long debates, town halls in some states and yard signs in
But something is different about this year, and it’s the extent to
which the (Democratic) candidates are talking about LGBTQ issues.
(Well, maybe not Q issues, or B issues, or T issues, really, unless
you count their inclusion of “passing ENDA” in their platforms as a
reference to T folks, despite the fact that the ENDA they would
pass excludes T folks entirely.)
So they’re talking about L and G issues, but which ones?
Relationship recognition — not marriage, but civil unions,
including the (partial) repeal of DOMA
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Did I miss anything? Any major issue they discuss without being
asked a specific question?
The reason I bring this up is this: In 2004,
presidential candidates couldn’t avoid talking about “gay issues”
because there were so many insidious constitutional amendments to
ban same-sex marriage active in the states (11 in total, all of
which passed). (If you’re interested, you can search for “marriage”
page and find where Kerry and Bush discussed it in the 3rd
general debate during the last election.)
Nowadays it seems like the constitutional amendments are fewer and
farther between — hey, we don’t have that many states left to
restrict the freedom to marry in, so I guess that makes sense.
Meanwhile, states around the country are passing more pro-LGBTQ
legislation, especially in specific towns/cities, than they are
passing anti-LGBTQ legislation.
In other words, for the Dems, at least, there doesn’t seem to be a
hot button LGBTQ issue right now that they have to address — or
are we just not forcing their hands enough?
The issues they do discuss (or should I say “mention”) —
relationship recognition; Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; ENDA; Hate Crimes
— are all important issues to our community and deserve immediate
attention. But in the meantime, no one’s trying to strengthen Don’t
Ask, Don’t Tell. The Federal Marriage Amendment is a lame duck,
much like its presidential proponent. ENDA and Hate Crimes, though
hanging in the balance and not fully what we want, are intended to
be positive, not negative, approaches to ensuring our equality.
In other words, the assumption seems to be that all the
presidential candidates could do for us right now are positive,
proactive things, when in reality there are real fights being had
out there, real measures being taken against LGBTQ people and their
families. Presidential candidates could stand up and help us beat
back these attacks, as well.
In any number of states this year, including Arkansas, Tennessee
and Mississippi, bills are being filed and signatures gathered to
put ballot questions in the voting booths to BAN or severely limit
the kinds of people who can qualify to foster and/or adopt
children, including, in large part, LGBTQ people.
Just last week, a
young gay man was shot execution-style in a high school
classroom in Oxnard, CA, by a classmate roundly believed to be
motivated by anti-gay bias. Both boys had troubled upbringings.
Both boys lived in and out of foster care.
Where’s the discussion of these issues in a time when Democrats are
trying to take back control of the domestic agenda, talking about
supporting families through real programs and protections?
Even in states where we have passed pro-LGBTQ legislation, or in
which court cases have bolstered our equality, pro-LGBTQ policies
are not being taken seriously. California, where Lawrence King was
shot, has some of the strongest policies on supporting LGBTQ youth
in schools in the country, just recently strengthened by new laws
(which, by the way,
have come under serious attack from the right).
Minnesota has one of the strongest Human Rights Laws in the country
— it’s been around since 1993 and includes gender identity in its
protections — yet its school districts aren’t required to adopt
nondiscrimination policies that match the high standards of the
law, and therefore most of them do not. (For more info on Minnesota
schools, click here.)
It’s easy for a community accustomed to second-class status to get
lost in what seems like tremendous progress — presidential
candidates with LGBT policy statements on their websites! — but
let’s not forget that our issues don’t begin and end at the federal
level, and that a president’s job in stewarding the country doesn’t
begin and end with commenting on issues at the federal level.
If presidential candidates want to talk about ensuring the health
and safety of families in this country, let them address ALL
families, explicitly. If they want to create worlds in which 15
year old boys aren’t gunned down by 14 year old boys in schools,
let them address the child welfare crisis in this country and the
homophobia and violence endemic in our schools.
Perhaps then we’ll see some healthy debate about LGBTQ issues this
election season. We certainly won’t see it during the general
election, not unless it involves the Republican Party coming after
Democratic candidates for (what little) they said about our issues
in the primaries.
Still, we should push, push, push! No group has ever achieved its
goals in this country by waiting quietly, or even whispering
softly. In a representative democracy like ours, it’s the job of
the few to respond to the demands of the many. Let’s remember the
we are not the few, but we are part of the many, and let’s make our