Like the rest of America, LGBT voters are desperate to purchase an updated model from the used car lot of politicians. We are so eager for change that we abdicate our responsibility to demand concrete solutions and policies that address our community. It is part of some warped logic that tells us that the candidates need to be protected from association with us.
We claim to no longer be the victims of the ‘love that dare not speak its name,’ but sometimes we don't act that way. In place of demanding rights, we have gained a misguided sense of pragmatism. We can't demand a good politician risk their chances for election by voicing their support of our equality in terms of governmental recognition and consideration. As long as the candidate speaks kindly toward us and doesn't openly promise further marginalization, we scramble to find a way to support them and hope for the best – relieving us from having to fear the worst.
You would think that the experiences of the past 15 years would color this cockeyed optimism. Experience – recent experience – has shown that even when we think we don't have to fear the worst, we can still get some pretty bad results from the people that act like they have our best interests at heart: DADT (1993), DOMA (1996), Abstinence Only education (stated 1996, renewed periodically always excluding acknowledgment of LGBT issues), ENDA (only failure followed by the disaster of 2007), and hate crimes legislation (proposed in 1996 and fumbled routinely, most recently in December 2007). Let's also remember the last presidential election.
During the 2004 presidential election, Democratic candidates said nothing as eleven states passed bigoted constitutional amendments. Democrats used the bigotry as leverage on the LGBT community – we could either vote for them or face the wrath of the Republicans.
In fact, John Kerry supported the failed amendment to the Massachusetts constitution: “If the Massachusetts Legislature crafts an appropriate amendment that provides for partnership and civil unions, then I would support it…” (http://www.boston.com/news/politics/president/articles/2004/02/26/kerry_backs_state_ban_on_gay_marriage/)
How's that for support? It gets better! After Kerry lost the election, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein blamed the victims of bigotry for the defeat: “So I think that whole issue (marriage equality) has been too much, too fast, too soon,'' she added. “And people aren't ready for it.” They wanted it both ways. The Democrats won't advocate for equality, and they reserve the right to be undeserving losers forced to carry the baggage of minority groups that demand justice.
But that was all in the past. Things have changed. This time is different. Of course it is. It has to be. Just listen to what was said in the debate held in New Hampshire on Saturday, January 5:
Clinton: “Words are not action. As beautifully presented and passionately felt as they are, they are not action. What we've got to do is translate talk into action and feeling into reality. I have a long record of doing that.”
In response, Obama said:
“Don't discount that power,” Obama said, “because when the American people are determined that something is going to happen, then it happens. And if they are disaffected and cynical and fearful and told that it can't be done, then it doesn't. I'm running for president because I want to tell them, yes, we can. And that's why I think they're responding in such large numbers.”
“(Obama) believes deeply in change and I believe deeply in change. I didn't hear these kinds of attacks from Sen. Clinton when she was ahead…now that she's not, we hear them. And any time you speak out, any time you speak out for change, this is what happens.”
Many people would agree that actions speak louder than words. Even more people might concur that persuasive words backed with a demonstration of conviction is an even more convincing way to build a reputation of integrity.
If the Democratic candidates cannot go as far as to advocate for marriage equality and full citizenship rights for same sex families, then they at least ought to be able to make strong, definitive and moral statements that demonstrate their opposition to the actions states have taken – and still threaten to take – that would restrict the rights of LGBT people.
On December 28, a federal judge (appointed by GW Bush) blocked the implementation of limited domestic partnership legislation in Oregon that were scheduled to be in effect on January 1, because a national Christian organization wants the rights of a minority group to be determined at the ballot box. Oregon already passed a constitutional amendment against same sex couples. This delay in the extension of even a limited amount of rights is egregious and mean spirited.
Would it be too dangerous for the Democratic candidates for President to address this injustice? Is that too much of a risk?
Florida voters will be deciding in November 2008 whether or not to amend their state constitution against same sex families. The Florida primary is held on January 29. This is an opportunity for Obama, Clinton and Edwards to speak against enforcing more constitutional bigotry on families that have done nothing to deserve rampant animosity.
Is it too much to ask the Democrat candidates to discourage Floridians from passing another bigoted amendment?
The Indiana state legislature is close to passing an amendment to their constitution that would be added to the ballot in November 2008. The state already has a DOMA law in place. The amendment would only add further insult to the injury inflicted upon same sex families by DOMA and is only being used as a ploy to attract bigots to the polls.
Is it acceptable to the Democrats that a minority group is routinely maligned without cause? Is it unreasonable to ask the candidates to address the continued erosion of the rights of LGBT citizens while they run for higher office?
The candidates don't have to advocate for marriage, but they must be able to encourage American voters to stop enacting hurtful and bigoted measures. That is the least they could do.
All the Democratic candidates issued statements in support of the civil union law in New Hampshire that became effective on January 1. It is well past the time candidates stopped congratulating others for being courageous believers in equality and started taking some action of their own. There are opportunities for them to stop more damage from happening. If they want my vote, they need to speak up before it is too late.
As Clinton herself said on Saturday, January 5: “As beautifully presented and passionately felt as they are, (words) are not action.”