It’s 2010, and the year is exploding. Slate cards are abounding, the Alice breakfast train is leaving the station (June 27, mark your calendars now), ballot measures both locally and statewide threaten to bring about the end of civilization as we know it and candidates both locally and statewide are running around with childlike zeal or, if you prefer another metaphor, like chickens with their heads cut off.
Before I compose my co-chair columns, I always ask myself two questions: what’s on my mind and do I want to write about it. The selections of delicacies for this co-chair column were ample: the proposed sit/ lie ordinance, the DCCC election, the supervisorial elections… The list goes on and on and on. Picture me now pushing away this plate of tender political morsels and asking for something entirely different.
Two days ago, I had a chance to talk with Kip Williams, one of the founders/co-directors of a new grassroots organization called Get Equal. He told me about the civil disobedience his group was undertaking to draw attention to the gross inequalities that still remain for LGBT people across this country, even though we have a Democratic President. One of Get Equal’s more prominent demonstrations involved out members of our armed forces chaining themselves to the White House fence in protest of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy that prohibits LGBT service members from serving openly. Among those participating in this protest was Lieutenant Dan Choi, one of the speakers at last year’s Alice Breakfast. Kip explained that despite many public pledges by the President to repeal DADT and an endorsement from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the initiative to repeal DADT this year has stalled, with both Gates and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs backing away from statements in favor of repeal this year.
Are you serious? Kip’s thorough explanation of the timeline of events surrounding the pledges to repeal and the subsequent weakening of these pledges outraged me to the point where I felt like jumping up and screaming in frustration. When I was younger, this would have been unacceptable. I remember when for a brief moment that I was so disgusted by Madeline Albright’s justification of President Clinton’s sanctions on Iraq that had killed 500,000 women and children in Iraq that I vowed to stop voting in protest.
I snapped out of it but I am still agitated and seething at the political backsliding I’m witnessing these days on LGBT issues, especially on this DADT issue. I can understand waiting on an issue till the time is right, till it’s appropriate, but poll after poll has shown that people think LGBT people should be able to serve openly in our armed forces. It’s not rocket science, nor is it a complicated policy position. Allow our armed service members to serve openly without discharging them. All you have to do is stop the discharging, which as I understand it, is a bureaucratic nightmare, so this will make things simpler altogether.
Is the LGBT community so politically expedient as a voting block that we can continue to be taken for granted? I am getting fed-up. Our Democratic national leaders need to do something about DADT as well as ENDA (with gender-identity protections). If they don’t act soon, they risk disenfranchising their LGBT constituency.
We can’t keep being used for votes and fundraising. Someone has to do something for us at some point. How long must we wait? What kind of super majorities do we need to end DADT and protect LGBT’s from being fired because of who we are?
The LGBT community needs to do a better job of holding our elected officials accountable. Who’s with me?
Charles Sheehan, Co-Chair
Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club