Thursday, August 21, 2008

Beltway LGBT lobby wrong again

A few weeks ago, I took offense at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) when its private security guards roughed up a friend of mine who tried to leaflet their dinner in San Francisco. She was objecting to the willingness of the beltway gay lobby to cut deals with Congresspeople at the expense of advocating for those -- transgendered and others -- whose gender presentation might get them fired. While my friend tried unsuccessfully to question HRC inside the dinner, hundreds picketed outside. The original keynote speaker, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, cancelled at the last minute.

Response in the blog comments was lively and somewhat hostile. Lots of folks really like HRC and they say so. Good for them.

But the vehemence of this exchange made me take notice of a development today.

EqualityMaine, Maine's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organization, announced this week that it will endorse Congressman Tom Allen for United States Senate. Allen is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, who last Spring received an unusually early endorsement for the seat from the Human Rights Campaign.

New England Blade

That is, the local state gay lobby, the folks on the ground who've fought off a series of anti-gay initiatives, have given their endorsement to a challenger -- while HRC long ago gave the nod to a Republican who is a Washington fixture.

The article goes on to point out the discrepancy between Allen's record in Congress on LGBT issues (he ranks as a 100 percent supporter according to HRC's own stats) versus Collins' (78 percent in 2004 and 88 in 2006.) But she has been a supporter of HRC's watered down employment legislation, so she got their nod against an opponent who has a much clearer record of support for LGBT rights.

For progressives in Maine and nationwide, the key fact about Collins is that she's a Republican -- that is, she has been part of enabling the Bush regime over the last 8 years. She has voted with the Bushites 77 percent of the time -- low for a Republican, but a Democratic replacement could be counted on to do better.

No Republican administration is ever going to advance full equality in employment or other rights for LGBT people. It is that simple. The Republican political base is full of religious reactionaries and other bigots, however nice some Maine Republicans may be. But the HRC is mesmerized by Washington priorities -- by needing to claim some Republican "friends" -- so it locks itself into candidates and policies that don't do the job for their LGBT constituency. There's a pattern here.

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