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Don’t look left during Pride, it’ll ruin the celebration

Anti-business radicals whine about corporate sponsors and participants

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left, gay news, Washington Blade
left, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

At least two things are almost certain to occur in the run-up to D.C.’s 40th annual LGBT Capital Pride celebration this weekend. You’re going to see one-too-many rainbow feather boas and the predictable dissident lament about how the whole gay rights thing has turned out will rear its head as if set on a timer.

The latter has already occurred.

Washington City Paper arts editor Christina Cauterucci last week penned a feature piece in the weekly publication’s annual Gay Issue harshly criticizing the “commercialization” of the local Pride celebration, titled “Swallow Your Pride.” If you can wade through the proffered “queer”-obsessed, lingo-laden and polemical condemnation of both the Saturday evening parade and Sunday daylong festival you will also find my voice offering more history and less histrionics. Be forewarned, however, that Cauterucci’s obsession with radical sloganeering and extremist terminology may require the assistance of an open browser to define trendy terms like “cismen” for the uninitiated.

On the any-moment verge of what is widely anticipated to be a Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, some still whine that the astonishingly accelerated advancement of civil equality for lesbians and gays hasn’t included our rejection of mainstream culture and the demise of capitalism.

This has been happening for the 20 years since the then-named “Lesbian and Gay Freedom Festival” first launched as a re-imagined high-profile downtown event on America’s Main Street in 1995.

I should know. I produced it.

I can attest to one simple reality as a result of that experience: change proves difficult, even for us. That’s something that continues to this day and is reflected in the anxiety-ridden adjustment for some to acceptance and assimilation. Despite these being achievements of local LGBT leadership and rank-and-file residents by both political and cultural measure.

D.C. is a poor choice of hometown to languish in disgruntlement about threading into the fabric of local life. The ethos of the city is accomplishment, not angst. As Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance president Richard Rosendall is fond of remarking, gay people in the District “like to get things done.” The resulting advancements in equality are the envy of any locale nationwide.

The radical-left disaffected and disappointed might be happier living amongst the brutal, bruising and bitter battles notably associated with the infamous internecine strife of places like San Francisco. Perhaps better to find solace on a goat farm in New England – or even a planet like Pluto, given that the chronic complaining sounds so strange.

The central premise of Cauterucci’s essay is that the Capital Pride committee should reject support from the business sector as a poisoning influence, a feeding from the trough of racism, misogyny and all else evil. She prefers something “rooted in the reclamation of historical oppression.” She also fails to mention that her own employer, the City Paper, has been a prominent sponsor of Capital Pride as recently as last year.

Ironically, Cauterucci touts as idealized model the alternative “Dyke March” that “eventually sputtered out” sometime in the last decade. She fondly recalls a speaker at the event imploring attendees “to wage the broadest, most diverse struggle against capitalism.” Attempts to revive the event this year didn’t pan out, but it might be that the coordinator will again bring a sign to the parade reading, as Cauterucci reports, “Happy Pride, Fuck Corporate Sponsorship.”

I am quoted offering the observation that “the biggest ally to the LGBT community at this point in its history is the business community, and they’re driving our progress. They’ve demonstrated that they want to be part of our community and they want our business. We should happily be willing to share the cost of producing our events with them.”

Ignoring LGBT distinction as a disproportionate demographic of entrepreneurs and both business creators and leadership is also to deny part of our own heritage.

My advice this weekend: Don’t look left during Pride, it’ll ruin the celebration.

left, gay news, Washington Blade

2004 Dyke March (Washington Blade file photo)

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at [email protected].

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30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Greg

    June 10, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Was Bank of America an ally when it was foreclosing on the homes of poor LGBT people?

    • uhhuhh

      June 10, 2015 at 4:46 pm

      If it foreclosed on them because they were LGBT, please post the proof, and I’ll be happy to join an LGBT protest against B of A.

