And placing emphasis on the social role of groups shifts the focus from education to activism.
However, I think it would be of tremendous value for school kids to learn about Alan Turing, Isaac Newton, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo DaVinci, Oscar Wilde, Alexander the Great, the Sacred Band of Thebes, Sapho, Virginia Wolfe, William Shakespeare, Baron Friedrich von Steuben, Frida Khalo, Jane Addams, Bayard Rustin, Socrates, Hadrian, Daniel (of lion’s den fame), Francis Bacon, Richard the Lion-Hearted, E. M. Forster, Truman Capote, Nikolo Tesla, Savador Dali, and Luca Pacioli. These people, who did not live the heterosexual lifestyle, gave contributions that make Milk and the “early California contributors” seem inconsequential.
And this is an off-the-top-of-my-head listing. A comprehensive listing on “not heterosexuals” in history would truly shock most Americans. And it would add to the recognition that sexual minorities have always been a part of society and as individual contributors have disproportionately provided the sparks of genius that have propelled society forward.
But they threw this away. And for nothing.
As far as I can tell, no one was clamoring for SB 48. If any gay Californians had ever felt any need for a bill that mandated propaganda, they kept it a secret.
And even though Equality California tried to create an artificial emergency, it didn’t work. No one passionately defends a bill they don’t need, didn’t ask for, and which has no positive impact on their life. And I certainly can’t be the only gay Californian who finds the idea to be an affront to their concept of liberty.
And now Equality California is in complete disarray. Their new executive director has resigned and their time as the advocate for gay Californians is at an end. And as they fade, Sen. Mark Leno loses his biggest cheerleader.
But there’s a lessor for us here as well. Perhaps we can have higher expectations of our activists and leaders. Perhaps we can let them know that they exist to advance the needs of our community, not the other way around. And perhaps we can recognize that as we come into our place in society, we need to be cautious that we do not reverse roles and become callous careless oppressors.
But if we are not yet ready to recognize that risk, folks like Thomas Sowell will be there to remind us. Let’s determine not to make him right.
Please tell me that this isn’t going to be OUR strategy
August 4th, 2011
Today the anti-gays begin gathering signatures on their petition to overturn California’s law requiring inclusion of GLBT contributions in the education curriculum.
And also today I heard a radio advertisement warning that you shouldn’t sign petitions. Because then they have your address and you could be a victim of identity theft. “They even have my signature” says the newly incensed woman. And then they go for the real danger:
I read that the names and addresses on petitions were sent to other countries, including India! Who knows what they did with it!
This is, of course, nonsense. Without giving your social security number there is not much threat of identity theft. Even from those nefarious Indians.
A San Diego Union Tribune reporter followed up and discovered that “Californians Against Identity Theft” are a project of a construction workers labor union. There are several signature campaigns to limit the exposure to guaranteed pension benefits that can come from public funds and, in some cases, require public employees to contribute to their pensions.
But considering EQCA’s shift in identity away from a gay organization and towards a progressive coalition agenda, this doesn’t give me comfort. So please, will someone please tell me that this incredible stupid, fraudulent and xenophobic ad is not part of our strategy?
Ugh. An email from EQCA was in my inbox.
We’ve seen these campaigns before.
So we know that our opponents are spreading lies and using the usual scare tactics to misrepresent the FAIR Education Act and collect signatures for their effort to overturn it at the ballot box next year.
Extremists are also pushing a broad anti-progressive agenda, including ballot measures for next year, that will harm our fight and the work of important coalition partners.
Working in close collaboration with our partners, including Service Employees International Union, we are fighting back.
So I guess that, yeah, EQCA is has aligned our community with this crap. I especially love the comment about “spreading lies and using the usual scare tactics.”
What, are they saying that the FAIR Act is sending their children to India? And who know what the Indians will do with them!!
Good-bye, Equality California, it’s been a good run
July 26th, 2011
In reviewing an article today about the new direction of a gay political organization, I couldn’t help but think back on a similar decision in our community’s history. Others will, undoubtedly, remember this story differently, but here is what I recall:
In the mid 80’s California’s political gay community came up with the revolutionary notion of coalescing the various factions into a single state-wide representative organization that was the political voice for California’s gay community. Instead of each duplicating the efforts of the other and having no central source of information or progress, various groups would contribute funds, hire a lobbyist, and send a representative to jointly agree on a legislative agenda for that lobbyist to work towards.
