by David Mixner, Long-time activist for LGBT rights
November 4, 2009 (The day after Question 1 passed in Maine outlawing same-sex marriage)
Today I write more from my gut than maybe you have ever heard. Quite honestly to all those who have found my words inciting in the past, just move on. You are not going to be happy this morning reading further.
After a very restless night of sleep and some deep thought, I am ready to share with you some thoughts (this might not be my most ‘smooth’ writing). Forgive me that it has taken a while for me to compose myself so that I can write from my values and principles and not anger. Because my anger will blind me to the truths of yesterday. Let me do my best to share my deep beliefs and not out of anger or fear like the people who insist that we continue to create a system of Gay Apartheid in America. This will be part one of two parts on the election.
First and foremost, Enough!
We have poured over $100,000,000 in the last two years into efforts where Americans feel it is there obligation to vote on our freedom. The entire concept is repugnant and disgusting. That we for the last three decades have been drawn into this game of ‘this is politics’ and fighting these ballot box horrors so that maybe by in five, ten or twenty years we will have enough victories to force our federal government to protect our freedom is simply not acceptable anymore. Imagine the good we could have done with all that money. Imagine the civil rights movement we could have built if we had the leadership that was willing to think out of the box and put it on the line.
Second, call this campaign against us what it is – Gay Apartheid.
Refuse to allow any of our fellow Americans, President Obama or our allies to view this as a political issue who time hasn’t quite come. America is in the process of creating a system of Gay Apartheid. We will not quietly sit and accept it. All over the place, this nation is creating one set of laws for LGBT Americans and another set for all other Americans. That is the classic definition of Apartheid. Either our political allies are for Gay Apartheid or against it. If they are against it, they must fight with us and no longer duck like President Obama did in Maine and Washington. There is no half way in fighting Apartheid.
Today many will claim that we must surrender the word marriage or accept some sort of separate but equal arrangement. It didn’t work in the African-American struggle for freedom and it doesn’t work for us. We want full equality with the same rights, benefits and privileges as all other Americans now. We say to those friends, allies and even in our own community who want to accept that second class citizenship, “Oh No You Don’t!” We will accept no compromises, time-lines, incremental approaches with our freedom. Don’t counsel patience as if this is a new issue. We have been fighting these ballot box bigots for over three decades. Enough.
President Obama standing on the sidelines in Maine and Washington was appalling. The failure of our national organizations and leaders to demand his involvement was equally appalling. The outrageous act of the Democratic National Committee sending an email into Maine asking Maine Democrats to call into “NEW JERSEY” instead of to support the fight against bigotry was unbelievable. No one gets to sit on the sidelines in an epic battle against apartheid and no one gets a free pass. If you want our support, you have to earn it. We are way beyond where we will accept a little bit in 2009, some in 2010 and maybe more in the second term. Does anyone think after yesterday election results and the upcoming 2010 election, Obama has the ability to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and “DOMA” next year? Does anyone really believe we haven’t already missed a historic opportunity in the first 10 months of this year? Only a courageous fighting President and Congress can now help turn us this around and that we have not seen so far. Enough.
Finally, yes, as a community we have every reason to be proud. We raised the money, we made the calls, we came not in anger and we made the case. My hats off to the brave people, gay and straight, of Maine and Washington who fought in the trenches. We all are so proud of you and to be part of your community. You have no idea how much we love you for your work, dignity and honor. However, it is no longer acceptable to be viewed as brave, patient warriors in defeat.
I don’t want to be a brave warrior, I want to be a free one.
November 5, 2009
Over the next weeks, there will be numerous well-meaning proposals to deal with the aftermath of our brutally unfair defeat in Maine. Clearly there are many ways to respond. However, with all the energy I can muster, I have come to the clear conclusion that we can’t continue on the path we have been following the last two decades. The time has come for a major shake-up in ideas, tactics and priorities.
Those who hang on to the nostalgia of the past can live in it. There is no question in my mind that the vast majority of the LGBT community is ready to move forward with new visions and new tactics. What is happening to us with this expanding system of Gay Apartheid in America cannot be allowed to continue and if it does, we cannot go quietly into the night enabling such abuse anymore.