      If the foreclosures weren’t because they were LGBT, then it isn’t an LGBT issue, and you’re just trying to arrogantly commandeer the parade and the community for your personal cause.

      • Take Back Pride

        June 10, 2015 at 5:38 pm

        When a far greater percentage of LGBT families live below the poverty line than non-LGBT families, you can bet it’s an LGBT issue. Get your head out of your ass.

        • uhhuhh

          June 10, 2015 at 6:37 pm

          No, ass, it isn’t. We grown-ups know the difference between correlation and causation. Ignoring it is a cutesy kind of “argument” that far-left ideologues trot out in a highly selective manner in a pathetic effort to force your personally preferred, non-LGBT, left-wing causes into the LGBT movement. Being LGBT also correlates with having a tough time asserting guns rights, so I look forward to you sanctimoniously screeching for gun rights and personally attacking every gun-control gay. Indeed, it is the same kind of hack “argument” that Netanyahu collaborators use to demand that we all take up the cause of oppressing Palestinians, so I also look forward to you sanctimoniously screeching at Palestinian-supporting gays. OMG you left-wing nuts are as stupid as you are arrogant. Get your far-left, non-LGBT pet issues out of the LGBT movement.

          P.S. Thank you for conceding what I already knew, that none of you mouthy asses even has a theory that B of A was targeting LGBT homeowners for disclosures based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

        • BruceMajors4DC

          June 12, 2015 at 12:11 pm

          Actually I’ll bet a slightly higher percentage of urban loan officers are gay than is the population at large, if we go by advertising.

        • Shelter Somerset

          June 13, 2015 at 10:27 am

          Considering what the Democrats did to the black middle class, we just might be next.

  2. panda_mar

    June 10, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    This is about as basic-gay as it gets. Come to terms with you status as a privileged white cis man first before you go about lecturing others how to celebrate pride… which by the way has a pretty radical heritage. Look it up!

    • bytebear

      June 12, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      Best to come to terms with the fact that no matter the race, you still are the 1% of wealth, opportunity, freedom and privilege. Go to Russia, Iran or Sudan to see how good we have it both as Americans and gay folks. Time to stop crying about the white cis man.

    • Shelter Somerset

      June 13, 2015 at 10:26 am

      Keep fighting those windmills!

  3. David Salisbury

    June 10, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    This
    piece is so short-sighted, it should be renamed “Take the beads and be
    quiet, whipper snappers! Oh and get off my company’s lawn!”

    Does the author realize that the first gay pride was a riot against an
    oppressive establishment? I get that not everyone is called to be a
    radical activist, but please do not tell others that we shouldn’t be
    celebrating pride as a method for advocacy and change. We’re the ones
    who have been creating change from the start. Radicals threw the bricks
    at Stonewall. I’m glad that corp America is coming on board with
    equality but they’re new to this and the focus should remain on the
    people and our struggle. My rights were hard-fought and won by hard
    working activists, not a bank or a restaurant.

    • uhhuhh

      June 10, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      Your rights were won by a great many people from activists in the streets to lawyers in court to lobbyists in legislatures to insiders raising massive funds, plenty through corporate channels.

    • BruceMajors4DC

      June 12, 2015 at 12:09 pm

      Actually the Fortune 500 were implementing anti-discrimination policies in their HR departments way before Democrats (or Republicans) started evolving to tap the gayTM. And a number of corporations have gay CEOs. Haven’t seen a gay president, Vice President or out gay party chairman or director (Mehlman wasn’t out when he chaired the GOP).

      • Shelter Somerset

        June 13, 2015 at 10:23 am

        Government has always been the “Johnny come lately” in terms of opening doors to new ideas. Yes, companies embrace new ideas and trends for profit, but the marketplace is usually a fare and impartial place. Nevertheless, the Left likes to credit the government with spearheading change. Even smoking bans came about from one establishment to the other because the marketplace demanded it, virtually making the idea of state-wide bans redundant. But that didn’t stop the legislatures from slamming down their iron fists. Why do some people need the government’s stamp of approval to feel whole? I find it sad.