The Lobby for Individual Freedom and Equality (LIFE Lobby) sought to set aside partisan differences, regional rivalries, and local power-struggles to work together on presenting, supporting or opposing specific bills. Recognizing that each group brought its own unique contributions, there was a commitment to respect each other and to keep the focus on shared goals: legislation which directly impacted gay people and legislation that directly impacted people with HIV/AIDS.
This was, for a time, an effective model. Utilizing the various connections and approaches of each group but with a shared message and goal, LIFE maximized the potential. Democrats, Republicans, socialists, the ACLU and church groups, people of various races and ideological perspectives came together to achieve a common cause. And the camaraderie which developed was, in many ways, as important to our community as the legislation addressed.
But over time, the lobbyists and leadership developed relationships with others in Sacramento who were similarly engaged and began to see their efforts as symbiotic. As their own personal politics were in agreement with each other, they concluded that they were each but a part of the greater struggle and that they could be more effective working in unison and thus coalition politics became the mindset of LIFE Lobby.
Coalition building can be advantageous. For example, LIFE was itself a coalition of gay interests and HIV/AIDS interests. And while those are two distinct demographics, there was significant overlap and public and political perception linked the two so closely that combining the efforts played off the strengths of both.
But while coalition politics can at times be a smarter, more efficient way to influence change, there are some things to consider:
1. The positive impression that other coalition members have built over time cannot be granted to you but must be earned; however, every negative impression of every other member is immediately yours to defend.
2. Speaking on behalf of a community of voters is only effective if it is on issues about which those voters agree. The lobbyist is not Moses leading his people. His personal views on other matters may not be shared universally among his community and the further he steps away from his direct mission, the fewer actual people he represents.
3. The gay community, in particular, is not homogenous. Drawn from families of every race, economic strata, political affiliation, religious association, ideological belief, and every other dividing quality, gay people are as diverse a community as it is possible to find.
4. No other coalition member cares about your goals as much as they do their own. Unless the level of support you receive is comparable to the amount you are giving, the coalition is not to your advantage.
But, in the thrall of being part of something bigger, LIFE build alliances and made promises and was suddenly functioning not as the gay/AIDS lobby but as a partner in the battle for social change. And there was a desire not to advance the goals of the representatives in the room, which were holding them back, but to change the representatives to be more reflective of the coalition. So new representatives were found and, as their supporting organizations may have been quite small and unable to help fund their participation, the generosity of existing members was needed.
And soon there was a creative new way of defining ‘gay issues’. Because some immigrants were gay, therefor immigration issues were ‘gay issues’. Because some union members were gay, therefor labor issues were ‘gay issues’. Needless to say, this new way of defining ‘gay issues’ did not extend to gay taxpayers, gay home-owners, gay religious adherents, gay fiscal conservatives, or even gay blue-collar Democrat-voting people. Their issues, somehow, did not become ‘gay issues’.
The result was predictable. Eventually the board of representatives had sufficient votes to push aside those who wanted to keep the older focus (which, interestingly enough, was politically diverse) and took a position that was insensitive to the realities of some members.
Faced with an affiliation that would cost them their own political connections, the more conservative members left and sent their own representative to Sacramento. And about then it became apparent whose generosity had been funding the new members which had made the change possible. And although it tottered on for a few more years as a voice for progressiveness, that was the end of the experiment that was LIFE Lobby.
All of which came back to me when I read about the new Executive Director for Equality California and the change in focus which he wishes to bring with him to the organization. (LGBT POV)
Palencia, who officially assumed the job on July 5, advocates a shift in the EQCA’s focus from legislation towards being more of a social justice organization, a move with which the board apparently concurs.
“Every executive director brings their own strengths and approach to the organization,” EQCA Board Co-Chair Clarissa Filgioun told Frontiers via email. “Roland brings a set of experiences that are unique to him and perspective from outside of the political realm. His experience as a person of color and an immigrant will likely inform the organization in a new way. Overall, all of these qualities will be put to work to continue to build on the great work we’ve already done that our members care about—strong legislation, public education, electing fair-minded candidates, marriage equality and more.”
Ron Buckmire, head of the Jordan/Rustin Coalition, agrees. “Roland shares my values as a progressive activist who truly believes that LGBT equality is just one fabulous thread in the intertwined tapestry of social justice,” Buckmire said on July 21. “He’s only been on the job less than three weeks, but I think he’s doing an excellent job so far and I expect that to continue for years.”
