While the Republican Party is clearly in crisis, so to is the LGBT movement in the view of some. After success on the marriage equality front - spearheaded in large part by groups other than HRC, the Task Force and other self-proclaimed leaders of the community - now things appear to be in disarray as Christofascist controlled Republicans pus anti-gay laws and the granting of special rights to Christian extremist. Rather than focusing on this threat, HRC has insanely been calling for Barack Obama to nominate an out gay to the Supreme Court, as if any such nomination would have a snowball's chance in Hell of success. Indeed, the fight of LGBT protections now seems to be resting on state level organizations (I have ceased all financial support to HRC and give instead to Equality Virginia) given the vacuum in serious leadership at the national level. A piece in The Advocate looks at the disturbing situation. Here are highlights:
Just as the sun was setting on the landmark year that delivered marriage equality — an achievement unthinkable just a decade earlier — an unsettling headline appeared from Time magazine: “2015 Made History for LGBT Rights. Why Few Are Optimistic About 2016.”The piece was written by veteran reporter Philip Elliott from Las Vegas, where LGBT leaders had gathered to assess both the progress made and the road ahead. After interviewing some 25 movement leaders, Elliott noted, “a fractured picture emerges that suggests little agreement about what should — or even what can — come next.”
Of course, just as the LGBTQIs’ diversified agendas defy uniformity, no single answer to that question has emerged over the past year. But perhaps more disconcerting, nor has a single leader delivered anything that amounts to a compelling narrative on the way forward.
It is a muted chaos, to some extent. Most of the basic structures of our modern-day movement — such as the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, to name a few — aren’t going anywhere in the near term. Yet we are also seeing signs of transition with Kevin Cathcart, who has led Lambda Legal for nearly 25 years, announcing his retirement effective April 2016. And some movement staples, such as Freedom to Marry and the Empire State Pride Agenda, are ceasing operations.
[S]ome new arrivals, like the progressive-conservative donor mind meld Freedom for All Americans (FFAA), have begun to lay out their visions for achieving nondiscrimination protections nationwide, starting at the state level and eventually moving to the federal level. This organization is interesting in two respects. First, it represents a significant point of differentiation between the LGBT movement and other progressive movements in that we are actually increasingly being resourced by both liberal and conservative donors. Even if many Republican politicians don’t yet reflect this reality in rhetoric, the LGBT movement has still managed to reach across the aisle for critical legislative wins in states such as New York (enacting marriage equality in 2011) and even federally (passing employment protections through the U.S. Senate in 2013).
Second, FFAA embodies an organizational model that is more Freedom to Marry and less Human Rights Campaign — the organization is not intended to exist in perpetuity but rather to achieve its stated goal, and then fold. In many ways, this should help keep it focused on its goal rather than on continually growing a budget to meet multiple objectives that require the organization to become more territorial even as it becomes less accountable.
While this model will perhaps make the organization more nimble, it does not guarantee the type of visionary leadership that has thus far been missing to combat new obstacles to LGBT equality, such as 2015’s right-wing attack on the toilet.
Chad Griffin, president of HRC, suggested in several different interviews that if only the local [Houston] TV stations that ran the opposition’s deplorable “No men in women’s bathrooms” ads had rejected them instead, we somehow could have avoided disaster. If that’s one of the big takeaways of our lead organization on how to combat what’s emerging as the homophobes’ next line of attack, we are in real trouble.
Our large organizations know we’re in trouble too. That’s why they have been advising against pushing a pro-LGBT nondiscrimination initiative in Michigan that, at the time of this writing, appears to have a shot at making the ballot in November. [Update: The Michigan initiative has now been pulled.]
I’m pleased to see Fair Michigan pushing the issue for several reasons. First of all, they have little to lose. LGBT Michiganders don’t currently have nondiscrimination protections, so if you start with nothing and you lose, you’ve still got what you had before — nothing. However, if you win, you’ve got something you never had before.
Second, anyone who thinks the right-wing Michigan legislature is going to start cozying up to equality based on lobbying efforts anytime in the near future is living in an alternative universe. This is the same GOP-controlled body that watched Indiana take it on the chin last year following the passage of its anti-LGBT initiative and yet still moved forward with enacting a package of antigay “religious refusal” laws that allow publicly funded adoption agencies to deny adoptions to same-sex parents. Waiting on Michigan’s hyper-conservative government to enact equality measures is nothing but a prescription for justice delayed. Some of those lawmakers are going to have to lose their seats over an anti-LGBT vote before they start going the right way on our issues, and I don’t see anyone pouring the resources into Michigan to unseat anti-LGBT lawmakers.
Third, the past decade has shown our major organizations to be preternaturally risk averse. I say this even as I believe that our legal advocates at places like Lambda Legal and GLAD are doing incredibly good work. But grassroots efforts like those being pushed by Michigan attorney Dana Nessel and Fair Michigan are a necessary part of our movement’s process.
The fact that no one agrees on anything isn’t necessarily cause for despair. What’s most important is that we have an aggressive grassroots effort to push the establishment groups out of their comfort zone. That’s a tension that forces the innovation necessary to propel our movement forward.
Perhaps it's because of my background as a former political party activist and the fact that I believe in playing hard ball, I agree that lobby efforts will do little to changes the minds of Republicans only too happy to prostitute themselves to Christofascists. Even in Virginia a few Republicans are coming to see that long term, anti-gay bigotry and such self-prostitution will be the death of the party. Most, however, or only to happy to ask "how high" when hate merchants like Victoria Cobb and The Family Foundation tell them to jump. We need to ruthlessly go after some of these individuals who make tawdry whores look virtuous. Meanwhile, don't hold your breath waiting for me to be invited to join the board of Equality Virginia or similar organizations.