On political homophobia, fear and being like the NRA

Last year, I wrote a post titled “Democrats and Political Homophobia”:

There is, however, a version of homophobia that is much more insidious: Political Homophobia.

Political homophobes aren’t gay-hating in the traditional sense. In fact, publicly, most are strong supporters of LGBT equality. But, behind closed doors, many Democratic leaders, consultants, Hill staffers and the rest will vociferously argue that there is no political benefit to actually supporting LGBT rights. Political homophobia is rampant among some Democrats. In some ways, it’s worse than blatant homophobia, since we think most Democrats are on our side. And outwardly, they are.

Political homophobia dictates policy in DC more than we’d like to think.

Yesterday, the Victory Fund’s Chuck Wolfe has a post at Bilerico about political fear. He basically describes political homophobia. People inside the beltway know exactly what this is. They hear it from our supposed allies all the time:

In the last decade these numbers have moved in only one direction–toward fairness and inclusion. And yet, Congress still hasn’t enacted significant protections for LGBT Americans. Why?

Fear, mostly. Fear that despite their distinct minority status, anti-LGBT extremists wield inordinate power when directly challenged. Swat that nest, the thinking goes, and the hornets will swarm. Incumbents, especially this year, aren’t eager to add perceived obstacles to reelection.

LGBT activists often debate whether this fear is rational. On one side are Beltway types who see it up close every day. It’s the elephant in the room at every conversation with a moderate Democratic senator from the Midwest, a gay Republican staffer for a House member, and even White House strategists.

Whether one believes it’s rational or not, this fear exists, and it’s part of working in LGBT politics in Washington. It must be understood, or the conversation stops.

The conversation stops because people in these DC offices don’t fear us. They fear the other side. And, although candidates often want our support (mostly money), they won’t take the votes necessary to give us our rights. Wolfe’s solution is: “Our job as advocates is to come together to find a solution, address the fear and create the conditions to win.”

We do need to create the conditions to win. And, we’re not going to get there by playing nice. For one thing, our advocates need to call out “political homophobia” when they see it. And, we need to make politicians fear us, not our opponents.

Elected officials and candidates view the gay community as an ATM. And, too many in our community are happy just to get invited. That hasn’t gotten us our equality. Not even close.

We’re often told by the likes of Barney Frank that we need to be more like the NRA. That group gets its way because it is feared. NRA members fight for their rights. They never let a perceived challengs to those rights go unanswered. We have to do the same thing. We shouldn’t care if members of Congress like us. They need to fear us. We shouldn’t care if our leaders get invited to parties at the White House. The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre may never step foot in the Obama White House. And, the Obama White House will never challenge the NRA. Today’s NY Times profiles just how powerful the group is these days. Obama already signed the NRA’s bill to allow carrying guns in national parks. And, he would have signed the DC voting rights bill even if it included the provision to weaken DC’s gun laws. That’s not because Obama likes the NRA or invites its leaders to his parties. He fears them politically.

That’s why we need groups like GetEQUAL and FightBackNY. We need to be feared, not loved. Very few elected officials do anything because it’s the right thing to do. If we don’t scare people into thinking we’ll make them lose, we won’t win our equality. So, yeah, let’s be like the NRA. They fight for their rights — and they win.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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