It’s ironic. EQCA (then CARE) was born in out of the implosion of LIFE and has served as the gay lobby group in Sacramento since the late 90’s. But with a perspective that LGBT equality is but a thread in a fabric and with significant emphasis placed on Palencia’s ethnicity, it seems pretty clear that to whatever extent that Equality California has served lately as representative of the broader gay community, it no longer does so. And the shift in focus is already evident.
It was gay newsman Rex Wockner who, seeing no movement on EQCA’s part to support the FAIR Act (a pro-gay educational bill) used his own network to rally letters to the Governor. And while some strategists believe that as an effort must be raised to defend this bill (opponents have began signature gathering for a proposition) it might be the the best and most cost efficient time to couple it with an initiative to reverse Proposition 8 – or at least come up with a strategy on the anti-gay effort – Palencia seems to have other priorities.
During the interview, Palencia continually said that no decisions had been made on strategy about both responding to the SB 48 threat, as well as whether or not to return to the ballot to overturn Prop. 8 in 2012.
But Palencia would not get specific about questions such as whether there is a “Decline to Sign” campaign in the works and what an initiative campaign structure would look like.
“We are having conversations with our coalition partners on how to respond,” Palencia said. “We will be coming out with a strategy about the kind of help we will need.”
And Palencia’s vagueness extends to who is involved in EQCA’s decision on the matter or even if any actual gay people are included. (My guess: if you can’t say “yes, there are gay people” then you don’t have any).
But while I think it is fairly evident that EQCA will no longer be a gay organization, I’m not really sure that this is a loss. Under its previous leadership, EQCA used astonishingly poor judgement in its anemic opposition to Proposition 8. So if Palencia decides that reversing the gay marriage ban does not really fit with his social justice agenda, that might be to our advantage.
And, honestly, if my rights need to be blessed as the highest priority of a coalition of progressive heterosexuals before any action is taken, then I’d rather they just sit the effort out. There will always be someone else more deserving of social justice than me and I’d rather work with someone who hasn’t got conflicting priorities.
And perhaps there isn’t as much need for EQCA anymore. It is not the same state that it was in the 90’s and Californians are not the same people. We’ve accomplished a great deal – much of it due to EQCA’s efforts over the years – and each year the legislative battles seem less important and bit more “something for the gays”.
While gays and lesbians in other states are fighting battles over being denied adoption rights, we are getting Harvey Milk Day. And while they are fighting to have any form of recognition of their relationships, our legislation is to require textbooks to teach about the positive contributions of gay people while banning “any matter reflecting adversely on a person due to their sexual orientation.”
I’m sure these bills – along with the nasty rhetoric of those in opposition – fill us with a sense of purpose. But it’s been quite a while since California textbooks reflected adversely on a person due to their sexual orientation and the importance seems a bit, well, contrived.
So maybe its time for EQCA to go serve some other purpose. They had a good long run, accomplished a lot, and (if we forget that unpleasant Proposition 8 issue) can go with their head held high.
But I do have a word of caution for them as they transition away. As the “gay legislative group” EQCA had a niche, an identified role. But the position of ‘progressive Californian political organization that has some interest in gay issues’ is already filled by the Courage Campaign. And I won’t be betting on EQCA.
Hey, Geoff Kors, don’t lie to me and try to use my orientation for your partisan agenda
This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
September 16th, 2010
I’m gay. That means that my romantic, affectionate, and sexual attraction are towards persons of the same sex. It does NOT mean that the Democratic Party has the right to expect my loyalties, my money, or my vote. And it especially does not mean that self coronated gay leaders have the right to lie to me and try to use my affiliation with my community as a tool to advance their own personal power or the candidate of their choosing.
I am annoyed to the point of venting (obviously) with leaders of gay organizations who think that they can “deliver the gay vote.” But I’m a bit used to it.
What I am not used to, and refuse to become used to, is being lied to in the process.
Yes on 8 supporter Meg Whitman has stepped up her anti-marriage equality campaign.
Late yesterday, she joined Attorney General Candidate Steve Cooley by saying that, if elected, she will use the state’s vast resources to defend Prop. 8 in court.
