Log Cabin Republicans Statement on Election 2004

November 8, 2004 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(Washington, DC) – The November 2004 election represents a historic wake-up call for gay and lesbian Americans and organizations. We lost. Not only did we lose our fight against 11 anti-gay ballot questions, we lost in the broader social and political landscape of America. If we listen to those attempting to sanitize or sugarcoat the post-election analysis, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes and destined for more setbacks in the years ahead. Winning our principled fight for fairness and equality will require bold, controversial, and strategic change from all of us. Many in the LGBT community will be offended by what it may take to get us back on track, but history teaches us that bold leadership in times of crisis does not always win instant popularity contests.

1. The gay and lesbian community needs to focus less on Washington, DC, Hollywood and Manhattan and more on the American heartland and the South. Like it or not, Michael Moore, Bruce Springsteen, and Rosie O'Donnell will never convince the Iowa farmer, the South Carolina veteran, or the West Virginia coal miner to be on our side. Much more important than increasing attendance at all our organizations' expensive black-tie dinners is the work we should be doing hosting rural barbecues and town hall meetings for honest discussions with people who disagree with us. We need to value and support the gay and lesbian families in suburban, middle, and rural America who are changing America one person and one neighborhood at a time. Far too many Americans believe that we value Prada shoes, botox injections, and party drugs over hard work, family, and patriotism. While so many gay and lesbian Americans have been incredibly generous with their commitment of time, talent and money, we need the image we project to match reality. And, it should never be easier to get 5,000 people to a circuit party than it is to get 500 people to pick up the phone and call their Congressman. The most important work we can do in the days, months and years ahead will happen on the ground in conservative red states, with local grassroots organizations.

2. We need to embrace not reject the reality that most Americans, including most gay Americans, are people of faith. Until gays and lesbians can find peace and acceptance and new allies in some of our churches, synagogues, and mosques we will continue to be marginalized in our own country. Yes, we have allowed the radical right to usurp and control the lexicon of family values, faith, and morality. We will win elections only when more religious-minded voters consider our journey for fairness and equality worthy of their support. While we need to continue developing progressive allies for our fight, we should be cautious about taking on all of their baggage at the same time. The gay wedge issue was effective in this election because our opponents were successful at clumping our struggle for equality in with anti-war protesters, the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, the move to take God out of the Pledge, the late term abortion debate, and a whole range of other cultural issues. We need to talk less about all the rights we want and do not have. Instead, we need to talk more about the moral and ethical responsibilities we are ready to accept as our life-long relationships are recognized.

3. It is time for all of us to go on the offense rather than always playing defense on the radical right's turf. The voices of intolerance have successfully used the anxiety during the first days of the national debate about marriage equality as a tool to pass anti-civil union and anti-domestic partnership legislation. Instead of simply defending against anti-gay measures, we should be offering targeted ballot questions and legislative action on issues such as domestic partnerships, civil unions, hospital visitation, and tax fairness that already have overwhelming support from the majority of Americans. Let's watch the radical right show their true colors and expose their intolerance by opposing basic fairness for our families without their "protecting marriage" cover. The path to full recognition for our families will require patience, persistence, and pragmatism. Expecting middle-America to support civil marriage equality when many gay and lesbian Americans are today ambivalent or still uneducated about the issue will never work.

4. In our two-party system we will never win without dedicating significantly more of our time, energy, and resources into working with Republicans and conservatives. On gay and lesbian issues we already have the support of Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi. We deeply appreciate their support, but we need to earn the support of Republicans from Ohio and Missouri and the support of conservative Democrats from Virginia and Georgia. No successful lobbying group in America attempts to find legislative remedies for their priorities without investing significantly in both political parties. With the Republican Party controlling most of the country's political power, Log Cabin shares a huge responsibility to lead this effort but Log Cabin cannot do this alone. Yes, for some of us, this means spending time with, making political donations to and even endorsing some politicians who don't agree with us 100% of the time. This sometimes awkward but pragmatic path is how courageous Democrats turned anti-gay Democrats into reliable allies over the past two decades. As we judge who our friends and opponents are in Congress we should think twice about labeling party-line procedural votes and refusal to sponsor our legislative priorities as anti-gay. We can and must speak out against anti-gay legislation, hate speech, and anti-gay votes. But we should attempt to do so without burning every bridge and without demonizing those who we need to educate and work with in the years ahead. When our most reliable friends are up for re-election, they deserve our community's full support even when they are Republicans. And, President Bush has won a clear and decisive popular vote and electoral college victory. He is our nation's duly elected leader and we must find a way to work with him and his administration over the next four years.

5. More important than winning in the courts of America is the harder work all of us must do to win over the hearts and minds of the American people. History teaches us that the judiciary will and should play a crucial role in recognizing the constitutional rights of all citizens. Our friends and allies in the legal community deserve great credit for their important work. But the courts alone cannot mandate an inclusive and tolerant America. The courts cannot prevent a backlash of anti-gay constitutional amendments. We need to win in the legislatures, in the voting booths, and in the hearts of fair-minded citizens to give credibility and power to our cause. Our work will not be done until we reach a day when our victories have legitimacy inside and outside the court houses of America. Earlier this year groups such as Log Cabin were strongly criticized for expressing concern, shared by individuals such as Congressman Barney Frank, about the disregard for the rule of law in places like San Francisco and New Paltz, New York. Log Cabin was moved by the emotion of these ceremonies and grateful for the support of these inclusive public office holders. However, we feared the political effect that these actions would have on our greater struggle. We must accept that sometimes we cannot always do what feels good in the short term. Sometimes we have to do what is pragmatic and what will aid our battle over the long term. We shouldn't be afraid of a healthy debate inside or outside of the gay community over these critical issues.

While these days may seem overly challenging to some, we can find peace in realizing that history and decency are on our side. Despite November's setbacks, we are making incredible progress in the fight for equality and fairness. Exit polls show almost two-thirds of Americans support civil marriage equality or civil unions. Most Americans, especially young people, are moving in our direction. The signs of progress are clear; however we must be willing to accept a new strategy to achieve complete success. This new strategy doesn't mean our goals have changed or our commitment to fairness and equality has diminished. Our goals remain the same. Our commitment to success is even stronger. I am confident that we will win. The choices we make as a result of the election outcome, in the weeks, months, and years ahead will determine how soon our victory is achieved..