John R Selig

Writer. Photographer. Podcaster. Outspoken.

Electing a Gay Supportive President is Only the First Step

Originally Heard on the John Selig Outspoken Podcast

John Selig Outspoken – Episode 7

Finally, after 6 1/2 years of demonization by the Bush/Cheney Administration there is a good chance of landing a LGBT supportive president in the White House in less than 18 months. Despite continuous hateful scapegoating by Republicans, polls continue to show increased support for equal rights for LGBT Americans.

Who would have imagined ten years ago that the Democratic Presidential contenders would agree to participate in a debate held on a gay cable channel? Of course, there is strong motivation for Democrats to court the gay vote. The majority of us vote Democratic and we have a high voter turnout because we realize that obtaining advances in our civil rights depends upon us voting each and every time there is an election. I’m still stupefied that 25% of gays voted for George W. Bush in both the 2000 and 2004 elections. Why any gay person would vote for somebody that does everything in their power to deny us rights is beyond me. Still, the reality of gaining support from the LGBT voting block that has predictably large turnouts is well worth courting.

All the Democratic Presidential candidates that appeared at the HRC/LOGO Presidential Forum on GLBT Issues held on August 9th voiced strong support for gay issues and each promised to fight for advances in our civil rights.

The Republican presidential candidate that emerges will be in a weakened position after the conventions next summer, as they will have to appeal to their base, which is made up of fundamentalist Christians. Fortunately, moderate Republican, Democrat and Independent voters continue to grow more alienated by religious fundamentalists. Gay baiting used successfully as part of both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections seems to have lost its effectiveness as evidenced by the romping of Republican candidates in the 2006 mid–term Congressional election.

If the Democrats are able to regain the White House and increase their majority in both the House and Senate in the 2008 election, gays stand a chance to reverse setbacks suffered under eight years of Bush/Cheney. We must all work vigilantly during the 2008 campaign to make sure that as many conservative anti–gay candidates are defeated as possible.

Is it fair to assume that a supportive Democrat in the White House and a Congress under stronger Democratic control will solve most of our problems soon after January 2009? Don’t dare fall for that line of thought! What makes you think that advancement for the gay community will be a high priority? Remember the old adage that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease!” When the new administration takes office our work will have just begun.

Think back Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential run. Remember his promise to totally remove the ban on gays serving in the Military? Gays donated tons of money and even more hours to elect Bill Clinton President of The United States of America on Election Day in 1992.

Once Bill Clinton got into office, the gay community let down our guard and assumed the battle was won and President Bill Clinton would deliver on his promise to lift the ban.

Just a few months after Clinton took office, I arrived in Washington D.C. a few days early for the April 1993 March on Washington For Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Rights. I participated in the Day of Lobbying set up on Capital Hill by the Human Rights Campaign. I was part of a large group of Texans who met with a top aid for then Texas Senator Bob Kruger. When Bill Clinton became President he appointed Senator Lloyd Bentsen from Texas to be his Treasury Secretary so Kruger was appointed to take his place until a special election could be held to fill the remainder of his Senatorial term. Kruger’s aid invited us into Kruger’s office and spoke frankly with us about why the ban wasn’t lifted.

Our fight to get the banning of gays being allowed service in the armed service removed was derailed because the religious right out organized us and flooded Capitol Hill with a record number of telephone calls to stop the ban from being lifted. Their calls were so numerous that the telephone system on the Hill was brought to its knees. Congressional staffers couldn’t get calls through to each other and Kruger’s aid told us the calls ran overwhelmingly against us.

Our foes will never give up on working to keep us from gaining equal rights regardless of which party is in power. Many of us were furious about Bill Clinton caving on this issue and the resulting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that has been an unmitigated disaster. Still, our community must shoulder part of the blame for this unfortunate turn of events for letting down our guard.

So bask in the glory of the Democratic candidates for President and Congress as they seek our votes and financial contributions in the 2008 campaign. But remember, electing supportive candidates is only the first step. As Robert Moore, publisher of the Dallas Voice on a recent John Selig Outspoken episode shared his memories of Texas Governor Ann Richard’s admonishing attendees at a Dallas Black–Tie Dinner after the repeal of the Texas State Sodomy law in 2003. Richards cautioned that gays shouldn’t rest and assume that the battle was won as she shared similar false hopes of some people after the Roe V. Wade decision years earlier by the U. S. Supreme Court and that battle still rages on.

We must all remain vigilant and be prepared to dig in for a long hard fight. We can win, but only if we have enough strength and fortitude to not allow ourselves to become complacent.

© 2007 John R. Selig. All rights reserved.