But it simply isn’t true. Whitman did NOT say that ” if elected, she will use the state’s vast resources to defend Prop. 8 in court” and what is more, she couldn’t if she wanted to. The date to appeal Perry v. Schwarzenegger has passed and the court has said that it will not be making exceptions to its deadlines, so unless Whitman has a hot tub time machine she can’t do anything about it.
The case will be heard in early December and Whitman would not be sworn in until late January. My prediction is that the appeal will be dismissed due to lack of standing. But assuming that it goes forward, and assuming that it drags on for two months, the most Whitman could do is file an amicus brief, something she can do today if she wishes.
What Whitman actually said is:
“The issue right now is, as I understand it, is ‘Will Proposition 8 have the appropriate support to actually make an appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals?’
“I think the governor of California and the attorney general today have to defend the Constitution and have to enable the judicial process to go along … and an appeal to go through,” Whitman said. “So if I was governor, I would give that ruling standing to be able to appeal to the circuit court.” [emphasis mine]
But that is a long long way from “if elected, she will use the state’s vast resources.” And while I disagree that the governor and attorney general have an obligation to appeal, that is hardly an outrageous, homophobic, or bigoted position. And further Whitman made no reference to resources but only to “give that ruling standing.”
While Kors is stretching the truth there, it at least has a passing relationship to the facts. But then yesterday this showed up in my email:
Meg Whitman made history today in her attempt to buy herself the governor’s office. She has now spent more of her own money than any candidate in our nation’s history: a whopping $119 million!
We have to fight back!
Not a dime of this money is going to our schools, to healthcare or to advance equality. In fact, she is spending all this money so she can then spend your and my taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit to overturn the Federal District court decision that declared Prop. 8 unconstitutional.
Equality California Political Action Committee is working to defeat Whitman, Cooley, Fiorina and all candidates who would stand in the way of full equality. We can win these races if we can turn out the vote. But we can’t do that without your support.
Help us fight Whitman’s checkbook by contributing today.
The cost of having Meg Whitman as our next governor is too great.
Equality California PAC
What a great big pile of steaming partisancrap.
First off, not a dime of ANY CANDIDATE’s election fund is “going to our schools, to healthcare or to advance equality.” Not Jerry Brown’s campaign, not Kamala Harris’, not even a cent of the money that he raises through this email will be “going to our schools, to healthcare or to advance equality.” But while that’s deceptive and petty, at least it isn’t a blatant lie.
In fact, she is spending all this money so she can then spend your and my taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit to overturn the Federal District court decision that declared Prop. 8 unconstitutional.
Really, Geoff? That’s why she’s running?
When, exactly, did Whitman say that she was seeking “a lawsuit to overturn the Federal District court decision”? Oh, she didn’t.
And when did she make opposing Prop. 8 a central part of her campaign? Oh, she hasn’t.
And will she be spending a cent of taxpayer dollars to defend Prop. 8? Oh, she can’t. Nor did she say that she would if she could.
But Kors feels perfectly entitled to try and deliver my vote and my dollars by lying to me.
Look, I don’t mind when a partisan group (which EQCA clearly is) seeks to support their party’s candidate. That’s expected (though it annoys me to no end when they pretend to be a non-partisan gay group rather than a partisan advocate).
If Kors wants to promote Jerry Brown on his merits, then he should do so. If he wants to oppose Meg Whitman due to inadequate support for gay Californians, more power to him. But don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.
I am suffering from no delusions. There is no question that Jerry Brown is more supportive on marriage equality than Meg Whitman. But let’s be truthful about what she has said, what she has done, and what she can and will do.
Here is how Whitman describes her position:
So as you know I am pro-civil union and not for gay marriage. And just for me, that term marriage, for me needs to be between a man and a woman.
And while “Yes on 8 supporter Meg Whitman” did not campaign for Proposition 8 or in any other way support Yes on 8, she did vote for the initiative. And when Proposition 8 passed, she took a bit of a middle stance. (LA Times)
Explaining her support for Proposition 8, the November measure that banned same-sex marriage, she called it a “matter of personal conscience and my faith.”
But Whitman, a Presbyterian who supports gay civil unions, said the thousands of same-sex marriages that took place last year before the ban should be legally recognized — a sentiment opposed by many Proposition 8 backers. Moreover, she said, gay and lesbian couples should be able to adopt children.
When Perry v. Schwarzengger found Prop 8 to be unconstitutional, her response was rather bland:
Today’s ruling is the first step in a process that will continue.