      • Kurt 20008

        June 16, 2017 at 1:24 pm

        None of the Fortune 500 issued anything but non-binding, non-enforceable statements of their intent not to discriminate. The first job protections for LGBT employees came from neither business nor government but the labor unions.

  4. philipot00

    June 10, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    This made me gag so much I nearly vomited on my keyboard. For real. So obtuse. So inane. So numb sculled. So very very very stupid.

    I am not anti-corporate. I think there is space for everyone in Pride. Exclusion is against the spirit of pride: even the exclusion of the gay friendly banks and brands.

    After all, the very first pride was sparked by the anger over the closing of a for-profit, mafia-owned, exploitive, price-gouging business! Pride has been corporate from the very beginning.

    BUT it has ALSO been radical and anti-establishment. The other extreme expressed in this brain-dead piece is way worse than the very legitimate complaint that Pride’s commercialization squeezes out other voices.

    We don’t exclude at Pride, and we CERTAINLY don’t exclude those radicals that made all of this happen. That made things like the Blade come into existence. That were at the forefront fighting for our rights when SOME (not all) of these businesses were too scared or too apathetic to come out for our rights until it was chic to do so.

    There have been inane delusional regurgitating of the same old anti-left line before — in fact it seems every LGBTQ publication gives them ink every year, along with the other side which seeks to reclaim Pride from it’s commercialization (which, again, I also don’t totally agree with), but this is the worst piece of flatulence I’ve seen yet committed to text on this subject.

    • Sarah Marloff

      June 10, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      I second everything you just said.

    • uhhuhh

      June 10, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      Spare us the fake objectivity. From vomit to flatulence, your comment is one of the most immature posts I’ve seen in a while.

      • BruceMajors4DC

        June 12, 2015 at 12:06 pm

        Who knew Truveda had such unpleasant side effects?

  5. Kathy11

    June 10, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    “Be forewarned, however, that Cauterucci’s obsession with radical
    sloganeering and extremist terminology may require the assistance of an
    open browser to define trendy terms like “cismen” for the uninitiated.”

    Oh good lord, how precious. I guess that means I’ll have to look up leatherman and drag queen……Jeez – just how old are you?

    • Richard Williams

      June 12, 2015 at 11:24 am

      Yes, we should always be inclusive of every group. Well I guess what you mean is as long as they are young and pretty because if you’re over 40 you’re to near death to be out in public. When you make a statement like that you demonstrate that you posts are not to be taken seriously, maybe you’re just trollin’.

      • Kathy11

        June 12, 2015 at 11:52 am

        I just think that sometimes people should get a little back of what they dish out. That was his turn. Maybe your comment was mine.

  6. Shelter Somerset

    June 11, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Some gay people prefer assimilation, while others like the idea of joining tight knit identity circles. What I don’t get about the latter is they simultaneously thumb their noses at “bourgeois” America while desperately seeking its validation. As the writer above stated, gay marriage, perceived as the final gay rights victory, has created anxiety among this group and they are like the bees at the end of summer, stinging wildly before what they see as the demise of their group identity. Gays outside the identity bubble will celebrate our victories of assimilation (perhaps during suburban BBQs), while the “bees” continue to conjure up more “isms” to feed their insatiable hunger to be victims.

    • zgary

      June 12, 2015 at 1:39 pm

      Well said young man……

  7. Richard Williams

    June 12, 2015 at 11:15 am

    I have to agree with the majority of the article. The Pride Parade and Festival have always been funded through business contributions. At the start the funding came from local gay businesses, bars, bath houses, and surreptious donations from people who wanted to support but didn’t want to destroy their customer base. As the LGBT movement grew and we became more visible (partly because of the parades and festivals) larger companys and international corporations started to contribute as it helped to get their brand out in the public eye. And as we became increasingly visible people in the political sphere started to realize that here was a constituency that could bring votes. All because a few gay and lesbian BUSINESSES supported it in the beginning and it mushroomed into the current “parade”.

