It’s going to take some real ‘squeaky wheels’ to get Obama to honor his campaign promises to the LGBT community, and some of us are tired of waiting
I am not the only person who is growing impatient with the current administration in the matter of LGBT rights.
The unrest has already caused a backlash in the form of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Give" boycott of donations to the Democratic National Committee by LGBT bloggers. Now comes an interview on the Advocate.com with Barney Frank that purports to reveal a timeline for LGBT initiatives in Congress.
If Frank is to be believed, the hate crimes provisions and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act were on tap for this year, (though ENDA might get pushed to 2010), and the military’s "Don’t ask, don’t tell" gay ban is slated for next year.
He intimated that it would be attached to the Department of Defense appropriations bill much like the hate crimes provision was to this year’s bill.
This all seems to make sense, considering the way DADT was passed originally was in just such an attachment back in 1993. But like the author of the Advocate article, Kerry Eleveld, I am skeptical about the timing of the announcement.
Barney Frank is a seasoned politician and is not the kind of person who lets something slip accidentally. His giving a glimpse of the timeline for LGBT initiative to a national magazine like the Advocate is no accident.
To me, it is a clear response to the growing unrest and the closing of the GayTM that has so faithfully funded the DNC in the past.
As I have asserted in the past, our community rightfully should have high expectations of the Obama administration. But we cannot sit back and wait.
The tactics of keeping the pressure on the White House and Congress have borne fruit — no pun intended — and continued pressure may see more results.
It’s the oldest maxim in the book: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
We need to keep squeaking — and loudly!
Here is how squeaking worked:
After the election, the White House was so quiet on LGBT issues you could hear a pin drop, until the March for Equality actually looked like it would attract a big crowd.
Then suddenly, President Obama becomes the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Campaign Dinner. Further squeaking ensues and Congress pins the hate crimes provision to the DOD appropriations bill.
Now the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Give" boycott starts, and suddenly Barney Frank, who vocally dissed the march as a useless endeavor, now reveals an agenda to pass many of the measures we have been squeaking about.
The skeptical will say it’s all coincidence, and things were moving forward all along. But this kind of timing is classic Washington.
Lawmakers are notoriously reactive not proactive. They move only when poked, and hundreds of thousands of voters showing up on the Capitol lawn got their attention.
Threats of losing a loyal donor base also get their attention, and hitting them in the pocketbook is painful.
Am I ready to abandon the Democratic Party and find some other champion for LGBT rights? No.
However, I am ready to keep squeaking until the lumbering machinery of Washington begins moving forward to full LGBT rights.
It’s a very old and very rusty machine, and it runs on the grease of public opinion and money. That means these two factors are exactly where the LGBT community needs to concentrate if we expect to see equality any time soon.
Public opinion can be swayed, and luckily for us it is tipping in our direction. Most likely because of attrition, the old bigots are dying off and young people who were raised in a post "Will and Grace" world have less of a problem seeing the inequalities faced by LGBT people.
That leaves money — and that takes direct action.
Rather than just cutting off all Democrats, I suggest being selective as to whom we give money to. Politicians who actively support our cause get donations and those who offer only lip service get zilch.
Of course, that takes actually doing some research and paying attention to the news and politics. A lot of folks would rather just let someone else do the work and follow their lead.
The problem with that is, whose lead are you going to follow?
Personally, I think it’s worth the effort to stay informed and make those decisions myself. I agree with the move to put a pinch on the pocketbooks of the DNC, but I also think we shouldn’t punish the politicians who actually do move the fight for equality forward.
So take time and do a little reading. There are lots of resources on the Web, like www.votesmart.org, that list the full voting records of everyone from city council members to Congress. It is very enlightening and can be a good start to finding out what those folks we elect are actually up to.
You just might find it entertaining as well as educational. It will let you know who to voice your opinions to and who deserves your money.
For example, what are the senators from Texas doing for the LGBT community? Don’t ask!
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 20, 2009.