What I see is a woman who is less supportive than Jerry Brown, but not an ardent foe of gay equality. She has pandered to the right in her statement on the appeal, but has not made anti-gay positions a part of her campaign. She was the most preferable of those running in the Republican primary, but falls short of seeing gay people as fully equal in society. She is not (as some partisan hacks have taken to calling her) homophobic, but her views are not as evolved as they should be and she is not an ally of our community.
Based on her positions on the issue of marriage equality, I could not endorse Meg Whitman.
But let me be perfectly clear: while I know that I’ll be accused of “defending” Meg Whitman, that is not my intent. Really, this commentary isn’t about Whitman at all; rather, it is about being lied to.
I hate being lied to, I really do. But I especially hate having my sexual orientation manipulated dishonestly by “gay leaders” for partisan gain.
It’s almost enough to make me vote for a third party candidate.
Did EQCA Collect Cash for a 2010 Campaign?
August 17th, 2009
Queerty is reporting the claim that Equality California solicited contributions for a 2010 campaign to reverse Prop 8, only to turn around and oppose such an action.
It’s looking pretty obvious that EQCA benefited, whether on purpose or otherwise, by telling marriage equality supporters they would fight for 2010. They collected cash from Californians — our allies — under a falsehood. And with all the existing in-fighting between California’s gay rights groups, the last thing we need are accusations of fraud aimed at our own groups.
I don’t know whether there’s much fire behind the smoke. This may be more miscommunication than deception.
But I do know that when I was cold-called a week or so ago from EQCA looking for volunteers, I asked specifically which year they were supporting. I was told definitely 2010.
2010 or 2012: The California Debate Continues
August 13th, 2009
John Henning, who heads Love Honor Cherish, an LA-based volunteer organization which helped raised $500,000 last year for efforts to defeat Prop.8 — the ballot measure approved by voters in November which outlawed same sex marriage — says that some 50 activist organizations are already part of a growing coalition signed up for the 2010 effort.
Henning, speaking to the Chronicle today, said there is profound anger and disappointment with the decision of EQCA to hold off a Prop. 8 challenge for the 2012 general election.
On the other hand, San Francisco Gavin Newsom, noting the divisions in the LGBT community over the timing of a Prop 8 challenge, says he’s not convinced such an effort can be successful next year:
With the landmark state initiative outlawing same sex marriage approved by state voters in November 2008 and reinforced by a decision of the state Supreme Court, “it’s a different campaign,” he said. “We can’t rely on the courts..we can’t rely on the legislature, or the executive branch.”
“And so, now, the rights of a protected class of citizens are in the hands of the people,” he said. “And that means it’s a political endeavor. Which it should never, ever be. But it is: those are the cards that have been dealt since Prop. 8 passed.”
“So as much as I’d like to see it happen next year, I’m not convinced that it will,” he said.
As we debate whether Californians should push for 2010 or 2012, let’s keep one thing in mind: Remember Maine in 2009!
It’s 2012 For California
August 12th, 2009
Rex Wockner live-blogged it, and Equality California confirmed it. They hope to spend the time between now and 2012 “changing the hearts and minds of Californians” — specifically engaging LGBT communities of color and faith. Good plan. Both of those critical components were missing in 2008, and we all know where that got us.
Meanwhile, there’s a must-win campaign in Maine that really could use your help right now.
CA Gay Groups Advise Waiting, Waiting
This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
July 14th, 2009
Those gay organizations that led the disastrously ineffective campaign against Proposition 8 are sharing their wisdom again. According to the LA Times,
“Going back to the ballot . . . in 2010 would be rushed and risky,” read a joint statement issued Monday by three gay-rights groups and signed by more than two dozen other groups and individuals. “We should proceed with a costly, demanding, and high-stakes electoral campaign of this sort only when we are confident we can win.”
Personally, I suspect some organizations have ulterior motives behind their opposition to moving forward.
Take, for example, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. This organization is primarily a health organization – with a few other worthwhile programs. I have long pointed out that this organization is far removed from gay men and women in the community and no longer provides any services to gay men and women other than those narrowly defined by their state-funded programs (they dropped the word “Community” from their name years ago).
Yet Lorri Jean, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center\’s Executive Director, was one of the small number of individuals calling the shots during the campaign. Lorri was so concerned about Prop 8 and took her job so seriously that she decided to take a month long vacation in Alaska. In July 2008. Three months before election day.
