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Stop damning Republicans and start talking to them

For more progress on LGBT rights we must engage with GOP

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By DAVID LAMPO

This election was a watershed for gay rights with the successful passage of three state initiatives (in Maryland, Washington and Maine) to legalize same-sex marriage and the defeat of a constitutional amendment in Minnesota that would have inserted a prohibition on same-sex marriage into its constitution. The eight-year-long string of 31 defeats in state votes on gay marriage is finally over.

But as glorious as these victories are, the country remains deeply divided on gay rights. President Obama only narrowly won reelection after a bitter and divisive campaign. Although the Democrats retain a majority in the Senate, Republicans remain fully in control of the House and actually picked up a governorship, giving them a total of 30.

Consequently, one fact about the future of gay rights and marriage equality remains crystal clear: Full equality for gay and lesbian Americans will not come without the support of more elected Republicans, at both the state and federal levels. The premise that the support of just Democrats can bring us full equality is ludicrous, and any movement built on such a premise is destined to fail.

The challenges ahead are huge: Even after the Democratic sweep in 2008, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act failed to advance. The Defense of Marriage Act is still the law of the land. Only nine states and D.C. have marriage equality, and 31 states have constitutional amendments prohibiting gay marriage that will be difficult to undo. Most states do not have even civil unions, and adoption by gay couples is prohibited in some states. Further progress on gay rights will require a new strategy.

That strategy must begin with the acknowledgement that support for gay rights within the Republican Party rank and file is far greater than what most people believe. Recent polls, for example, show that:

• 66 percent of Republicans support employment non-discrimination legislation (Greenberg Quinlan poll).

• A majority of Republicans are satisfied with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (National Journal poll).

• 57 percent of Republicans support either same-sex marriage or civil unions (Fox News poll).

• Only 38 percent of Republicans support a federal marriage amendment (National Journal poll).

• 49 percent of young Republicans (18-29) support marriage equality (Public Religion Research Institute poll).

If gay rights supporters are interested in building a lasting and effective coalition to build on this year’s victories, it is time for them, especially their allies in the Democratic Party, to stop demonizing Republicans and start crafting a strategy and message that can help increase the support for gay rights among both rank and file Republicans and their leaders in Congress and the state legislatures. Republican attitudes are already changing very quickly.

Last year, for example, New York passed same-sex marriage only after the Republican-controlled state Senate allowed a vote on the measure: four Republicans then put it over the top. The overwhelmingly Republican state legislature in New Hampshire voted in February to keep that state’s marriage equality in the face of a rightwing campaign to repeal it. And when North Carolina added the anti-gay Amendment One to its constitution earlier this year, the state’s Tea Party Congresswoman Renee Elmers came out against it, as did David Blankenhorn, a popular evangelical leader who supported Proposition 8 in California but who now supports same-sex marriage rights.

It is time for gay rights leaders and supporters to embrace pro-gay Republicans and work with them to develop a long-term strategy that brings the message of freedom and social tolerance to every Republican leader and candidate and does not allow the religious right to frame these issues to their fellow Republicans through the lens of bigotry and intolerance. Only then can a strong, truly bipartisan movement for gay rights blossom.

David Lampo is author of “A Fundamental Freedom: Why Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians Should Support Gay Rights” (Rowman & Littlefield 2012).

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Norman Dostal

    November 15, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    no-republicans need to talk to democrats-they MUST drop the anti-woman and anti-gay agendas-or fade into oblivion-their choice.

  2. Im Just Sayin

    November 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    You know David, they should acknowledge and support gay rights, but they don’t and they won’t. Cue John Huntsman shaking his head and mouthing the words “don’t I know it.”

    The GOP will work hard creating a path to victory through engagement with women and hispanic voters over the next few years because they have far less of an “ick” factor for white males than gays or blacks. They don’t plan to give up on the demographic that buys their spiel, they only want to supplement it enough to win. The GOP path to victory is a very narrow road.

  3. David Lampo

    November 16, 2012 at 10:37 am

    That’s the kind of knee jerk attitude that will change no one’s mind and will hurt our efforts to gain full equality. Once again, we have to change more Republican minds to pass the good laws and repeal the bad ones. It’s that simple. Best for people like to you just get out of the way.

    • Houndentenor

      November 18, 2012 at 9:40 pm

      You act like none of us are talking to Republicans. We don’t all live in liberal places, you know. It goes in one ear and out the other. Or they make excuses for supporting vehemently anti-gay candidates but do it anyway. I’m out of ideas. Tell me what to say. It’s not like I haven’t tried.

