February 15, 2010 | by Curtis Dorgan
Lincoln’s legacy for LGBT civil rights

Sparked by a debate with a Log Cabin Republican friend of mine, I began reviewing information surrounding the Civil Rights movement in the United States.

It’s part of our history that stands very relevant to every member of the LGBT community. I was struck by the overwhelming realization that the Democratic Party is today what it is thanks largely to the efforts of moderate and liberal Democrats and the “Lincoln Republicans.” I know that before I even make these statements there are Republicans out there ready to pounce on the very thought that they are any different than they were during the 1960s. But, from what I see, it is the truth.

In 1960, when the Civil Rights Act of 1960 was put on the floor, 18 Southern Democrats tried hard to keep it from coming to a vote. After the longest filibuster in history, it finally passed. Then when President Kennedy put forth Civil Rights legislation in 1963, it was not received well by Southern Democrats and by conservative Republicans. After Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson pushed the major bill through in 1964, bolstered by high levels of public support; we began to see those very conservative Southern Democrats migrate to the Republican party. As the Republican Party became more conservative, those who once would have been “Lincoln Republicans” were now more aligned with the ideals of the more socially conscious and liberal (by comparison) Democratic Party.

For me, this is when we began to truly see the Democratic and Republican parties we know today. Of course, we have seen minor fluctuations within each party to try to conform to cultural changes. But Democrats stand as the more liberal and Republicans the most conservative. So as the LGBT community today looks out to the political battlefield hoping for a champion to help us win our equality, we typically find that our greatest allies are within the Democratic Party.

Are we misguided for putting our faith in a small group of people? That is open for debate. But as history has shown us, nothing happens without the outcry of public support. Lincoln knew that he would never win over everyone when it came to acknowledging the rights of the slaves, but he was willing to take our country to war to secure those liberties. His legacy lives on currently in the Democratic Party. Although there are Republicans who will quietly support LGBT rights, it’s definitely not a platform item that they hold up to the spotlight.

Our mission as the LGBT community is to raise the level of public outcry that will enable bipartisan support of LGBT equality. President Obama and members of Congress will be able to act only when they have confidence in overall public support. We as the LGBT community shouldn’t be standing around and waiting for someone to just make it happen. We all need to be Martin Luther King Jr. to our communities. We need to work together as Democrats, Log Cabin Republicans, Republicans, Independents or whatever party to which you feel allied. We need to be active in building visible support for LGBT equality. It’s one thing to have someone tell you they support it; it’s another to have them contact their congressman or stand up for LGBT rights at your work place, group or organization.

Lincoln’s legacy lives on currently with the Democratic Party. In many ways, it is our civil war to win equality. Support those who support you with their words and actions. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act are still very real. What have you done to help get them repealed? Take time to take action. Contact your congressman and tell him that the time for LGBT equality is now and that they have your support!

1 Comment
  • There is one shining exception to the homophobia of the GOP: Florida congresswoman Ileana Ross-Lehtinen. She is unabashedly for repeal of DADT. And I think her position on other issues is eqully positive.

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