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MARRIAGE + CIVIL RIGHTS = FULL EQUALITY: OBAMA WILL DO IT ALL NEXT TERM IF THE GRASSROOTS PUSHES THE LEADERSHIP TO SEEK IT

148302_1718465808021_1429541549_31807111_1110211_nMarriage Equality via federal law & Equal Civil Rights together constitute full equality, and Obama is the guy to do it. But first we have to seek it.

HRC just released a poll that shows conservatives increasingly supporting and split over DOMA. It was revealed exclusively in the The New Civil Rights Movement, an on-line advocacy media site. This is good news.

The New Civil Rights Movement website also features an on-site readers poll asking: “Have gays ‘hijacked’ the civil rights movement, is it exclusive to African-Americans, or does it apply to all?” Not shocking, 95% responded: “the civil rights movement belongs to everyone”.  The poll was triggered by a new up roar over the NAACP and its position on the matter.

The website poll is definitely a biased audience. But it’s still important that the LGBT community sees this clearly as what it is. Civil rights do belong to everyone.  And it counters the argument by GLAAD and Arcus that we should not use the words “civil rights” because some groups feel ownership of those words. That idea is discriminatory on its face, yet the media messengers don’t get it.

On a positive note on this issue, recent postings by HRC, NLGTF and GetEqual have all invoked the words “civil rights” – as has the President. I’m also in touch with some folks at Howard University who very much appreciated the West Hollywood City Council Resolution on LGBT Civil Rights Equality, for pointing out how the CRA already covers many traits.  Yet they still suggest not using “civil rights movement” because of the comparisons and ownership issues it triggers.

But this type of debate – and the controversy it raises – really helps to get at the root of the question of equality. It’s not an easy or fun conversation, but it is the real conversation.

We have 2 years to cue up full equality, after which I believe Obama will forge ahead on these issues, assuming he’s reelected, which is my hope. I’m not convinced the current DOMA repeal effort is a sincere push for this Congress, but suspect it is more designed for political reasons (and I don’t see our own movement gearing up a real fight on this).  Although raising it is testing waters and pushing the envelop with typical Obama strategic brilliance, we’ll have to wait I expect.

But if he wins, I think he’ll tackle equal civil rights and marriage equality next term. Depending on how our court cases go (Prop. 8, and DOMA repeal), I believe Obama would possibly even pursue a federal law to end marriage discrimination at the state level, assuming he passes the other two (civil rights and DOMA repeal).

The newly filed Respect for Marriage Act should rightfully include a law outlawing marriage discrimination at the state level. But at this stage, you can’t even get our own folks to talk about the Constitutional power of Congress to do this. So the politics are not quite there yet, but they’re coming that way.

If, over the next 2 years, we as a movement: 1. organize a national coalition, 2. put full civil rights equality in play legislatively, and 3. keep pushing on marriage equality as a federal issue, we could well have full equality in Obama’s second term. But if we continue on course, playing a victim’s game and deferring to G&L Congressional Caucus members who treat our issues like pet projects, we wont’ be ready.

The biggest variable is our resolve to push our own movement to set its sights like this. For this, we need to start pressuring HRC and NGLTF to get on board with a full equality goal, get focused and get working together.  But they are both impenetrable fortresses, immune to public policy.

The ultimate issue I see with all of this, is that there is no public participation or transparent community role in the process by which those groups make strategic decisions, or in their organizational operating models.    (The NAACP by comparison, uses a democratic model w/public elections).

With HRC & NGLTF, the boards are self-perpetuating (i.e., they elect themselves) and the by-laws are secret – thus keeping us from seeing clearly that we have zero representation in our own movement.  Similarly, the gay and lesbian people in Congress are not actually LGBT-elected, and do not otherwise consult with the public on our strategy.

This combination denies us the right to self-determination, but as a practical matter, quite by design, it insulates the status quo and players and thus, prevents the change we need to seek to achieve full equality.  Essentially, no one is accountable to the public, so nothing changes.

Of course, the real loss to the movement equation is that, by blocking the people out of their own liberation, we block the magic synergism possible when we unite and join our shared passions in common cause. This is the intangible missing from the “pragmatic” legislative analysis.

This is also why the will of the people is more important than that of the institution, and why legitimate process matters more than expert opinions and controlled scenarios.

This all matters more now than ever, because while the window of opportunity is real, it is not limitless. If we cue up equal civil rights for the 2012 election, we’ll get a commitment and the road map will be clear. If not, well that might work too, but why wait?

I’ve started banging this drum about greater transparency and community participation in the process in other circles, and it’s got the insider insiders quite annoyed. Even the ones who want to push the game don’t like it. It shows how quickly the elite circle the wagons when it comes to their own private power party. The grassroots needs to get organized and focused on these issues, if we hope to push the “leadership” where it needs to go.


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