  4. Im Just Sayin

    November 16, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Ah, the typical gay republican response straight from the Clarke Cooper playbook: “if you don’t agree with me, you must have a hearing problem.” You know Mr. Lampo, the issue here is not “republicans” it’s “REPUBLICANS” as in — those in leadership positions. Unlikely that Boehner is going to veer from the path he has gone down on DOMA. Unlikely that the Speaker is going to let a “T” inclusive ENDA even reach the floor for a vote so as to not expose the intollerance of House Republicans. He will however, work aggressively to ease tensions with women and hispanic voting blocks.

    Accordingly, I am going to go all in with the Dems and the Federal Judiciary as the most viable path to removing the remaining legal barriers to full equality. You Log Cabiners still pretending that Scott Brown and Susan Collins delivered your DADT victory and not the federal judiciary? As for crossing the ideological chasm, if I recall, LCR had a strange way of showing Rep. Patrick Murphy their appreciation for all his DADT support. Want to discuss the number of times LCR has endorsed republicans who didn’t support marriage equality? Can you say Patrick Murray? Talk about getting in the way.

    I stand by my views that all the recent big tent talk we hear from the GOP does not extend to gays and blacks. They aren’t interested in changing, they think they just need to repackage the message and get smarter about not looking ignorant and intolerant.

    • David Lampo

      November 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm

      Some of the big tent talk does include gays and some does not. Not sure what you point is, but not all Repblicans agree, just like not all Democrats agree. How odd that you say the legislative repeal of DADT didn’t mean anything. Tell that to every glbt group who called it a milestone. Also odd you chastise LCR for endorsing Reps who didn’t support marriage equality. Does that mean you never support Bill or Hillary or Barack in his first run? Or all the other Democrats who opposed it, like John Kerry and virtually all of the House and Senate Democratic leadership? You clearly have one standard for Dems and another for Reps.

      • Im Just Sayin

        November 21, 2012 at 11:12 am

        The answer to your question is simple and I think it is why LCR cannot escape the hypocrisy of their endorsement of Romney. Up until now, we did not have a pro-marriage candidate to stand with. So that position was not overarching, allowing the other issues that you still prefer to focus on flow to the forefront. We now have the option of electing pro-gay rights candidates over those that would hold us to second class status. For me the choice is clear when it is economics vs. equality.

  5. Houndentenor

    November 18, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    If all that is true, then why are all those things in the GOP platform? Why are there planks that only a minority of Republicans support? Something doesn’t add up here. Also, I talk to Republicans every day. I live in Texas now. It’s exhausting.

    • David Lampo

      November 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      They’re in there because it’s always the ideologues who control the party platforms, the ones for whom anti-gay rights is their cause. Gay rights is not a high priority for most voters, Democrat or Republican, so motivating enough Republicans to fight to change the platform will be a challenge, but that’s what LCR and other pro-gay rights Republicans are trying to do. I think it will happen some day. Keep talking to those Republicans in Texas.

  6. Anonymous

    November 19, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    As there are still a small minority of politicians that remain racist, there will always be those that likewise, will always remain homophobic. We have no control over these. But what we do have control over is making efforts to bridge the gap to those GOP's that have potential for change. Change is the key to forward progression. As for the opinionator of this column and in light of this fact, he is correct.

  7. James Hawk Crutchfield

    November 21, 2012 at 7:50 am

    The best way to get rid of an enemy is to make that enemy your friend and in the case of Republicans you can not do that by pretending they are all alike. More and more of them are seeing the writing on the wall and know that the future is not their friend unless they change. Too many people act like all Democrats have always been our freind and supporters but it started with only a few willing to work with us and the same is true today with Republicans.

  8. James Hawk Crutchfield

    November 21, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Most importantly we should not let partisan Democrats tell us why we should not be reaching out as they are speaking from their political agenda. This is an issue where we needed to approach it from a gay aspect rather than a Democratic aspect.

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Opinions

Opinion | Most people are transphobic

Nearly half of Americans oppose inclusive military service

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Most people are transphobic.

Start with the fact that in 2020, 45 trans people were killed in the United States, most of them Black trans women. Worldwide, that number jumped to above 350 people. 

Seventy percent of Republican parents say they’d be unhappy if their child’s spouse identified as transgender. That’s a mild statistic, so let’s jump to the fact that at least 28 Republican state legislatures pushed bills this year that would ban trans athletes from competing in high school sports, and ban trans children from receiving medical care.

But Republicans are the obvious culprits in American society’s hatred toward trans people. Let’s turn to the less obvious culprits. 

If you think Democrats were angels, think again. About 30 percent of parents who identify as Democrats state they would be unhappy if their child’s spouse married a trans person. That poll was conducted by PRRI-Atlantic in February 2019, not 10 years ago, or five years ago, but just two years ago. 

Migrate to Hillary Clinton’s offhanded remarks to Britain’s The Sunday Times that for trans people, “it’s going to take a lot more time and effort to understand what it means to be defining yourself differently.”

