Like every election year, most LGBT people spent this one working for Democrats, and writing checks in exchange for promises of little things like anti-discrimination laws, gay marriage, and equality.
There's never much of a payoff. If Democrats were an investment fund, we would have pulled out years ago. They're the Lehman Brothers of queer rights, offering worthless paper to willing marks. How many times have they said, "Our hands may be tied, what with a Republican governor, and Republicans in charge of the legislature, but just you wait."
We did. We waited for years. And now that Democrats are in power, stacking Albany from top to bottom, the only return on our investment is still the big middle finger, and a double dose of screw you. In a recent New York Times article they said there's the economy and the state's emptying coffers to consider first. And re-election. We don't want to get the Mormons and Catholics riled up about gay marriage and pouring money into state electoral politics like they did in California.
State Senator Tom Duane frankly hinted that gay marriage should bury itself as an issue for the near future. "We definitely want David Paterson to run for re-election and to win," he said. "There'll be a discussion. And we'll have a point of view about time frame; he'll have a point of view on time frame."
That's the Democrat's refrain, one more election cycle. A better time frame. The Democratic faithful horrified at Bush heard their party caution patience until they had control of the House and Senate. Once voters gave Democrats the Congressional majority, Democrats claimed they needed the White House, too, and continued to rubberstamp Bush's policies hoping to establish conservative credentials for election 2008. Now, with a Democratic president-elect, they're murmuring something about needing a filibuster-proof majority to undo Bush's legacy.
If torture and spying weren't enough to get them moving in D.C., it's not surprising that human rights -- yes, they include queers rights -- are taking an eternal backseat in New York to whatever Democrats can come up with, including the bigoted likes of evangelical State Senator Ruben Díaz who threatens to destroy the slim majority of the Democrats for hatred of queers. Already, he's organized anti-gay marriage rallies, and regularly preaches against us as criminals, perverts, and pedophiles.
Instead of standing up to his bigotry and hate, Democrats once again tell us queers to wait one more election cycle when they'll pick up a few more seats, so maybe his one vote won't count.
Do we really believe the Democratic ascendancy is guaranteed? That incumbent governors never lose? The economic crisis will expire just in time to boost Democrats and queers? And homophobes will be sitting inactive while legislators line up their votes and minimize political risk?
There should be one, unified, queer response, and it should be this. "Screw you, Dems." If we don't seize the moment, we may not get another. And the moment, the momentum, is now.
As always, the politicians have it wrong. The disaster in California isn't an impediment, but a rallying cry, and a blueprint -- for what to avoid. If a same-sex marriage fight may attract fundamentalist dollars, it will also attract queer money, and activists willing to pound the pavement on our behalf. Two weekends ago, a million people were out on the street protesting Prop 8. They'd come out for New York, too.
Better yet, they'd be willing to do what the Prop 8 "leadership" weren't. Organize on a massive scale across lines of class and race, even parties. Republicans voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8, even though they have queer cousins, uncles, sisters; I hear they even breed queer children who probably came out last weekend over the turkey. They're all ripe for approach. And queers and their allies are ready to do it.
Properly done, same-sex marriage activism could even bolster the image of Democrats across the state because it goes far beyond a discussion of gay rights. Civil rights and legal equality for everyone, are obvious talking points, but to convince, you also have to hit on things that concern everyone, financial security as the economy shrinks, health insurance as people lose their jobs, protecting the family, protecting kids. All issues related to marriage. Far-sighted Democrats could be their defenders.
As for queers, nothing good will come of backing off. It will tell homophobes they're on the right track. That we will go away if they pour enough money into the issue. If, like Mr. Diaz, they hold enough rallies against us. Backing away tells them we're weak, afraid, and alone. And that Democrats consider queers expendable. Well? Are we? Maybe it's time to find out.
edited dec. 3