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DNC petition to Bush: stop using gays as political punching bag

UPDATE (1/15, 8AM): I also have a Recommended Daily Kos diary up on this. is reporting that the DNC is calling on Bush to abandon the Federal Marriage Amendment push and to tell the GOP to back off on legislative gay-bashing. That’s all well and good, but I want to see some actual, live elected Dems talking about this civil rights issue, not pussyfooting around, jabbering about “leaving the decision to the states” or completely dodging questions about gay rights in order to get elected.

Gay rights aren’t state’s rights issues any more than anti-miscegenation laws were — and both parties know it. It’s a feet-to-the-fire moment, and the DNC needs to get its house in order on this issue pronto if they are going to start calling the GOP on their social and political intolerance.

Don’t get me wrong – I applaud the DNC for taking some sort of proactive approach here, but how can they call on the GOP to behave when they cannot get a coherent statement out by all the folks that they helped get elected this year?

Almost all of them had an unsettling aversion to the subject, as if they just couldn’t muster up the courage to say that gay people:

  • can serve openly in the military
  • can adopt and raise children
  • have the same partnership and legal benefits as married couples
  • shouldn’t be fired from a job simply for being gay.

That said, here’s the “official” information on the DNC’s petition and its goal.

The DNC in its Pride at the Polls newsletter to more than 100,000 party supporters calls on President Bush to abandon his call for the amendment and to tell House Majority Leader Tom Delay to ” stop discriminating against Americans.”

…In an interview on Good Morning America one week before the election, (story) Bush said that he didn’t think “we should deny people rights to a civil union [or] a legal arrangement if that’s what a state chooses to do.” Bush then went on to call “wrong” and disagree with the portion of the Republican platform that opposed extending to gay and lesbian families “legal recognition and the accompanying benefits.”

But Bush can’t have it both ways, supporting an amendment that takes away our rights while saying he wants to leave it up to the states,” the DNC newsletter says.

“It is time for Bush to move America forward and come out publicly against this amendment.”

Eric Stern, Director of GLBT Outreach told that the petition will be delivered to the White House just before the State of the Union Address.

“We are not going to stand by and let the Republicans in Washington discriminate against GLBT Americans, who have always been an integral part of our party and our country,” Stern said.

Democrats are ready to fight back for the rights of GLBT Americans.”

[Well, I’ll believe that when I actually see some elected and up-for-election Dems in swing states go on the record as being pro-gay. =crickets chirping=]

Here is the text of the petition:

Dear President Bush:

I urge you to use your State of the Union address as an opportunity to tell your Republican friends in Congress to stop trying to write discrimination in the U.S. Constitution.

The amendment you and your fellow Republicans are again advocating for will forever invalidate civil unions and other legal protections for gay and lesbian families, like the right to partner health benefits, hospital visits, parental rights and death benefits- even if state legislatures or voters approve measures to protect them.

During the State of The Union, tell your colleagues to withdraw their support for this measure. This measure threatens the freedom of all Americans because it denies civil rights to a whole group of individuals.

The online form to sign it is here.

Remember, when cornered, most Dems in close races this past cycle either:

  • supported marriage amendments
  • punted with support for civil unions (that don’t deal with federal issues, like Social Security benefits or taxes), or
  • said the issue wasn’t something to deal with by amendment unless there was “judicial activism” in their state threatening marriage as we know it.

That’s a real strong stand for civil rights, huh? That isn’t strategy. The discomfort Dems had embracing the topic was palpable, and the Right picked up on it, ran with it, and stole the frame. [I wrote a DKos diary on this on November 3, The Gay Blame Game — not just the GOP, and more recently here on the Blend, “I am sick of the Dems having no balls, afraid of the Religious Right“.]

It’s going to take time, hard work and communication at the grassroots level to change hearts and minds about gay rights. Silence, wound-licking and strategizing about recapturing the NASCAR vote and security moms by becoming GOP-lite is just plain sick.

Civil rights are not achieved by showing political cowardice, or by a popular vote — it will be in the courts. The Right knows this and you see them organizing to get the judges they want on the bench, working the anti-gay the message hard through the church (moderating the tone enough to be palatable to pass onerous legislation). Say “protecting marriage”, not “denial of rights to a group of Americans.” It worked every time. Dem leadership was either too afraid or too dimwitted to think outside the box on this one. We call the Right stupid all the time (myself included), but they are formidable in their ability to clarify and communicate with its “target audience.”

Dems should seriously begin talking about gay civil rights and reframe it NOW — they need to start actually believing in their own platform enough to talk about it.

We cannot wait for the media to ask what our politicians’ stance on the issue is — we have to lead the way, offense, not defense. When you see talking heads on discussing gay issues, it’s the Falwell/Dobson crowd on the Right eagerly spouting off their well-honed positions, and usually some rep from a gay organization of some sort on the other side. When will there be major elected Dems out there front and center taking these people on to reframe gay civil rights, or promote the DNC’s stance on it?


I hope folks remember that it was in most American’s lifetimes that there were “Public Dems” asking blacks to be patient about civil rights while on people down South were being fire hosed and Bull Connor’s dogs were being sicced on them.

It’s the same f*cking political mentality now. “Be patient” while the Scotty Joe Weavers of the world are beaten, strangled, stabbed, mutilated, partially decapitated, dumped in the woods and set on fire. [See Alabama: the worst place to be gay in Bush’s America?] We’re talking about human beings, not a policy paper.

Martha Weaver holds a photo of her son Scotty Joe Weaver who was murdered in Pine Grove, Alabama, during the summer of 2004. Photo from OUT Magazine.

The discussion continues in another diary on DKos by MAJeff, Democrats discussing gay issues.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding