This one from the New York Blad Online needs none.
By ROBIN BRAND & BILL SMITH - Mar. 30, 2007GENERAL PETER PACE ignited a political firestorm recently by offering his personal view that homosexuals are “immoral,” while defending the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The national debate that followed provided an interesting window into the ever-evolving psyche of the American political establishment as it comes to terms with how to address issues relating to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.
The 2008 presidential candidates were immediately asked whether or not they agreed with Pace’s statement. Their responses showed that the intense debate over gay rights still finds our most seasoned political leaders—both Democrats and Republicans—stumbling and mumbling their way through an issue that remains front and center in today’s political arena.
Democratic frontrunner Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) first responded to Pace’s comment by saying, “that’s for others to conclude.” Barack Obama ducked the question. To his credit, John Edwards showed leadership by flatly disagreeing with Pace—a positive shift after being widely criticized along with John Kerry for awkward references to openly gay Mary Cheney in both the 2004 vice presidential and presidential debates.
Republican candidates fared even worse. Ultraconservative Sam Brownback went so far as to praise Pace’s remarks. Other Republican hopefuls were nowhere to be found, including supposedly gay-friendly Rudy Giuliani. Mitt Romney was for gays in the military before he was against it. And John McCain has morphed from giving an inspired speech on the U.S. Senate floor against an anti-gay federal constitutional amendment to cutting TV ads for an Arizona amendment that would have banned domestic partnerships.
This collective set of bipartisan inconsistencies and pandering should offend all Americans regardless of political persuasion, sexual orientation or religious views.
From Tim Hardaway and Isaiah Washington to our 2008 presidential field, too often we see public figures revising their remarks, going into rehab or coming up with clever strategies to explain away their anti-gay gaffes. Of all people in the country, those who write and pass our nation’s laws and policies need to understand that language matters. For this reason, we must hold our national figures accountable.
IN FACT, OUR presidential aspirants should look to the American public for direction on gay issues. Recent national surveys have shown Americans support ending discrimination in housing and employment, support allowing gays to serve openly in the military and support recognizing committed gay and lesbian relationships. The Oscar-hosting Ellen is a household name, and almost a decade has passed since “Will & Grace” were welcomed into America’s living rooms.
Pace’s comments, and more importantly the lack of an adequate response from our federal candidates, sends the signal to the 6.6 million taxpaying gay Americans that they should not enjoy the same full and equal seat at America’s table as the rest of the American taxpayers.
Two things are very clear: Most of our presidential candidates don’t understand how to talk about gay-related issues; and gay Americans and their straight allies should watch very closely before hitching their wagon to any of the current presidential candidates for 2008.
As the election season approaches in earnest, fair-minded voters need to be smart and strategic; we must insist candidates invite gays and lesbians to the table. Support candidates at the local and state level who are leaders on these issues, as they are the ones who become officials on the federal level.
Voters should also remember that we have been fooled before. In 2000, then “compassionate conservative” George Bush pronounced himself “a better man” for meeting with gay people only to propose an offensive anti-gay constitutional amendment to gain re-election. Former President Clinton, heralded as the great hope for gay people, also left many sorely disappointed.
WHAT ADVOCATES FOR equality are seeking is simpler than most people believe: equal opportunity to participate fully in American life.
At a time in our country’s history when American patriots, both gay and straight, are on the front lines defending our freedom, we should demand nothing less than a commander-in-chief who stands up for full equality for all Americans. This can only be done by talking openly and honestly about gay and lesbian Americans and their families. Anything else is simply outdated, out of touch and out of step with the American public today.
Robin Brand is the chief operating officer of Gill Action and a Democrat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill Smith is the national political director of Gill Action and a Republican. He can be reached at email@example.com.