Move on to corporate CEOs, mainly white guys with a lot of ambition and agendas to push. Elon Musk tweeted “pronouns suck.” Even if there was not that much thought behind the tweet (at best), Musk still alienated all of the trans employees who actually work at Tesla or SpaceX. 

And, of course, how could I write a piece about transphobia without mentioning JK Rowling, who famously stuck up for Donald Trump’s bigoted policies tweet after tweet, only to essentially state that trans women are not real women, and outline “five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism.”

Take a look at corporate America: big companies, with billions in revenue and company outings to Europe, love to post rainbow flags come June, but seemingly would never hire a trans woman in 1,000 years. If that trans woman doesn’t pass well, you can forget about her job prospects at a Fortune 500 company. 

Certain statistics that are used to signal growing support for trans people, are actually quite dismal. Some like to tout the fact that 63 percent of the United States population wants trans people to serve in the military, as a positive statistic On the flip side, this still means that almost 4 out of 10 Americans don’t want trans people to serve in the armed forces, just because of their gender orientation. 

That’s dangerously close to half of the American population that would deny a well meaning soldier from potentially sacrificing their life to serve this country. Why would you ever not want someone to give their life for your homeland when you wouldn’t give your life to begin with? 

But what is most shocking, is the seamlessness in which almost half of all Americans would be uncomfortable with their own child being trans. According to PRRI, around 48 percent of Americans would be “uncomfortable” with their own child being trans. In the same poll, only 60 percent of Democrats would be “somewhat or very comfortable” with their child being trans. This means that 40 percent of polled Democrats would be overtly uncomfortable with their own child living their truth. 

Then take a step back, and evaluate all of the day-to-day, quotidian occurrences that highlight how weird and transphobic the public is. I’m talking about small gestures, like when your boss would rather have you not use pronouns in email correspondence to clients. Or when That Guy You Went To High School With just loves tearing Caitlyn Jenner apart, uncontrollably, ferociously. 

Or when your favorite buddy just loves Joe Rogan, who happens to go on regular tirades against trans athletes in his podcast. Or when you pray to God that a consulting firm you’re applying to actually doesn’t learn you are trans, so you can get the job. Or when you can’t find a priest for your Indian wedding. 

I repeat: most people are transphobic. 

Isaac Amend (he/him/his) is a trans man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Isaac is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Find him on Instagram @isaacamend.

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Opinion | Anti-vaxxers screw themselves and us

Get over yourselves and take the damn vaccine!

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Some say that if the current Republican Party and today’s Fox News were around when vaccinations for smallpox and polio were developed, we would still be fighting those diseases.  There have always been anti-vaxxers and you can read about them in The American Historian.  The column suggests vaccine resistance over the years was rooted in social movements more than anti-vaccine movements. Yet government took control; an example being demanding all children get vaccinated in order to attend school. 

President Biden is finally moving in that direction, announcing a vaccine mandate for federal workers. The Washington Post in a column by Eli Rosenberg reported some unions object and want to bargain over it and one, The Federal Law Enforcement Association, attacked the mandate saying, “requiring vaccinations represents an infringement on ‘civil rights.’” 

Not taking the vaccine represents an infringement on my right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit happiness.’ Your members not taking the vaccine puts my life and other lives in danger. Get over yourselves and take the damn vaccine!

Proclaiming your ‘individuality’ is fine if it doesn’t threaten the lives of everyone around you. Anyone with COVID impacts everyone in the community. A person who gets ill when they could have prevented that with a safe, free vaccination, then passes it on to others, must be held responsible. 

Government should do more and follow our European allies and develop a national vaccine passport so responsible people can easily prove they have been vaccinated. In this way when businesses mandate vaccinations for their employees, and they are, people will have an easy way to prove their compliance. California and New York have begun to demand this of their employees. Bars and restaurants in San Francisco and some LGBTQ bars in D.C. now ask for proof of vaccination to enter. The same should happen everywhere and include sports venues, concert venues, airlines, and cruise ships. All should require proof of vaccination for entrance. If that doesn’t happen we will find ourselves back to wearing masks and more. If you choose not to be vaccinated, then stay home. 

All healthcare facilities — doctors’ offices, urgent care facilities, and hospitals — are beginning to  demand employees be vaccinated. No one should have to be seen by a provider who could have COVID. Healthcare costs should not go up because some people think they have the right to not take a fully tested vaccine to prevent their own and other people’s illness. 

It’s time to throw out politicians like Ron DeSantis, the incredibly stupid governor of Florida, who believes it’s appropriate to force cruise ships to accept unvaccinated passengers. 

Countries around the world are now requiring visitors from the United States to show proof of vaccination to enter. This supports the need for President Biden to act now and have the government develop a national vaccine document. It’s not about politics, it’s not a Democratic or Republican thing; it is about protecting people’s health.