    I say “parade” because it has become a long walk on a hot Saturday afternoon. In the beginning the gays created (sound familiar? LOL) elaborate floats, expressions of creativity not found in any other parade. There were a few (very few) groups that just walked but they were in the minority, now they are the majority. I love the fact that so many groups want to show their unity with the LGBT community. Every major local politian knows that if they want the gay vote they need to be in the parade and so they get a banner and some supporters and talk a (long) walk on a Saturday afternoon. What happened to the GAY in gay? What happened to the PRIDE in pride? There are a few gay businesses that enter floats in the parade (and if you notice they are very successful busnesses.) and between them are are supporters, the “we have a banner and we’re willing to take a very long walk on an afternoon” groups. I know that we, as a community, have become more “mainstream” and have less of a need for the outrageous expression of our GAY PRIDE. But that doesn’t mean that we have to give it up entirely, it doesn’t mean we can’t have the outrageous creativity that we were once know for all over the city (and country).

    It would be nice (IMHO) if those groups that are supportive of the gay community partnered with businesses and individuals to produce the creative, colorful, noticable parades and floats of the past. Should a float be a requirement? Would be nice, but impractical.

    But then again, I’m just an old man who walked 10 miles to school uphill both ways in waist deep snow when it was so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk. (Shakes fist) Now get off my lawn!!

    • Shelter Somerset

      June 12, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      Since businesses are so influential in forming trends, why don’t they originate another yearly party festival to celebrate being gay? Let’s face it, Gay Pride has run its course. It’s become another St. Patty’s Day. Instead of everyone being Irish, everyone is gay. I’m not discouraging straight people form supporting gay rights, but straight women who work at Target and their families waving from the back of a pickup truck does not make for interesting parade watching. I’d rather leave town for the weekend.

      • Richard Williams

        June 12, 2015 at 1:47 pm

        Sorry, I’ve only been old (60) for couple weeks, I’ll get used to it.

  8. BruceMajors4DC

    June 12, 2015 at 11:54 am

    What’s actually interesting about Pride is how they are so totally dedicated to worshipping the incumbent political establishment. I’ve videotaped DC pride for a couple of years and posted it on YouTube. First are all the incumbent politicians – when I asked someone about this I was told they refuse to participate unless they get to be in front. Then are all the corporate (bar etc) floats with boys in speedos dancing that your describe as the target of leftovers. Then last are all the churches and other groups for Trans people and people of color. It’s amusing that Eric Holder is being honored. Just 11 years ago he was the Covington and Burling laywer tasked with spinning the fiasco where pregnant women and kids in DC had been fed high lead content water for years.

    If you take the names of the people pictured in the Pride Guide and look them up on opensecrets.com, I suspect you will find them to be much more politically monochromatic in their donations than the gay community generally.

  9. Kyle

    June 15, 2015 at 9:17 am

    Everything comes with a cost. Assimilation of middle- and upper-class gay white men into mainstream culture has come at the cost of leaving behind other, less conformist queers. Mark Lee can celebrate because he had an “in” almost from the beginning. His world isn’t for the rest of us, and his “community” isn’t mine.

  10. Basic

    June 17, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    “America’s leading gay news source” suggests in a column that “cismen” is a “trendy” term that the “uninitiated” will have to look up? If that’s not ironic proof of older white cismale privilege I don’t know what is.

  11. Kurt 20008

    June 16, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    I am a life long socialist, a union member and an activist on police accountability but I have to say I largely agree with Mark. It is a glorious thing that the MPD marches in Pride. The employees of Lockheed Martin (most of whom are good union members) belong there too.

    Wells Fargo might be more problematic, but NJNP missed the mark. They never once raised a criticism of Wells Fargo very real unethical practices towards tens of thousands of their customers. These folks were too ordinary for NJNP. They needed to find some esoteric connection — indirectly related to Wells Fargo. That way their effort stays in the hands of privileged intellectuals rather than become a real mass movement of ordinary people and maybe a movement outside their control.

