There’s a growing firestorm in the gay community over what exactly the largest gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, did or didn’t agree to with the White House over Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, ENDA, Hate Crimes and more.
At issue: Did HRC agree to postpone White House action on DADT until next year, or longer?
I’ve talked to Joe (Sudbay) about this, and we think the brouhaha may be missing the point. The issue isn’t whether HRC worked with the White House to prioritize Obama’s gay rights promises, deciding to work on some promises this year, others next year, etc. In principle, that doesn’t bother us, and in fact makes sense. I don’t think either of us expected Obama to keep all 8, or so, promises in the first 100 days, or the first year. You have to approach these things methodically, and so long as we know absolutely, positively without question that x and y will happen this year, z will happen next year, and p, d, and q the years after that, we’re less concerned about HRC, or anyone else, working with Obama to set up such a timetable for implementation.
The thing is, no one believes that the White House has any intention of doing anything, regardless of any timetable.
That is, I think, the conundrum HRC is facing. If the White House has decided to distance itself from the gay community (and that’s certainly what the community believes), and HRC is seen as in cahoots with that White House, the community will naturally assume that HRC signed off on the White House’s effort to put gay rights on the back burner indefinitely.
The irony here is that HRC is, I suspect, trying to burnish its image by cozying up to the Obama White House. And in normal times, such a strategy would make sense. HRC has faced a lot of criticism over the years that it’s too willing to accept compromise, too unwilling to accomplish anything. I think a lot of that criticism has been unfair – it’s awfully difficult to get anything done when Republicans control the Congress (and the White House) – and I tend to think of HRC the way Churchill thinks of democracy. But. I think HRC, and all the groups, make a grave mistake when thinking that being seen hand in hand with this president will somehow make all the old wounds go away. On the contrary.
People may generally love Obama. But gay people are pissed. And growing more so by the day. The overall impression in the gay community is that we’ve been, or are about to be, had by this administration; that someone in Obama-land (rhymes with Rahm) is telling the President that we’re political pariahs who must be shunned at all costs. You don’t get brownie points for being seen with those kind of friends.
Many of us have been worried that the Obama administration might be trying to Sista Souljah the gays (i.e., distance themselves from the gays to show just how independent, how “new Democrat,” they really are). The irony is that the embattled lead gay groups, in order to survive in an increasingly angry post-Prop-8, and increasingly expectant post-MA-NH-VT-IA-ME-CT, world, may end up having to Sista Souljah Obama in order to regain credibility in the eyes of their own members. And if that happens, I can’t name a single Democrat (or Republican for that matter) in recent memory who’s been on the receiving end of our ire and walked away unscathed.
This isn’t your daddy’s gay community.