CommunityPam's House Blend

How can we beat the Right at their game?

Mubarak Dahir, of Express Gay News has an editorial online, Put up or shut up, about the disparity in fundraising success between the gay community and the Religious Right. While corporate and private philanthropies give about $30 million annually to support gay and lesbian-related concerns, a study notes that individual giving lags. The Right knows how to bring in the buxxx by using the scare tactics of the encroaching gay bogeyman on the family.

A recent study by the New York-based organization Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues unveiled an unfortunate problem with gay and lesbian groups across the country, whether they were local or national institutions: Our organizations are woefully underfunded.

The study, released in April of this year, looked at the charitable giving patterns of the country’s top 1000 corporate and private foundations through the fiscal year of 2002. It found that only one-tenth of one percent of all the money given to charitable causes went to organizations working for gay and lesbian causes. Furthermore, the overall percentage of money going to gay and lesbian causes from such foundations remained flat for 13 years, from 1989 to 2002, the last year that was included in the study.

…This becomes more troublesome when viewed against the backdrop of just how much money anti-gay fundamentalist groups are successful in raising to promote their anti-gay agendas. The organized religious right raises an estimated $400 million annually to push their agenda, of which defeating gay rights is a cornerstone. In 2004 alone, conservative forces raised an estimated $125 million to fight same-sex marriage at the ballot box in numerous states.

Dahir goes on to note that it takes a good deal of cash to raise visibility about gay rights issues – media buys, lobbyists, educational outreach at both national and state levels, and that we need to pony up.

I agree that grassroots support should be heartily encouraged. I will say that I was extremely disappointed by Human Rights Campaign in the 2004 campaign. HRC’s effectiveness was pretty much summed up by the decision to roll a billboard truck around NYC during the GOP convention with “George W. Bush: ‘You’re Fired” emblazoned on it. Highly visible, highly ineffective as a tool. HRC could have been pouring more funds into state-level activities, especially where marriage amendments were on the line. Then there’s the matter of the organization playing it safe with a sad, gawdawful position on outing gay hypocrites working to pass anti-gay legislation (“HRC continues to maintain a policy that politicians who maintain gay private lives should not forced out of the closet based on their public positions on gay issues”) . The word “outing” when referring to the these hypocrites needs to be in quotes. These losers are people that are otherwise publicly out among friends and co-workers — cruising and socializing as a homo at night. By day, they re-closet themselves to right-wing constituents and organizations that you know would hate their guts (or your Repug candidate that you work for) — it’s bullsh*t.

Folks, gay lobbying groups playing nice at this point hasn’t garnered much success. Organizations of HRC’s size cannot expect to get a dime out of me again unless they have a better plan for the next election cycle.


Also, there has to be better coordination with progressive straight allies for gay rights to get anywhere.

There’s a great article on MSNBC’s site, A Straight Perspective, that addresses this issue head on. It contains an interview with husband and wife Ian Ayres and Jennifer Gerarda Brown, law professors, who have written a new book, “Straightforward: How to Mobilize Heterosexual Support for Gay Rights,” that gives tips on how straight allies can support gay civil rights.

NEWSWEEK: How would you characterize the current political climate toward gay men and lesbians in the United States?
Jennifer Gerarda Brown: We certainly, in the fall of 2004, saw the expression of some pretty strong anti-gay sentiment in the form of those 11 state amendments [outlawing gay marriage]. On the other hand, polling shows very high levels of support for equal employment rights for gay people and some discrimination protections for them.
Ian Ayres: We think that particularly the time is right to push forward for employment equality. We got employment equality on the books with regard to African-Americans before we got marriage equality.

What lessons can gay-rights activists take from the movement for racial equality?
Ayres: There are a lot of people who wouldn’t consider joining an all-white county club or drinking from an all-whites water fountain, but they are willing to marry when their gay and lesbian friends cannot marry, or to join a club that does not accept gay members, such as the Boy Scouts. Just making the analogy sometimes changes their behavior.
Brown: Non-gay people need to become more active, just as white people were active in the civil-rights movement and men were active in the women’s movement of the 1970s.

…You discuss “heterosexual holdouts,” straight couples who boycott marriage. Can this be done on a scale that would pressure politicians?
Ayres: When you ask somebody would you drink from a whites-only water fountain, people say “No!” Well, your not drinking isn’t going to cause the legislature to change a water fountain. “Well, I don’t care if it changes it or not, I’m just not willing to do that,” [they might respond] … But I’m standing here right now with a wedding ring on my hand! It is reasonable for people to go ahead and take the benefits of discrimination, but it then calls upon you to do something to share some of those benefits, to make amends for taking these ill-gotten goods.
Brown: Rather than boycotting marriage, heterosexual couples can say, “OK, we will marry, but let us do something to help this movement. Let us ask our guests to donate money to one of the gay-rights advocacy organizations in lieu of gifts, or let us say a prayer at our service that we hope one day for greater equality for couples who want to commit in this loving way.” There are so many things that people can be doing that are affirmative.

Thanks to House Blender Patrick for the pointer.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding