October 27, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
Gay U.S. House members: ‘Elections Matter’

The three openly gay members of Congress on Wednesday made public a letter emphasizing that “elections matter” as they urged LGBT people to go the polls.

In the letter, Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) acknowledge the many LGBT people are frustrated with the lack of progress in Congress, but maintain that “an apathetic stance during such a critical time is fruitless.”

“We need not look too far into the past to see how inaction and complacency truly pays us back,” the letter states. ”Under Republican rule, we not only suffered from a lack of victories, but truly devastating setbacks.”

The letter recalls the anti-gay initiatives of the Republican Congress under former President George W. Bush, such as an attempt to make an ban on same-sex marriage part of the U.S. Constitution.

Additionally, the letter touts accomplishments that took place during the 111th Congress, such as the passage of hate crimes legislation and President Obama’s order mandating hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples.

The lawmaker ask LGBT voters to “scrutinize and measure candidates running” on their local ballots to evaluate who would support issues important to the LGBT community next year.

“Elections matter,” the lawmakers write. ”They matter to our country and to our community. We must go out and vote this November to ensure the forward momentum we have struggled for continues for our benefit and for that of future generations of LGBT individuals.”

Political pundits are expecting that Democrats will sustain heavy losses on Election Day. Republicans are expected to gain control of the U.S. House and take several seats in the U.S. Senate.

The entire letter follows:

An open letter to the LGBT Community

Dear Friends,

Elections matter.

Yes, we’ve all heard that simple phrase before – but so often we forget it. And as we stand on the doorstep of an election that will again decide the course of our government, our community is locked into an energetic and serious debate about how to engage, or whether to even engage at all in the midterm elections this November.

Why? Our community is frustrated with the pace of change. And as three LGBT Members of Congress, we share your frustration.  Despite this, an apathetic stance during such a critical time is fruitless.

We need not look too far into the past to see how inaction and
complacency truly pays us back.  Under Republican rule, we not only suffered from a lack of victories, but truly devastating setbacks. We all remember President Bush and the Republican Congress pushing for a Federal Marriage Amendment for political purposes and using our community as a wedge to advocate for state-wide marriage amendments across the nation. Republicans make no secret of their opposition to seemingly nonpartisan issues such as adoption by gay & lesbian couples despite the thousands of children in need of homes. And we all remember federal agencies being told to ignore any grant request that said gay or LGBT, including grants for HIV/AIDS funding.

There has, indeed, been progress under the Obama Administration. In the 111th Congress, we passed the Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd Jr. Federal Hate Crimes Act, admittedly no small feat, while the State Department adopted inclusive passport procedures recognizing and accommodating our transgender brothers and sisters. Our voice was further strengthened when we achieved medical decision parity in America’s hospitals and strengthened polices that prevented discrimination against housing applicants based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Is it enough? No. The fight for equality is far from over. We face obstruction at every turn and it is incumbent upon us  to push harder to ensure swift action on the issues that affect us most.

Next month, the courageous and steadfast activism of the past year must be met by a vote cast on November 2nd. We ask that you look at your local ballot and scrutinize and measure candidates running for each seat. Which candidates do you see supporting issues that affect our community, which will champion our causes? Whether it is for employment non-discrimination, the repeal of DOMA or Federal Partnership benefits? Which candidates even believe LGBT issues merit space on their campaign website?

Elections matter. They matter to our country and to our community. We must go out and vote this November to ensure the forward momentum we have struggled for continues for our benefit and for that of future generations of LGBT individuals.

Sincerely,

Representatives:
Barney Frank
Tammy Baldwin
Jared Polis

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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