At this year’s National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association convention, reporter Karen Ocamb moderated a panel on whether gay issues will matter in 2008. The session happened to occur, ironically just a couple of hours Larry Craig resigned. Via The Bilerico Project, why the states rights issue, in particular, does matter — there are questions that need to be answered by the candidates:

I asked Steve Elmendorf [political consultant on the Hillary Clinton national LGBT Steering Committee] if Bill Clinton advised John Kerry [in 2004] to have a “Sister Souljiah” moment with gays over the anti-gay marriage initiatives and Elmendorf said, “It absolutely did not happen.”

It should be noted that Shrum and his wife Mary Louise Oates are longtime friends of David Mixner and have consistently supported gay rights. But Elmendorf’s strong answer suggested that mistrust of Bill should not spill over into mistrust of Hillary.

The point here is that “states rights” is crucial to the LGBT community. “States rights” have traditionally allowed each state to determine if or how law enforcement and the court system prosecutes civil rights violations, crimes motivated by hatred, who has the right to control a person’s body – the person or the state (selective sodomy laws, abortion rights, assisted suicide) – and other offenses to individual liberty.

We argue that the federal government has the duty to clarify and unify all those disparate laws, which is why we were exhilarated when the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturned the sodomy laws and why we are pushing for the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and a federal Hate Crimes law.

Some of us agree with the traditionalist thinking that marriage should be left up to the majority-rule of each state. But others of us (see Evan Wolfson) believe the Constitution is supposed to protect the minority from the majority so all of us have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

These are fundamental questions, not merely issues of semantics, and it appears that it is up to bloggers and the LGBT press to pursue them.

Go read the rest. It sounded like an energizing and interesting panel.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding