Politics Dead Man Winning
Does this strike anyone else as, oh, just a little odd?
The Human Rights Campaign—the mainstream gay group that occasionally endorses Republicans despite, well, everything—is holding their annual black tie dinner/fundraiser on Saturday September 16. If you go to here you can read about their 2006 Equality Award, which is presented at the dinner. Here’s a little info about the award from HRC’s website:
The Equality Award is HRC’s way of acknowledging a particular person or group that has stood out in her or his efforts to secure equality for the LGBT community in the past year.
Guess who’s getting the award this year? Cal Anderson, Washington state’s first openly gay member of the state legislature, the man they named the lovely new park on Capitol Hill after. Anderson won’t be there to accept this award in person because, uh, Cal Anderson has been dead for eleven years.
I only met Anderson a couple of times—and I liked him. He had something most of the self-appointed gay leaders around here sorely lack: good political judgment. My favorite example of Cal’s wisdom: Anderson worked like hell to stop Hands Off Washington from launching their ill-advised and ultimately disastrous pro-gay rights initiative, which he not only knew would fail but also regarded as unethical and immoral. (You don’t put the rights of a minority up for a vote.) The way to pass gay and lesbian civil rights protections, Anderson insisted, was through the legislature, not the ballot box. (Sadly Anderson, who was dying of AIDS at the same time HOW was dying of stupidity, could only delay the initiative for a year.)
It’s hard not to read HRC giving this award to Anderson as an intentional a snub of State Rep. Ed Murray. The gay and lesbian civil rights bill that passed last year? It was called the Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill.
From the Seattle Gay News:
The Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill (HB 2661), which had languished in Olympia for nearly three decades was signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire on Tuesday during a special ceremony at the Capitol building… The crowded room included the legislations earliest backers, such as former State Sen. Pete Francis, the bill’s original sponsor, and Roger Winters, who testified in favor of the legislation before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1977. Francis told the Seattle Gay News on Tuesday that he had introduced the bill because he felt it was “the right thing to do.”
Gregoire thanked House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) and Majority Leader Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) for their “unwavering commitment and hard work” to get the legislation to the Governor’s desk. She also thanked Reps. Joe McDermott (D-Seattle), Jim Moeller (D-Vancouver) and Dave Upthegrove (D-Des Moines)—three of our state’s four openly Gay legislators. However, she reserved her deepest gratitude for Rep. Ed Murray (D-Seattle), who has introduced the legislation continuously for the last 11 years.
“Ed. On behalf of the citizens of our great state, thank you for your perseverance, strength and commitment,” Gregoire told Murray, who is also Gay.
Here’s what The Nation had to say after the bill passed:
Cal Anderson, Washington’s first openly gay state congressman, spent each of his eight years in the legislature fighting for a gay rights bill which, at the time, he knew had no chance of passing. When Anderson died of AIDS in 1995, Rep. Ed Murray, Anderson’s former campaign manager, took up the cause and spent the next decade as the bill’s lead sponsor.
Twenty-nine years after the first gay rights bill was introduced in Washington, the tireless efforts of Anderson, Murray, and thousands of activists culminated in the passage of HB 2661 last week…
The passage of Washington’s gay rights bill was historic—it was also a bright spot in what was, on the gay rights front, an otherwise dismal year. And Ed Murray made it happen.
Again, I liked Anderson, and I don’t want to take anything away from his memory or his legacy. But it seems odd that this award is being presented to Anderson alone. He’s an historic figure, and a trailblazer, but can you really argue with a straight face that Anderson “stood out in her or his efforts to secure equality for the LGBT community in the past yearā€¯? The man who truly stood out in his efforts over the past year—over the past eleven years—was Ed Murray. A case could be made for giving the award to both men. But solely to Cal Anderson?
It doesn’t make much sense.