Mr. H goes to Washington

Posted on 08 Jan 2009 at 7:56pm

Too many LGBT people still face hate and discrimination far too often, and that’s why we still march

When my partner and I first made our plans to attend the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 11, most people had no idea what it was or what it was about.

Things have changed. Now, many of the major LGBT rights groups endorse the march, and the press has jumped on board for the event.

As Congress begins debating the Employment Non-Discrimination Act again and moves are afoot to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, the march will have greater significance.  A few hundred thousand LGBT protesters showing up in D.C might get the White House’s attention and let them know that we expect delivery of at least some of the campaign promises.

Yes, I know that the president is working to pass health care reform, but as he said in his campaign, "Presidents can do more than one thing at a time."

Well, it’s time for him to address one of his most loyal constituencies and one of the only ones that are still denied the basic rights assured to all citizens by the Constitution.

That’s what the march is about. It is an event designed to draw attention to the millions of LGBT Americans who are not full citizens of the country.

The operative words in that last sentence are "draw attention." Yup, it’s a media event as much as a political event.

To get anything done today, you need the attention of the press, and they love easy stories. The National Equality March is an easy story.

The background is already widely known and the premise is strong: Equal rights now!

That is a sound bite that even the most jaded journalist can use and it will be the rallying cry of thousands all along the march route right up to the steps of the Capitol.

Am I expecting miracles? No. I am expecting lots of noise, some frivolity, some anger — and lots of cameras.

Visuals drive not only the 24-hour news cycle, but our politicians as well. When they see lots of potential voters they perk up, especially when they see that these voters are not happy.

Just look at the responses from the town hall meetings on health care. Most of the angry folks there were planted by conservative groups to make the whole crowd look like they didn’t want any change.

The anger, even though it was what politically savvy folks call "Astroturf," made the politicians of both parties take notice.

Unfortunately, that tactic has worked to derail a really bold health care initiative, but the fact is it did have an effect.

Politicians are an intellectually incurious group, and they don’t dig too deeply into the causes or methodologies of those angry people at the town halls. They just want to make them happier: Angry people = votes for the other guy!

Though we have often been ignored in the past, if we don’t keep making a little noise we will never move forward in the future.

I know a lot of people will tell me that we just have to keep working inside the system to make slow steady progress, but that is the talk of people who have been accommodated not accepted.

LGBT people have made strides, and often have an affluence that makes them seem completely equal to any other group and in some cases better off. But the trappings of affluence can assuage the quest for full citizenship only for so long.

We have to be careful not to be seduced by financial gains at the expense of equal rights. Just because many of us have money in the bank does not mean we have equal rights.

Walk into a hospital in most states and ask to speak with the doctor about your "significant other’s" health and you will understand. Find yourself in a dispute with your employer who decides to fire you on "moral" grounds because of your sexual orientation.

Find yourself tossed out of the military after years of loyal and exemplary service because you came out. Find yourself kicked out of your apartment because your gender changed since you first rented it.

All these are things that can and do happen far too often, but as long as we have ours, we don’t notice.

Well, someday it could happen to us even though we have money and possessions. It’s unfair and counter to everything guaranteed in our country’s Constitution and it has to change.

That’s why my partner and I are going to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 11 and that’s why you should join us. It is not too late, but it could be if we don’t raise our voices now when they have a good chance of being heard.

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 October 9, 2009.

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