An Open Letter to Elizabeth Birch

Executive Director, Human Rights Campaign

August 15, 2000 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

Dear Elizabeth:

On behalf of Log Cabin Republicans, I want to congratulate you for being selected to speak tonight at the Democratic National Convention. You and your organization have worked long and hard within the Democratic Party in order to earn this historic opportunity, and it is an important accomplishment.

You have said time and again that you lead a bi-partisan organization that will hold both parties equally accountable on the issues you care about. As a speaker tonight, you will certainly be under pressure to follow a script and toe the Democratic Party line. I also know that HRC has committed publicly to installing a Democratic majority in Congress in November. But you are the first speaker at a political convention chosen to speak solely because you are a lesbian activist, and historic opportunities like this don't come often. As you admonished Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona, the first openly gay Congressman to address a GOP convention, for giving a speech on the subject of "trade and trade alone," you should rise to your own challenge tonight.

You came to Philadelphia earlier this month to criticize Governor George W. Bush for his support of the Clinton-Gore "don't ask, don't tell" military policy on gays, which you seek to overturn. Tonight, stand up to your party – the party which enacted that policy in 1993 and defended it to the teeth in the courts ever since. We're always hearing that the policy will be overturned in the next administration, but they control the White House right now, and could overturn the policy tonight with the stroke of a pen. Be consistent – challenge them to do it.

You've said Governor Bush's policies on employment discrimination were "very muddled." Al Gore may support anti-discrimination policies and legislation with rhetoric, but his administration has actively fired more federal employees for their sexual orientation – through the military policy – than any other administration in the history of this country. Be true to your own stated principles. Tonight, hold Al Gore responsible.

You have called the Defense of Marriage Act "an attack on gay and lesbian families." But it was the Clinton-Gore administration that signed it into law in 1996, the Clinton-Gore campaign that ran ads on Christian radio stations boasting about it, and the Clinton-Gore White House that defends its constitutionality to this day. Here is your chance to insist that Al Gore publicly reverse his support of DOMA, too.

You have made gay parenting a major issue for your organization in this campaign. But as you well know the Democratic-controlled state legislature of Mississippi this year passed a bill banning gay parenting in that state, and the Democratic Governor quickly signed it into law. Stick up for your issues at the Democratic convention like you do against Republicans – call on Al Gore to condemn opposition to gay parenting in the Democratic Party.

You said Governor Bush has a "hear no evil, see no evil" policy of "indifference" in his opposition to needle exchange programs. Yet Bill Clinton and Al Gore have blocked federal funding of these programs you so ardently support. Be true to your own criticism – now is the moment to also publicly challenge Al Gore on this top campaign issue of HRC's.

Over the years, HRC has routinely opted for attacking Republicans rather than reaching out to them. You joined in the Democratic attack last month on Dick Cheney's decades-old voting record in Congress. In 1994, HRC labeled GOP Senate candidates Olympia Snowe of Maine and Gordon Smith of Oregon "Jesse Helms clones," while gay Republicans actively supported their elections, and as Senators both have been two of our community's strongest supporters.

But when he was a Senator, Al Gore voted repeatedly with Jesse Helms. Gore voted for a Helms provision that forbade legal protection of gay people, and two Helms amendments that used HIV tests to discriminate against immigrants and people seeking health insurance. Gore also supported a Helms amendment that barred anti-discrimination protection in housing for transgendered individuals. You accused Governor Bush of "wanting to criminalize the private lives of gay people," and yet Al Gore voted with Jesse Helms in the Senate to restore the anti-gay sodomy law in the District of Columbia after the local city council tried to repeal it. So stand by your principles tonight – demand answers from Al Gore. If he has changed his positions, let him be an example of how a candidate can change if people engage him.

Your organization has been a staunch supporter of the right of gays to serve in the Boy Scouts of America. You've also stated that a "fundamental issue" in judging presidential candidates will be who they will appoint to the Supreme Court. But this summer, Al Gore refused to take a stand on the Boy Scouts case before the Supreme Court, saying he hadn't read the decision. And he voted as a Senator to prohibit gay men from serving in the Big Brother program. If this is a fundamental issue for HRC, demand answers from Al Gore tonight.

Elizabeth, as we both know well, ignorance and bigotry towards gay people is not a partisan issue. Log Cabin has been fighting against it inside the Republican Party and recently we have begun to turn the tide. Your organization has given unprecedented financial and public support to Al Gore, including when he needed it the most against Bill Bradley in the Democratic primaries, and to the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic parties across the nation. You have a greater investment in the Democratic Party than any other gay organization in existence, and so you have more ground than any other gay American to hold them accountable tonight. In Philadelphia, you challenged all gay Republicans to stand up to the anti-gay elements of our party. Tonight, we extend the same challenge to you.

Best of luck with your speech tonight.


Rich Tafel
Executive Director, Log Cabin Republicans