Last edited: February 14, 2005

National Stonewall Democratic Federation Responds to  Column, "When Democrats Do Bad Things"

National Stonewall Democratic Federation, July 7, 2000
733 15th Street, NW Suite 700A
Washington, DC 20005

For Immediate Release Contact: Daniel McGlinchey
                                                  (202) 246-8523

In his recent column ("When Democrats Do Bad Things") condemning the gay rights movement for insufficiently criticizing Democrats when they fall short, Dale Carpenter displays an impressive instinct for half-truths.

When then-Governor Ann Richards signed a revamped penal code in Texas that retained a ban on sodomy that had been on the books for over a century — not, as Carpenter suggests, one that was enacted for the first time — Carpenter states that gay leaders said nothing because she’s a Democrat. Carpenter ignores the fact that the Austin Lesbian-Gay Political Caucus made public a resolution condemning the "ignorance and bigotry" that preserved the sodomy law, and that the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas and other gay groups organized a protest at the state Capitol to condemn "second-class citizenship," while still other gay activists threatened to withdraw support for Richards, who the following year lost her gubernatorial race to George W. Bush.

Carpenter says that if George W. Bush had signed such "a hideous law," gay activists would have shut down the streets in protest. Well, George W. Bush never had the chance to sign such a law, but he did one better: while campaigning for governor, he promised to veto any attempt to overturn it legislatively (while Richards, in turn, declared that she would sign any legislation that sought to repeal it). The response? Gay Republicans recently flew to Texas to tell Gov. Bush their stories and declared their chat "historic," even though Bush in their meeting refused to renounce any of his anti-gay positions.

Another of Carpenter’s wishful inaccuracies is that the gay establishment excused Clinton for signing the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The National Stonewall Democrats think Clinton was wrong to sign DOMA. His ads touting his support for the bill to conservatives were reprehensible, and we’re glad his campaign pulled them in response to swift, strong criticism from national gay organizations. However, the support Clinton received from gay organizations was based on his strong record on a wide range of other gay issues, including his support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, his executive order banning the use of sexual orientation as a factor in denying security clearances, his commitment to appointing openly gay and lesbian people to his Administration, and the unprecedented attention he gave to the AIDS crisis.

Carpenter’s claim that those who support imperfect Democrats suffer from some sort of battered wife syndrome shows how much he misunderstands the political world. In gay politics, you always have to consider the alternative. In the current presidential race, it’s George W. Bush, the Republican candidate who actively supports anti-gay sodomy laws, doesn’t think gays are fit to be parents, supports the ban on openly gay people in the military, opposes hate crimes legislation and gay and lesbian employment rights, and withholds support for domestic partnership benefits for gay and lesbian people. He’s the exact opposite of Al Gore on every one of those issues.

Indeed, if gays in either party are guilty of being overly forgiving of their candidates’ flaws, it is the Republicans. When Gov. Bush allowed the Texas Republican party to deny gay Republicans an official presence at the state convention, one gay Republican leader in Texas excused him, claiming it was the fault of the Republican party, not Gov. Bush, who is in fact the leader of the Republican party in the state. Despite the fact that Bush remained stone silent in the face of this exclusion, a national gay Republican group chose not to criticize Bush, and instead praised him for not attending the convention — even though Bush sent his wife to the convention to speak along with a videotaped statement in which he expressed deep regret that he couldn’t attend the convention because he was campaigning.

When asked about the prospects of ever being able to support George W. Bush, Log Cabin Republicans summed it up like this, "When you look at these Republican candidates, you have to consider not just the policy and not just votes and not just what they said today or last week or even what they’re saying behind the scenes. You have to look at the whole picture." An incredibly mystifying statement, but there you have it: with homophobic Republicans, if you ignore their voting records, their policy positions, and their public statements, they actually might be quite good on our issues. According to that logic, Playboy without the pictures would be a literary magazine.

I agree with Carpenter that we should not "look at partisan labels before deciding what to say or do," and I also welcome Carpenter’s view that we should not "sacrifice gay equality on liberalism’s altar for the sake of other issues [we] care about," so long as he equally repudiates such a sacrifice on the altar of conservatism.

Therefore, as the two national gay partisan organizations gear up for the November elections, I trust Carpenter will hold both to the standard of offering endorsements, in any given federal race, only to the candidate from either major political party who is more committed to the fight for public policies to end prejudice. We welcome the challenge.

Daniel McGlinchey
Political Director, National Stonewall Democratic Federation

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