But the Center has an opinion is back with an opinion about the next election date, and it takes little to see their motivation for delay.
Jim Key, spokesman for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, also worried that a 2010 political campaign might tap the same donors that service organizations rely on to fund HIV care, services for homeless youths and other programs at a time when, because of the economy, those programs are needed the most.
In other words, your fight for equality cuts into donations for our programs. And so you should wait.
Another group counseling waiting is Equality California, another prime player in the 2008 losing game.
“We initially said we believe 2010 was the right time to go back to the ballot,” said Marc Solomon, marriage director for Equality California, one of the state’s biggest gay-rights groups. But he added: “We’ve also made it very clear we will only move forward if we have a clear road map to victory. . . . The last thing we want to do is go back to the ballot and lose.”
He said his group has sought advice from political consultants and polling experts and would present it publicly later this month.
This is the same group that kept quiet about their “inside polls” that showed the campaign behind and instead let gay folks – who might have walked precincts and held house parties and talked to their church – believe that we were ahead and their efforts weren’t needed.
We don’t have to wait for next month to know what they will say. EQCA will give us a slicing and dicing of the demographics of voters who vote in gubernatorial elections and tell us that there is a tiny advantage to avoiding the older voters now in order to chance it with higher black turnout in 2012. And in 2012 we’ll hear that 2014 is really, really even better.
I think that all of these organizations miss the big picture. Because they are all motivated by fear.
They fear a decrease in donations. They fear a repeat of the loss of position they felt after Prop 8. They fear losing by a bigger margin. They fear that they may upset the establishment or the connections or the money guys or the Party or any of a number of others who can give them goodies, enhance their image and influence, and prop up their resumes.
I fear too, but my fears are different.
I fear that we are fighting a battle of retreats. I fear that we capitulate, give up territory, and let our enemies define the frontier.
We are accepting the declarations of our enemies that the battle is over. We are conceding defeat.
In every instance in which a state has passed a discriminatory amendment to deny gay couples equality under the law we have stood back, said, “oh well”, and waited for the next battle. What we should have done is collected the signature to reverse that vote, put it back on the ballot, and fought in every state in the nation.
I\’m not saying that we should have committed huge sums or that we should have exhausted our resources, but we should have made the citizens of those states face this question for the rest of their long-lasting lives until they tired of their own bigotry and – faced with scorn from their children – reversed their position and removed discrimination from their constitution.
Had we been battling in other states, I believe that the tide would have already turned. And Proposition 8 would never have happened. They would never have dared attack us in California. And faced with the prospect of voting until equality wins, Californians would have voted for an end to the war.
We should go back to the ballot in 2010. And should we fail, go in 2012. And if that doesn\’t work, we\’re back in 2014.
We need not put $40 million on the line. We need only push Gay, Inc. out of the way and run a grass roots campaign that ignores the “political consultants and polling experts” and speaks to our neighbors and our churches and our communities. We build coalitions that include churches and civil rights fighters and ethic interest groups and Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian activists and Susan who picked up a flyer at her yoga session and Gilbert who saw a table in front of a bar on Saturday night.
Screw the pointless tepid advertising. Away with the carefully crafted (and stupid and offensive) scripts for volunteers to follow when calling specifically filtered phone lists. Be gone with centralized “messaging” and selected media access. Done with the elimination of anything that will remind the voter that we are actually talking about real living breathing gay people. And enough with the pussy-footing around about who is funding the anti-gay efforts and their motivations.
Our cause is right. Our cause is just. Our cause is moral.
And the battle is in our own states, cities, and communities. We aren\’t going away. Our need for equality isn\’t diminishing. So why have we let our “leaders” convince us that the battle is over in Oregon or Arizona or Colorado or Wisconsin? The question is not whether we should be putting this back on the ballot in California in 2010, but why we aren\’t putting it back on the ballot in every state in which discrimination has been enacted.
A Bipartisan Bill in California
May 13th, 2009
California’s legislative districts were drawn years ago to guarantee election security to select politicians. Rather than reflect cities or communities, they ensure that some seats belong to Democrats and others to Republicans. The result is that the legislature tends to consist of far-left Democrats and far-right Republicans.
