Dire warnings won’t mobilize LGBT voters, but signs of progress made, and progress yet to be made, should provide good reasons to bring the community out to the polls
Since the 1980 election, Democrats’ favorite voter mobilization tool when faced with a bad election year is to issue dire warnings of what might happen if “they” take over. Instead of repeating apocalyptic prophecies, I thought I would point out a few reasons why the
LGBT community here in Dallas should be enthusiastic about our Democratic ticket and go to polls this year with gusto!
It is certainly no secret that many in the gay community are disappointed by the frustratingly slow progress repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) or the Defense of Marriage Act. It is not unreasonable to believe that substantial Democratic majorities in both houses of congress should have resulted in immediate progress.
However, considering the year-long titanic struggle to pass a modest health care reform bill, passing legislation has proven to be enormously difficult.
Shortly after President Obama put repeal of DADT at the top of the nation’s agenda in his State of the Union Address last January, the House passed the Murphy amendment in May. The good news is that the Senate will be passing its own version in the next few months.
Our Democratic Congress is poised to finally eliminate the most insulting anti-gay policy on the books 58 years after it was first instituted. And for that, we can put aside any lingering cynicism and impatience and go to the polls knowing that the LGBT community’s support for the Democratic Party has been well worth the investment.
This year we can have our greatest impact on the future direction of Texas and Dallas County. I’ve identified just a few things the LGBT community has at stake and why it is more important than ever that we get out and vote.
1. We have the opportunity this year to elect and re-elect two capable, openly gay candidates. Electing supporters is great, but nothing beats electing your own.
As your Dallas County district clerk, my exemplary stewardship of the office is well known and a matter of public record. I have saved taxpayers millions in cost-saving initiatives, come under-budget every year since I took office, and initiated innovative new projects to bring Dallas County into the 21st century.
Of the 67 elected judges in Dallas County, not one is openly gay, in spite of the many LGBT members of the bar. This year we have the opportunity to change that by electing Tonya Parker to the 116th Civil District Court. Parker is a young, successful and energetic attorney who is already a rising star.
Parker has the kind of talent that leads to the federal bench, but she cannot get there without the enthusiastic support of this community both financially and on Election Day.
2. By electing Elba Garcia, we have the best chance in 16 years to unseat a county commissioner who has proven time and again that he is no friend to our community.
For those of us who live in North Oak Cliff, Dr. Garcia is a household name. We are proud of her outstanding leadership on the Dallas City Council, and I can think of no other candidate better suited for the Commissioners Court.
Of all the races on our ballot, this is the one where LGBT voters can have the greatest impact.
3. It is critically important for this community to stand up for its allies and friends. Judge Tena Callahan’s courageous ruling in a gay divorce case last October proves that judicial philosophy matters. Her integrity and courage is just the kind of thing we need to keep on the bench. Supporting Judge Callahan not only shows our gratitude, but also gives us the chance to stand with the litigants and their attorneys who rejected the prophets of pusilanimity and asserted their rights under the law regardless of the outcome.
4. The experience of the LGBT community since the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s has proven to us that government plays a vital role in ensuring the health and safety of citizens. Reps. Allen Vaught, Carol Kent and Robert Miklos are legislators the LGBT community can be proud of.
In District 105 in Irving, we have the opportunity to elect Loretta Haldenwang and replace an incumbent whose ethics are ill-suited for public office.
The Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, under the outstanding leadership of Erin Moore, have an aggressive plan to get-out-the-vote and communicate this message to voters. They need your financial support and your time now.
We Democrats have much to be proud of over the last two years. We have passed legislation that offers a real alternative to Republican politics of anger and ignorance. We have only just begun to set a new course for our future.
We here in Dallas live big and dream even bigger. Dallas never apologizes for success; we never hide it. LGBT voters are an important part of the Democratic Party’s success and we have good reason to be enthusiastic about our ticket.
Gary Fitzsimmons is openly gay and the district clerk for Dallas County. He is also a co-founder of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010.