How can we have any dignity, honor or pride in ourselves if we validate this continued process of ballot box terrorism? How can we stand tall next to each other if we explain away another’s cowardliness? How can we allow people to dehumanize our relationships and our very integrity if we give people passes to sit out the battle for our very freedom? No longer are political timelines a reason for delay, no longer are incremental approaches acceptable and no longer can the political process expect us to be patient and wait our turn. Our turn came long ago and there will be no more waiting.
Our national organizations should be put on notice that we expect more from them and that we want more accountability and more dynamic leadership. For example, who talked to the President about Maine? Why did the White House refuse to become heavily involved? Why was Attorney General Eric Holder’s statement not disavowed by the White House? Did we have direct access to the President or not? Wanting to know these answers is fair. Holding organizations that ask for our money and support accountable is not divisive it is common sense. We want leaders and organizations that represent our interests and are not beholden to the trappings of political power. Time to end the cozy relationship between our national leaders and Washington power brokers and start playing tough.
Organizations should follow the role model of Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) in New York. They must refuse to allow anyone to speak at their dinners who is not for marriage equality. That includes the President of the United States. If they insist on doing so, we should stop enabling them and stop buying tickets. Guess what? ESPA, because of their policy, is not viewed as fringe or ineffective. In fact, they are one of the toughest and best state organizations in the country. Why in the world would we give people platforms and honors who don’t support full equality now? We must stop it. They are abusers of our graciousness and our kindness. There is no room for them anymore.
As so many others have said, “The Gay ATM Machine is closed.” Not one penny more for those who are fair weather friends, who ask us to delay and who insist patience is a virtue in the face of injustice. I was astounded a few weeks ago in Washington when all my liberal friends were urging me to support the Democrat Owen in upstate New York who won election on Tuesday. When I responded that he was strongly against marriage equality and opined that they shouldn’t be supporting him, it was quickly pointed out to me that the Human Rights Campaign was supporting him. Well, you know what? I don’t care. If we support people who are against full equality, how can we expect others to do differently? No more excuses. Stop it. Close the checkbooks to those who are not fully on our side.
Promises are not enough. Before we support people they must be CO-SPONSORS for the repeal of DOMA and DADT. How in the world can Speaker Pelosi justify not being on Congressman Nadler’s “Respect for Marriage Act?” No sponsorship equals getting no money, it is really that simple In addition, we must cease giving money to groups that contribute to those ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats who are holding so much of our legislation up. Instead of national party committees, give to those politicans who have proven themselves directly. How can we possibly send money to the Democratic National Committee which urges the people of Maine to phone New Jersey and not a word about our struggle? How can you justify it?
New tactics must be embraced and honored. Civil disobedience must now be on the table and it is time for a long discussion about how it is to take place in the community. Perhaps we have to fill the jails, block military bases, sit in Congressional offices, block marriage bureaus, etc in order for them to know that business as usual has stopped. Careful and thoughtful consideration must be given now to this option.
Watching the coverage on Maine and the results tells me the press doesn’t really take us seriously as a civil rights movement. If that initiative had said people of different faiths could not marry does anyone really believe that it would be a sidebar story this week? The media has grown used to us being abused and we are enabling them to ignore it. “Oh yeah, another loss, how sad, we support you.” GLAAD has to consider making this a priority and force the media to accept us as the civil rights movement we have become in the last months. Nothing could be more important. I will take a stereotype on a television show in exchange for serious and comprehensive coverage of our civil rights struggle.
There is so much more to say and be debated over the next months. Maybe the ideas above are not the best but at least they are bold and not more of the same. We can’t survive more of the same. Apartheid for the LGBT community is becoming a way of life and everyone is beginning to adjust to it. We can’t, we simply can’t, allow that to happen.
For over thirty years I have been fighting ballot box measures and even have won some. What I have seen is a system of laws go in place around the country that prevents us from full equality. Some laws are specific like banning our participation in the military or DOMA. Some states ban adoption or foster care. Others give people permission to discriminate against us. We are not denied a few rights, we are being denied our basic freedom and dignity.
No longer can I stand before you in speeches and rallies urging you to stay the course. The course needs changing and we need to toughen up in the process. Yes, we must continue fighting but this time, instead of responding to their strategy, we must forge our own. Make no mistake about it. The days of acquiesce are over. There is no option except one at this stage and that is full equality now.
Freedom,Liberty,Justice are not mere words. They represent a way of life that is being denied to LGBT Americans every day of our lives.
Enough. No More, Enough