When it comes to votes of interest to the gay community, votes tend to be party line (or very close to it). So I’m fascinated by an email I received from Equality California telling of a recent vote:
The bill, which will require prisons to include sexual orientation and gender identity when identifying prisoners who need protection, passed by an overwhelming margin of 65 to 9. 14 of the 29 Republican members voted for the legislation and 6 members abstained from the vote.
Now I’ll admit that it seems a no-brainer that you’d want to take any factors into considerationthat would reduce prison rape, no matter what they were. But California grows a brand of homophobe that sees even the most benign of issues through the spectrum of “fighting the militant homosexual agenda”. They would say “no” to gay soup.
And these groups have a history of being loud and influential in the Republican caucus. Or until now they have. Perhaps one side-effect of the Proposition 8 campaign was the exposure of the extent to which California’s anti-gays will go.
I’m hoping (perhaps a bit unduly) that this vote is a sign of things to come. That while there are nine members of the California Assembly that would rather let prisoners be raped than to “compromise with the homosexual agenda”, at least some Republicans are starting to recognize that – even in a primary – being a raging homophobe isn’t going to be a winning position.
A Beautiful Ad Supporting Marriage
May 7th, 2009
The ad Equality California should have ran a year ago.
Gay Groups Ask for Leniency in Lawrence King Murder
April 15th, 2008
A coalition of 27 LGBT activist organizations is urging the Ventura County, California District Attorney to charge 14-year old Brandon McInerney, Lawrence King’s murderer, as a juvenile. McInerney shot King, 15, point blank in the head on February 12th at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California. With hate crime enhancements, McInerney faces up to 27 years in prison if he is charged as an adult. But citing an overall “climate of intolerance and fear about sexual orientation and expression,” the coalition feels that prosecuting McInerney as an adult would “compound this tragedy with another wrong.”
The press release, which is not yet available online, reads:
A coalition of 27 groups fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights today is urging Ventura County prosecutors to try 14-year-old Brandon McInerney in juvenile court, and not as an adult. McInerney has been charged as an adult in the February 12 murder of his E.O. Green Middle School classmate, 15-year-old Lawrence King. Students say McInerney targeted King because the victim was openly gay and because he wore women’s jewellery and makeup.
LGBT civil rights organizations, including Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center, have delivered a short statement to Ventura County District Attorney Gregory D. Totten, calling on him to try McInerney as a juvenile.
“We are saddened and outraged by the murder of junior high school student Lawrence King,” the statement reads. “At the same time, we call on prosecutors not to compound this tragedy with another wrong “we call on them to treat the suspect as a juvenile, not as an adult.
“The facts in this matter seem clear: one boy killed another in a climate of intolerance and fear about sexual orientation and gender expression. The alleged perpetrator, who turned 14 years old less than three weeks before the shooting, should be held accountable for his actions. But we support the principles underlying our juvenile justice system that treat children differently than adults and provide greater hope and opportunity for rehabilitation. In addition, public safety is not served by treating children as adults. According to research released by the Centers for Disease Control in 2006, children transferred to adult court are more likely to re-offend than those committing similar offenses who remain in the juvenile justice system. California law does not require District Attorneys to prosecute 14 year-olds as adults, even in circumstances such as these, and we oppose them doing so. We are issuing this joint statement because we believe so strongly in principles of justice that protect all our young people and know that, even in the face of strong emotions, we should not abandon them. We refuse to let our sense of outrage blind us to the fact that the suspect is only 14 years old.
“Prosecuting the alleged perpetrator as an adult will not bring Lawrence King back nor will it make schools safer for LGBT youth. We must respond to this tragedy by strengthening our resolve to change the climate in schools, eliminate bigotry based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and hold schools responsible for protecting students against discrimination and physical harm.”
The list of signatories include: American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California; American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties; American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California; Ally Action (CA); Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE; national); Community United Against Violence (San Francisco); Different Avenues (DC); Equality California; Gay Straight Alliance Network (CA); Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD); Human Rights Campaign; LAGAI – Queer Insurrection; Lambda Legal; LifeWorks Mentoring (Los Angeles); Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center; National Black Justice Coalition; National Center for Lesbian Rights; National Center for Transgender Equality; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National; Safe Schools Coalition; San Francisco LGBT Community Center; Sylvia Rivera Law Project (New York); TGI Justice Project (CA); Transgender Law Center; The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (NY); TransYouth Family Allies, Inc.