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Commentary

Recalling the struggle to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

10 years later, gov’t still cleaning up the mess of failed law

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Franklin Burch of Los Angeles, 70, at the 1993 March on Washington (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Franklin Burch was ecstatic marching down the street waving a small American flag and an “Uncle Sam: I Want You” poster during the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. “Gays and lesbians have a right to serve,” the 70-year old gay vet from Los Angeles told the Washington Post on April 25, 1993. “This is America, and we have these rights.”

An estimated 700,000 LGBTQ and allies agreed, marching past the White House and pouring onto the Mall, many grasping for hope during the horrific Second Wave of AIDS. An idealistic optimism was palpable. Gays had voted en masse to elect Bill Clinton as president of the United States, ejecting the Reagan-Bush administration that ignored the deaths of a generation of gay men. Clinton had promised money for AIDS research and pledged nondiscrimination policies, including lifting the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military.

ANGLE’s David Mixner, a Clinton friend from the anti-Vietnam War days, strenuously pointed out that the U.S. military was America’s largest employer, enabling gay people stuck in hateful environments to get out, get an education, see the world and serve their country. Not giving gays that opportunity was unfair, and therefore, un-American.

The March on Washington program opened with a stunning Robin Tyler-produced encapsulation of the moment – a sense of pride in our patriotism. To a recording of military theme songs, flag-bearing gays and lesbians who had been drummed out of the military marched onstage, accompanied by some active-duty military coming out publicly based on Clinton’s promise. Navy Officer Keith Meinhold and Army Col. Margarethe “Grethe” Cammermeyer ended the procession, with Cammermeyer calling everyone to attention. The crowd – including me – stood at attention, too, tears streaming down our faces at the courage of our people to serve a country that still treated us as deviants. 

Then Dorothy Hajdys took the stage carrying a framed photo of her son, Petty Officer Third Class Allen Schindler, murdered six months earlier in a public toilet in Sasebo, Nagasaki, Japan by two shipmates. The coroner said Schindler’s injuries were worse “than the damage to a person who’d been stomped by a horse.” Schindler could only be identified by the tattoos on his arm. The March on Washington crowd gave Hajdys a 10-minute standing ovation. We knew the cost of freedom.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi read a letter from Clinton, who didn’t attend or send a video, as expected. “I stand with you in the struggle for equality for all Americans, including gay men and lesbians,” Clinton wrote. “In this great country, founded on the principle that all people are created equal, we must learn to put aside what divides us and focus on what we share.”

Liberal Democratic icon Sen. Edward M. Kennedy spoke via an audio tape, comparing our March to the famous civil rights march of 1963. “We stand again at the crossroads of national conscience,” Kennedy said.

But there were hints of a coming storm. Robin Tyler tore a Clinton telegram of apology on stage as unacceptable. “A Simple Matter of Justice” banner flapped in the background as beloved ally actress Judith Light said: “I am grateful to you, the gay and lesbian community, for the impact you are having on all of society. I am grateful for your teaching Colin Powell about equal opportunity. I am grateful for your teaching Sam Nunn about moving into the 20th century. I am grateful for your teaching George Bush about the consequences of irresponsible neglect and misuse of power. And you are in the process of teaching President Clinton the importance of being a leader and the dangers of compromising with what is right and just.”   

But teaching doesn’t equal lessons learned. Clinton betrayed us, agreeing to a Nunn-devised “compromise” on lifting the gay ban called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue.” Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn and Republican John Warner evoked horrific “gay sexual predator” images as they went aboard a submarine to ask sailors how they’d feel lying in such proximity to a gay shipmate. The subtext was clearly an invitation to harass those suspected of being gay and lesbian. Witch hunts were sport.

