CommunityPam's House Blend

Spineless leadership

It’s painful to continue posting about this, but when the Dems, as well as our supposed lobbying voices in the community, can’t find a spine, you have to call it out.

The Washington Blade‘s Chris Crain has a spot-on column about the spineless Dems and the “new face” of the Party, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. I have quibbles with Chris from time to time (a big example here), but lately he has been on the mark.

You’ll recall my recent rant about the rotten pick of just-inaugurated Kaine to represent the Democratic party’s “American values” in the official response to Bush’s State of the Union address. He is ‘not comfortable’ with the language’ but will sign off on the heinous marriage amendment when it hits his desk, and where are the gay Democratic organizations? Are they holding his feet to the fire pressuring Kaine to veto it, as it will discriminate against gay and lesbian families, a subset of the “working families” he is attributed with championing?

Certainly, holding the new governor’s feet to the fire is warranted, right? The defeatist attitude just blows you away. Chris (with my emphasis):

Not to worry, gay Virginians. You still have plenty of leverage here because Kaine is a Democrat and has aspirations to higher public office. Given the influence gay Democratic groups have within the party, pressure will surely be brought to bear on such an abject betrayal of an important constituency, not to mention the party’s historical commitment to civil rights.

Enter Josh Israel, president of the Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club, which endorsed Kaine’s election. Contacted by the Blade, Israel… well… he didn’t exactly call on Kaine to veto the amendment. In fact, he didn’t even ask Kaine to pressure the Senate to limit its scope. Instead, Israel begged (apparently from within Uncle Tom’s quarters at the plantation, since that term is being bandied about so much these days) the governor to at least make sure the ballot wording is fair.

How’s that? The ballot wording? Why not call on him to oppose the measure? Because, according to Israel in a remarkable bit of Orwellian spin, “it’s not the governor endorsing this effort when he says he will send it to the ballot. It’s just the governor doing his job.”

With gay rights activists like that, who needs party hacks?

Maybe the only recourse gay Virginians have is to get the hell out at this point, or perhaps stop paying taxes to a state that is not providing you with adequate representation and basic civil rights as a form of protest. If the folks leading the charge for your rights are folding up the tent, the show is over. It’s not much better at the national level either. Empty promises by elected officials who are our allies when they pass the hat around and run for cover when asked to defend us cannot continued to be tolerated.

…The Stonewall Democrats and Virginia Partisans aren’t the only gay groups who would much rather brown nose than do the unpopular work of standing up to their political friends. The Log Cabin Republicans have a decidedly mixed record of bucking the GOP, which offers innumerable opportunities on gay issues, obviously. The national gay rights groups similarly waste their energy currying favor and offering political cover to our “friends” rather than leveraging those we can actually influence.

…[T]he issue couldn’t be clearer for gay Democratic leaders and the national gay groups. The party that enjoys our votes and our money, and that claims to cherish civil rights, has selected as its “new face” a governor who won’t lift a finger to stop the most punitive anti-gay constitutional amendment since Colorado adopted Amendment 2. They should join together to call on Kaine to act and act now, and if he won’t he should be stripped from his new role as party spokesmodel.

Exactly. If this is the kind of gay leadership we have to depend on, we’re screwed; we’re not getting a return on the investment — on either side of the aisle. We have to expect follow-through from the advocacy groups we give time and money to. We need them to lobby and hold responsible both parties on our behalf in the struggle for civil equality.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding