Politics How to Get a Politician to Say the Right Thing About the Gays
posted by March 16 at 13:00 PMon
There’s an interesting sub-plot to the recent blogosphere controversy over whether or not gays are immoral and (actually worthy of serious thought) what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama should say about such things.
You have to be following intra-gay politics very closely to have been up on this, but over the last few weeks there’s been a notable dust-up pitting some prominent gay bloggers (led, it seems, by Andrew Sullivan and Michael Petrelis) against what is probably the country’s best-known gay rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign.
For the overview, see here.
In sum, some gay rights activists and bloggers feel that the Human Rights Campaign has become a bloated, ineffectual organization that inflates its membership numbers, acts as a Democratic party mouthpiece rather than representing the full spectrum of gay political leanings, and vilifies its gay critics.
How does this connect to the Clinton/Obama controversy? Well, part of the argument from HRC’s critics (that is, critics of the Human Rights Campaign, not critics of Hillary Rodham Clinton) is that HRC is so focused on working behind the scenes and playing by the rules of Washington, D.C., that it doesn’t actually get anything done.
In some ways, this is a continuation of a very old debate in the gay community, a debate about tactics. And, really, it’s a debate you could probably find among members of any minority group that is fighting to gain full equality under the law in a culture that has historically been hostile toward the idea of extending such rights. Speaking very broadly here, it’s a debate over whose rules to play by.
Here’s an easy way to see the divide in the gay community. These are the rules the newly-energized ACT-UP played by in response to Gen. Peter Pace’s statement that homosexuality is “immoral”:
And what did HRC do in reponse? The usual: It put out statements and called on its members to write letters, make phone calls, and generally complain through proper channels.
Because, as a rule, HRC does not talk like this guy:
(That’s Larry Kramer, for the non-gay-politics-obsessed.)
Personally, I don’t see why anyone would view the two approaches as mutually exclusive, rather than complimentary. The less-politic activism from the non-HRC quarters of the gay community gives the HRC a way to say to its Washington insiders friends: “Look, we’re feeling pressure from our base to push you on this. We know it’s a tricky issue, but we’re being pushed in an impolite way and now we’re going to push you in a more polite way.”
But the question of the moment is whether HRC actually does end up getting things done with its thoughtful statements, well-placed donations, and private behind-the-scenes phone calls. Well, at least in the case of Obama and Clinton, it appears it did.
I have heard from many of my friends in the gay community that my response yesterday to a question about homosexuality being immoral sounded evasive. My intention was to focus the conversation on the failed don’t ask, don’t tell policy. I should have echoed my colleague Senator John Warner’s statement forcefully stating that homosexuality is not immoral because that is what I believe.
And Obama put out a statement saying this:
I do not agree with General Pace that homosexuality is immoral. Attempts to divide people like this have consumed too much of our politics over the past six years.
Both of those statements could have been written by the Human Rights Campaign, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.