The cruelty of DADT went beyond the physical. If a buddy on the frontlines in Iraq or Afghanistan was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED), the gay service member could not share the fear, the pain, the trauma because letters back home were checked and psychiatrists and chaplains had to report gay-related confessions. The lives of 14,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual service members were ruined by the time DADT officially ended a decade later, on Sept. 20, 2011. Today, marking the 10th anniversary of the official repeal, the Veterans Administration concedes it is still catching up with all the damage governmental politics created. It’s estimated that more than 114,000 LGBTQ service members or those perceived to be LGBTQ were discharged between Franklin Burch’s service in World War II and the repeal of DADT.

“Although VA recognizes that the trauma caused by the military’s decades-long policy of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people cannot be undone in a few short months, the Biden administration and Secretary McDonough are taking the steps necessary to begin addressing the pain that such policies have created. LGBTQ+ Veterans are not any less worthy of the care and services that all Veterans earn through their service, and VA is committed to making sure that they have equal access to those services,” writes Kayla Williams, a bisexual veteran and assistant secretary for public affairs in VA’s Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs on the VA blog.

Clinton’s betrayal broke our hearts and ruined lives. But amazingly, it did not stop us — which attorney C. Dixon Osburn, a civilian graduate of Georgetown University Law, recounts in his just released must-read book “Mission Possible: The Story of the Repealing of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’” This is the stunning story of how Osburn and attorney Michelle Benecke, a Harvard Law graduate and former Army captain, founded Servicemembers Legal Defense Network to immediately help desperate service members and work with nonprofit allies and law firms to challenge DADT in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion.

“Mission Possible” completes an important trilogy about LGBTQ people serving in the U.S. military, next to “Coming Out Under Fire,” by Alan Bérubé and Randy Shilts’ “Conduct Unbecoming: Lesbians and Gays in the U.S. Military.” These books are not only LGBTQ history, but about our patriotism and what drives our private lives — and how government has intervened to block us at every step based on bias. 

“Mission Possible” is also a book about endurance, ingenuity, and triumph. If a united gay voting bloc and 700,000 people on the Mall and thousands more back home didn’t give Clinton enough clout or backbone to keep his promise to lift the gay military ban – SLDN needed a smart, comprehensive strategy and a willingness and stamina to keep their eyes on the distant prize of repealing DADT. After educating an anti-military community and fighting a “graveyard mentality” that believed that lifting the gay ban was impossible, they had to figure out how to secure bipartisan support.

And there was bipartisan support, privately. “Party sticks with party, unless there’s a breakthrough, Osburn says, noting that GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski told him: “You have to create the moment so I can be with you.” 

With the discharge of the Arab linguists, DADT became less an issue of civil rights and more publicly an obstacle to national security. There are scores of nail-biting behind-the-scenes stories about how SLDN shifted the public and military consciousness from July 1993 to September 20, 2011, “when President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, certified to Congress that implementing repeal of the policy would have no effect on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, or recruiting and retention.”  

Dec. 18, 2010 – on Osburn’s birthday – the Senate finally voted to deliver more than 60 votes to overcome Republican Sen. John McCain’s repeated and stubborn use of the filibuster to block repeal. There are echoes of political machinations of today.

There are crafty stories, as well, illustrating the absurdity of DADT. For instance, Army Sergeant Darren Manzella, Osburn writes, “was the epitome of the competent, well-regarded openly gay soldier who put a lie to the belief that his mere presence would weaken military readiness. He was out to his Army buddies and had even introduced them to his boyfriend.” In 2006 at Fort Hood, he started getting anonymous emails and “calls warning him that he was being watched and to ‘turn the flame down.’” He sought advice from his commanding officer which triggered an investigation, with which Manzella fully cooperated. The Army concluded he wasn’t gay and told him to go back to work. He was subsequently deployed to Iraq, then Kuwait, unsure whether a new commander would discharge him. 

