Breakfast with Speaker Pelosi — and a question about gay families

Terrance Heath of The Republic of T (he’s also a contributor to Pam’s House Blend) was one of several bloggers and political types invited to breakfast with the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

As a gay father, he knew that this was an opportunity to ask a question about the issues that affect gay families (or non-families, as far as legal considerations go in most states). Here’s his question — and Pelosi’s answer.

Childcare. Family leave. Health insurance. Even something simple simple as joining a freakin’ gym isn’t so simple when you have to make the case that you qualify as a family, when various and sundry laws say you actually don’t. For example, I just started working as an independent consultant. I’m buying my own health insurance as a result (not cheat, by the way, but I’ll talk about health care later). If I were legally married to my husband, I’d have the option of being carried on his insurance. But right now that’s not possible. That’s just one of many issues where LGBT families get the short end of the stick.

So I raised my hand, and when the microphone came to me, I managed to get something close to this out:

As a working father of a four-year-old, with another on the way [Ed. Note: At this point the Speaker gave me a big smile and said “Congratulations!”], and as a gay dad I’d like to hear more about strengthening families. How do we do it in a way that strengthens all families, and that recognizes the reality of diverse families; families where both parents work, families where parents aren’t married to each other, families where the parents can’t marry each other, single parents, etc.?

I’m not sure if the way I opened my question disarmed her, but I’d swear the Speaker blinked and even stammered for a minute, like she wasn’t expecting that one. (Even though my question came close on the heels of one about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which the speaker favored getting rid of.) But it was only a minute. She quickly righted herself and gave an answer that basically, and I’m paraphrasing here until the transcript is up, that boils down to this: we should already be there, and we can get there by supporting the current agenda. Put another way, we can get to a more progressive place where we will strengthen all families, but not yet

That’s about what I expected. It’s a pragmatic answer. The way to get there is to strengthen our position in ways that are possible now. Which implies that what we’re asking for isn’t possible now.

The fact of the matter is that too many who should be in our corner are “not there,” as in “we understand but are not willing to spend political capital on you — but please open your wallet for me.” There’s always some political obstacle standing in the way, and the onus has always been on LGBTs to convince the general public that we are entitled to civil rights taken for granted by most Americans. Many of our Democratic “allies” in office aren’t ready to come along until the public approval ratings hit the right target number for them to feel comfortable taking political risks (or, perhaps more accurately, doing the right thing).

That said, Speaker Pelosi is well-known as an ally for LGBT rights; she is working to pass the hate crimes bill and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. She will be the keynote speaker at HRC’s annual dinner, where she will receive the 2007 Equality award for her leadership on LGBT issues. It just shows you how some of these topics need better framing and more open discussion — we can all learn more on how to move these issues forward.

The audio of the breakfast is up at PoliticsTV.

Share This Post

© 2021 AMERICAblog Media, LLC. All rights reserved. · Entries RSS