If you continue to believe the virus is a ‘hoax’ or want to proclaim your individuality or ‘freedom,’ then you are a moron. Stay home and only associate with others who are as dumb as you are. If you get sick or die from what you believe is a ‘hoax’ don’t expect others to pay for your healthcare or show compassion. What the rest of us ask of you is simple: Don’t put our lives in danger because of your stupidity. 

Recently there has been a slight change in tone from Fox News personalities like Sean Hannity and Republican members of Congress like anti-LGBTQ Steve Scalise (R-La.) and ‘Moscow’ Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who are now suggesting vaccination. Apparently they woke up and realized it’s their own viewers and voters getting sick and dying after listening to months of their lies and stupidity. 

I am aware there are those who cannot yet get the vaccine — children under 12, those with certain health conditions, and those in poor countries who don’t have access to it. We must all do everything we can to make it available around the world for those who can take it. 

It is past time to tell all those who would put the rest of us at risk for serious illness and even death we will no longer cater to their shallowness. We will not be held hostage to a disease because they are either dumb, inconsiderate, or worse.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Opinion | Lovitz for Pennsylvania state representative

Accomplished gay candidate is longtime equality advocate

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Jonathan Lovitz, gay news, Washington Blade
Jonathan Lovitz (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

It’s an embarrassment of riches for residents of center city Philadelphia, which includes the “gayborhood,” as they prepare to vote for their next state representative. 

The post has been held by Rep. Brian Sims, who’s gay, since 2013. Sims is giving up the seat to run for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor. More on that later.

Two out LGBTQ candidates are among those competing in the 182nd District’s Democratic primary to replace Sims — Jonathan Lovitz and Deja Alvarez. Lovitz, who’s gay, has served as senior vice president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce for five years. If elected, it would be the first time a seat held by an LGBTQ state representative transitioned to another LGBTQ official and he would be the first LGBTQ Jewish elected official in Pennsylvania.

Alvarez, who’s transgender, is director of community engagement at World Healthcare Infrastructures and serves as chair of the Philadelphia Police LGBT Liaison Committee. She would become the first out trans person to serve in the Pennsylvania Legislature if elected.

Both are excellent candidates who would make their own bit of history if elected, but Lovitz stands out as the strongest choice to replace Sims in the legislature, a change that local residents desperately need.

To paraphrase Oprah in her famous endorsement of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton: Just because I am for Lovitz, doesn’t mean I am against Alvarez. I am acquainted with Lovitz and know him to be an ethical, smart, hard-working professional who is deeply dedicated to his work and to the residents of Philadelphia. He would make a fearless and tireless advocate for Philly and for equality issues in Harrisburg.

At NGLCC, Lovitz has helped write and pass more than 25 state and local laws, including in Pennsylvania, extending economic opportunity to LGBTQ-owned businesses around the country. As the country struggles to emerge from pandemic restrictions, we need more legislators at all levels of government who understand the importance of small business. Lovitz has the experience in business and in his work on equality issues to deliver tangible results for Philadelphia. 

Contrast his record with that of Sims and it’s a no-brainer that the people of the 182nd District have nowhere to go but up. Sims has sponsored or introduced scores of bills in the past year, but only one has been enacted, according to BillTrack50. Sims has been criticized in the district for his endless media tour and social media self-promotion. He is more interested in thirst-trap selfies than in constituent service. He lacks the professionalism and temperament for elected office, favoring profane outbursts and juvenile insults over diplomatic compromise and legislative achievement. As Christopher Pinto wrote in the Philadelphia Gay News, “Almost a decade in the State House, and he has no legislative victories that he can claim as his own. He spent more time out of the district than inside it, flying from one speaking engagement to the next, while abusing his state issued travel budget and being shrouded in a lengthy ethics investigation.”

Lovitz will not succumb to such vanities. He is a grounded professional who understands how to craft legislation and, more importantly, how to get it passed. He won’t alienate colleagues as Sims has done. 

On equality issues, Lovitz has worked on behalf of marginalized communities at NGLCC and last year he organized PhillyVoting.org, which works to boost turnout among Black and LGBTQ voters. 

“The ongoing violence against our communities, especially against our trans siblings, is a stunning reminder that our work together continues,” Lovitz wrote in an op-ed for the Philadelphia Gay News. “Once again the movement for long-overdue social change in America is being led by communities of color, especially right here in Philly,” he wrote. “And the LGBTQ community must continue to stand in solidarity with them.”

Lovitz understands the moment. He has a passion for business and for helping entrepreneurs to succeed, something cities desperately need after more than 200,000 small businesses have shuttered due to COVID, according to the Wall Street Journal; more than 1,000 Philly businesses closed in just the first five months of the pandemic, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Voters, donors, and our national advocacy organizations should support his bold campaign and help retain an out LGBTQ voice in Harrisburg while improving constituent service for residents of the district. 

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

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