SLDN reached out to Manzella to see if he’d be willing to do a 60 Minutes interview, explaining the pros and cons if he went forward. He said yes, but how to do it knowing the Army wouldn’t grant permission? SLDN communications director Steve Ralls came up with a plan. “Manzella signed up to run in the Army marathon in Kuwait. At a predetermined point, he veered off-course to a waiting car that whisked him to a hotel, where he changed into civilian clothes and met with correspondent Lesley Stahl. After the interview, he changed back into his running clothes, the crew doused him with sweaty water, and the car whisked him back so he could cross the finish line,” Osburn writes. “Once the segment was broadcast, the Army could no longer pretend that Manzella wasn’t gay, or that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was a law with an on-off switch. He was discharged six months later and became one of the many vocal advocates for repeal.”

Darren Manzella, gay news, Washington Blade
Darren Manzella in 2008. (Washington Blade file photo by Henry Linser)

On Dec. 22, 2010, President Barack Obama kept the campaign promise he made and signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. “For we are not a nation that says, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ We are a nation that says, ‘Out of many, we are one.’ We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot. We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal. Those are the ideals that generations have fought for.  Those are the ideals that we uphold today,” Obama said. “And now, it is my honor to sign this bill into law.”

President Barack Obama signs the repeal of the U.S. military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy on Dec. 22, 2010. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“There’s been a lot of progress in the last 10 years – despite the last four,” Osburn says. “It’s all been teed up by SLDN.” 

But we still are not fully first-class citizens, though we now have the right to serve and die for our country. The Equality Act is next.

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Opinions

Democrats must run against ‘Trumpism’

GOP Taliban pose threat to women and all minorities

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(Blade file photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The California recall election and the upcoming Virginia gubernatorial race will make clear to every Democratic candidate in the next two years they are still running against Trump or as Gov. Gavin Newsom called it, ‘Trumpism.’ Recently in California for Newsom and in Virginia for McAuliffe, President Biden said while he ran against the real Trump, Newsom, McAuliffe  and others are running against his clones. 

Trumpism is a vile view of what American democracy is all about. It is a view of society in which we coddle white supremacists and Neo Nazis and hold our knee on the neck of not only George Floyd but on all African Americans, minorities, women and the LGBTQ community. 

Some like Neil Buchanan, the author of the recent article in “VERDICT, Dead Democracy Walking,” suggest Trump’s election and administration were the end of American democracy. I don’t share his vision for doom and gloom and still have confidence in the majority of the American people.  

However the recent Emerson poll in Virginia is frightening as it shows McAuliffe with a slight lead but independents breaking for the Republican Youngkin  54% to 35% and 9% undecided. This poll was conducted before their first debate. 

It will be interesting if the new book “Peril”  by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa,  which clearly shows how unstable Trump was, will have any impact on voters and how they will deal with Trump-backed candidates. It is my belief, maybe hope, the majority of the American people will finally understand how dangerous he was. It is evident any Republican still supporting him, any candidate associated with him or who accepts an endorsement from him, must be considered like Trump a real threat to our democracy. 

Recently Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), one of the 10 House members to vote to impeach Trump, announced he is leaving Congress rather than face a Trump-backed primary opponent. He called Trump ‘a cancer.’ Former President George W. Bush said, “Violent extremists in the U.S. and abroad are children of the same foul spirit,” in his speech commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. If they are to make what they said meaningful they will need to campaign against any candidate who supports or is supported by Trump.

People must be shown what will happen if they return Congress to the Republican Party or as it currently exists, the ‘Trump Party.’ They would be turning our government over to the American Taliban. The Republicans in Congress, like the Taliban in Afghanistan, are committed to curbing the rights of women, minorities and the LGBTQ community.  

How do we stop this from happening and keep our democracy moving toward a more just society? We do it by uniting those who believe as our Constitution preamble says, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  Unite those who understand our democracy is about the constant effort to ‘form a more perfect union.’

Supporters of Trump, and the Republican Taliban, are making it clear what they will do if they win. Texas ending Roe v. Wade with their most recent anti-abortion law. Legislators in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and other states continuing to call the 2020 election fraudulent. Republican governors putting children at risk of death by refusing to take COVID seriously and refusing mask mandates. Bills introduced in Republican-controlled legislatures across the nation to impede voting. 

