News

Activists debate marriage, Prop 8 fallout in New York

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Tuesday Nov 25, 2008

With anger over Proposition 8's passage still fresh, a leading gay activist predicted marriage for same-sex couples, civil unions and other forms of relationship recognition will be a reality across New England and in New Jersey, New York and more than 20 other states in five years.

Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, made the prediction at a forum co-sponsored by the HRC and Marriage Equality New York at the LGBT Community Center in lower Manhattan on Nov. 24. Rouse, the former head of MassEquality, stressed the movement's strategy remains largely focused at the state level.

"We're moving forward state by state," he said.

The HRC continues to push for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and the extension of benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. President-elect Barack Obama supports both measures, but Rouse tried to manage expectations of the incoming administration and Congress.

"The federal government is very, very slow to act," he said. "It's going to take some time."

While the aftermath of Prop 8 continues to dominate the movement, New Jersey and New York remain poised to become the next marriage battleground states.

Democrats gained control of the New York State Senate on Election Day. The Assembly passed a marriage bill in June 2007. And Gov. David Paterson remains a steadfast supporter of nuptials for gays and lesbians.

"It was good for New York on election night," Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle said.

State Sen. Malcolm Smith [D-Queens], who is widely expected to become the next Senate Majority Leader, also supports marriage for same-sex couples, but state Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., [D-Bronx] and two fellow Democrats local media has dubbed "the Gang of Three" have threatened to oppose his probable election based, in part, on his support of gay and lesbian nuptials. Openly gay state Sen. Tom Duane [D-Manhattan] downplayed this political posturing.

"We’re moving forward state by state."

"I'm not worried about the "Gang of Three,"" he said. "New York is blue, blue, blue."

It appears Diaz may back down from his threat to oppose Smith's election, but some in the audience remain angry at what they described as an ineffective campaign against Prop 8. Queens activist Jon Winkleman pointed to a lack of gays and lesbians in anti-Prop 8 ads and an overall "failed strategy from the 1970s" as he blasted the HRC for the role he contends the lobbying group played.

"I want an organization to learn by its mistakes," he opined.

Rouse appeared to subtly shift blame onto No on 8 organizers.

"We are also very upset with what happened with the campaign," he said.

Activist Jeff Campagna, who organized more than 3,000 people to call Diaz's office and urge him to back Smith, said he only realized the campaign was in trouble less than six weeks before Election Day after a conversation with a leading national gay activist. Rouse further described "knock out, drag out fights behind closed doors" with No on 8 leaders, but he stressed the HRC allowed them to take the lead.

"We have to respect the leaders of the campaign," he said. "We can't break ranks even if we want to."

New York activist Ann Northrop was quick to applaud Rouse's work within the movement-even as she blasted the HRC for supporting a non-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and other controversial positions. She further praised those who took part in Join the Impact protests against Prop 8 across the country. Northrop cautioned, however, against additional forums.

"We have to continue the call to street action, and this is not it," she said.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.


Comments

  • , 2008-11-25 13:10:48

    Yes, well where were all of these New England "Activists" when it came to supporting transgender rights when that legislation came around (which would have increased leverage for this Prop. 8 defeat by the way). No, these folks were too busy greasing palms with corporate America at the time and now when there is a crisis which mainly affects THEM, everyone is organizing national protests and such claiming how "United" we are. Time for NEW leadership at both HRC and in the national "activist" circles, people who will fight for true inclusiveness rather than "Us gays and lesbians will get ours, but the rest of you all..........well, good luck boys and girls".


  • , 2008-11-26 12:51:22

    This simply isn’t a leadership issue. HRC, Pride Agenda, Marriage Equality NY other major organizations are run by exceptionally brilliant men and women who are giving their lives for Equality. What is needed is more LGB and T people to get off their rears and participate in the process. And that doesn’t mean staning on the sidelines, or in the front row, as a critic. For some people that looks like taking to the streets. For others that means raising money. And for others that means organizing and still others are needed to visit our electeds to help shift perceptions. Our "community" is one made up of very different people with even more varied needs. If you think Gays and Lesbians really have a "we’ll get ours" mentality then you have clearly not participated in this process. There is not one gay or lesbian person I know who honestly wants anyone to be left out. And, if you have been participating in this process you will understand that full Equality for the entire community will indeed take time and it will not come in one fell swoop. What is certain is that if you and everyone else who is wasting time railing against HRC or any other organization spent more time contributing to the cause and enrolling others around you to contribute (time, ideas, action or money) then we will all get the finish line faster. As a Hispanic gay man I am committed to seeing LGBT Equality in this country in my lifetime. That means I care about ALL of our community even though I may never meet you personally. And I am taking action to make that happen. What are you committed to? And what actions will you continue to take until you get it? The "us and them" position needs to stop and we all need get to work. We can play victims or we can be leaders. Which are you?


  • , 2008-11-26 13:38:23

    This simply isn’t a leadership issue. HRC, Pride Agenda, Marriage Equality NY other major organizations are run by exceptionally brilliant men and women who are giving their lives for Equality. What is needed is more LGB and T people to get off their rears and participate in the process. And that doesn’t mean staning on the sidelines, or in the front row, as a critic. For some people that looks like taking to the streets. For others that means raising money. And for others that means organizing and still others are needed to visit our electeds to help shift perceptions. Our "community" is one made up of very different people with even more varied needs. If you think Gays and Lesbians really have a "we’ll get ours" mentality then you have clearly not participated in this process. There is not one gay or lesbian person I know who honestly wants anyone to be left out. And, if you have been participating in this process you will understand that full Equality for the entire community will indeed take time and it will not come in one fell swoop. What is certain is that if you and everyone else who is wasting time railing against HRC or any other organization spent more time contributing to the cause and enrolling others around you to contribute (time, ideas, action or money) then we will all get the finish line faster. As a Hispanic gay man I am committed to seeing LGBT Equality in this country in my lifetime. That means I care about ALL of our community even though I may never meet you personally. And I am taking action to make that happen. What are you committed to? And what actions will you continue to take until you get it? The "us and them" position needs to stop and we all need get to work. We can play victims or we can be leaders. Which are you?


  • , 2008-11-26 18:14:15

    I’m curious as to what "actions" you are currently taking and with what organizations you are involved concerning this effort. Can you please be more specific ??? In regards to your statement of "What is needed is more LGB and T people to get off their rears and participate in the process. And that doesn’t mean staning on the sidelines, or in the front row, as a critic." Well, let’s talk about the opportunity to get involved in community organizations shall we ??? I am not sure if you are aware, but many GLBT people do "get off their rears" and want to become involved. Yet, we never seem to hear about those people who are attacked, kicked out or ganged up on in blogs frequented by these "brilliant" men and women just for voicing an opinion that may be different from theirs. And how about those who want to volunteer for non-profits and have to go through the process of having clandestine non-profit protectionists check you out to make sure your opinion and ideology falls in line with their corporate and political agendas. And finally there are those people who are excluded from becoming involved because they had problems with corporations who had discriminated against them. Oops, sorry forgot to mention that these corporations are corporate "sponsors" to the very non-profit organizations that excluded them. So sir, its easy to say "get off your rear" (which after all, that is the standard cop out phrase used by corporate professionals to tell someone that its all their fault and the activist / corporate/ non-profits can do no wrong), I suggest you try stepping out of the "brilliant people" clique and speak with disenfranchised people in our community, the very people who truly want to become involved, but are excluded from doing so by the predominantly "GL" corporate boys and girls only club. Thank you for your time..........


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