Congressional Democrats must pass legislation to help with childcare, make community college free, lower middle-class taxes and move forward civil and human rights. Then use sophisticated marketing and common-sense dialogue ensuring every person impacted by the legislation knows about it and understands it. Then state clearly and simply how the state legislation passed by the Republican Taliban impacts them. We must make voters understand each vote counts to protect themselves and their families. 

I think we can do that but clearly it won’t be easy. Democrats in Congress will have to unite, which invariably means compromise. Everything won’t get done at once and not in the way each individual lawmaker wants it. They need to understand our Founding Fathers thought of these difficult times and set up a system of government calling for compromise to make progress. Constant progress toward a ‘more perfect union.’

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

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Global community needs to help save Brazil’s democracy

Jair Bolsonaro trying to undermine judicial independence, LGBTQ rights

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2021.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro used the country’s independence holiday, Sept. 7, to rally his supporters in protests against Brazil’s democratic institutions, particularly the judiciary; basically the only institution at present that checks the president’s authoritarian aspirations. Over the past two decades, the Supreme Court has provided a safe space for human rights protections, specifically LGBTQI+ rights. If the court falls, it would be the downfall of Brazil’s democracy, posing a threat to its diversity.

Over the past decade, the Brazilian LGBTQI+ community has accomplished historical victories through numerous Supreme Court rulings, including a ruling in 2013 to legalize gay marriage. While these victories were celebrated, they were also bittersweet. As the LGBTQI+ community gained ground in equality; Bolsonaro’s far-right party gained political space, and unfortunately, the hearts of some of my dearest family members.

Bolsonaro’s accession to power in 2018 came with a wave of conservative, reactionary and LGBTQI+phobic discourse that shook every aspect of Brazil’s public and private life. As the minds of minorities in the country darkened and as I fought against depression, I saw my friends suddenly rushing to register their partnerships or change their civil names fearing that the rulings allowing for their rights could be overturned. Three years later, with judicial independence under attack, our nightmares are becoming a reality.

Bolsonaro’s government has significantly impacted the LGBTQI+ movement by abolishing the LGBTQI+ National Council and significant budget cuts to Brazil’s once globally recognized HIV/AIDS prevention program. Moreover, policies aiming to fight racism or promoting gender equality are also being abandoned or defunded.

Inflation, hunger, unemployment and extreme poverty are on the rise. In the case of further democratic erosion, we are getting the conditions set for a humanitarian crisis in Brazil.

Brazil’s stability is of interest to the entire region and the world. Considering the country’s influence in Latin America, a coup could generate a domino effect across the continent. Hence, political, social, and economic international stakeholders should raise awareness and pressuring Bolsonaro’s administration

Historically, social minorities are the first ones to be sacrificed in political turmoil. As I wrote this text, news came along that indigenous land rights are being bargained and that Bolsonaro will take this attack on the environment to his speech at the United Nations. As has happened in Poland and Hungary, soon Bolsonaro will turn his gun to the LGBTQI+ community. It is clear by now that Bolsonaro envisions Brazil as a leader of far-right conservatism in the world.

That is why we need the global community to stand with us. As we take to the streets calling for impeachment, Bolsonaro still counts with the support of important stakeholders. Businesspeople are among the president’s most supportive groups, despite the economic disaster we have been through. If they can’t see the obvious internal consequences of eroding democracy, then international pressure should make them see it.

We need clear statements by political parties, foreign media, think tanks, financial groups, etc., that the attacks on Brazil’s institutions and minorities will cost the economic sector money. With this, we can unlock the impeachment process and rebuild Brazil’s legacy as a country that celebrates diversity.

Egerton Neto is the international coordinator for Aliança Nacional LGBTI+ in Brazil and Master of Public Policy candidate at the London School of Economics.

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