Where’s the outrage?

America’s GLBT leaders were largely silent in the wake of Sunday’s far-right (and, de facto, antigay) rally called “Justice Sunday: Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith.” We should all be ashamed—and scared

BY Chad Graham

April 25 2005 12:00 AM ET

I waited all
weekend. I waited for the national gay rights groups to
speak up. I waited for this country’s tolerant
religious leaders to speak up. I waited for the groups
of gay and lesbian couples who’ve gotten the
legal right to marry, through the work of fair-minded
justices to speak up. I waited for influential
moderate lawmakers—Democrat and
Republican—who support an independent judiciary to
speak up. To hold a rally. To hold a march in protest.
To do something.
Yet no one stood up to the millions of far-right
evangelicals in this country who turned out for the
“Justice Sunday: Stop the Filibuster Against
People of Faith” event, which was sponsored by the
Family Research Council.
Staged for the cameras in front of 1,700 people
at a megachurch in Louisville, Ky,. and beamed via
satellite to an estimated 61 million more in 44
states, the FRC event was intended to protest
“activist judges” in this country. The
far right is enraged that the Democrats in the U.S.
Senate would dare to stall President George W.
Bush’s radically conservative picks for the federal
court system. Rabidly antigay opinion
makers—from House majority leader Tom DeLay to
Focus on the Family’s James Dobson—were there
to ensure that these judges are following
“Christian” examples and interpreting
the Constitution as they believe the God-fearing founding
fathers intended. DeLay wants to investigate and possibly
impeach judges, based solely on his and his
followers’ disagreements with their decisions.
In case you’re wondering when this idea
was last floated, you need look only to the decisions
of the 1950s and ’60s that outlawed segregation
and struck down laws against interracial marriage. The
racially bigoted extremists of the time—supporters of
Strom Thurmond’s 1948 presidential bid, praised
by current U.S. Senator Trent Lott—crowed just
as loudly for the impeachment of Supreme Court
justices. The difference was, they weren’t running
the show in Washington. U.S. Senate majority leader
Bill Frist—who endorsed the goals of
“Justice Sunday” via videotape—and
DeLay are setting the agenda in our nation’s
capital. And they see nothing wrong with making it a
right-wing Christian agenda, to the exclusion of all
other people of all other faiths, from gay Christians to
devout Muslims to committed atheists.
They are saying to hell with freedom of religion
in the United States. “We are not asking for
persons merely to be moral,” R. Albert Mohler
Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,
told the Associated Press. “We want them to be
believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
That kind of talk should frighten every gay man
and lesbian in this country. People of this kind of
black-and-white born-again faith do not represent
everyone. Yet these self-righteous zealots will have an
enormous impact on your life—whether you can feel it
right now or not.
Let me be clear: The phrase activist
judges
is code for judges who treat gay people
fairly, who rule that the phrase equal protection of the
laws
means just that when it comes to sodomy laws
or marriage laws. Rather than ruling in favor of that
simple call for equality written into the U.S. Constitution,
the DeLay crowd wants judges who bring religious
prejudices with them to the bench. And if getting
their own judges appointed doesn’t work,
they’ll impeach the judges they don’t like and
replace them with their own version of
“activist judges”—who will be
activists for antigay discrimination.
These federal judges—who will serve on
the bench for as long as they please—will issue
key rulings to determine if gay men and lesbians can
win access to marriage equality, as African-Americans did
before us. These judges will determine if you can adopt or
even be parents of foster children, as your qualified
heterosexual peers can. They will help determine if
the law will protect you from being savagely beaten
because of your sexuality. They will determine whether you
can be protected against being fired or kicked out of
your apartment by a boss or landlord who disapproves
of your private life.
Guess how DeLay and Frist’s judges would
rule on these matters? And guess what happens if the
Supreme Court is packed with judges who will back
those rulings? There is no appeal, nor is there an act of
Congress, that can undo a Supreme Court
decision—as James Dale, the fired gay Boy Scout
leader who lost his Supreme Court appeal, can tell you.
The real battle over the particular
right-wing-ideologue judges in question will occur in
the U.S. Senate sometime this spring or
summer—perhaps as early as this week. Lacking the
votes to reject these archconservative judges in an
up-or-down vote in the U.S. Senate (which now boasts
55 Republicans, all but three or four or whom work in
lockstep with Frist and the White House), the Democrats have
used the long-standing power of the filibuster to
prevent those votes from occurring. It takes 60 votes
to end a filibuster, and it’s the last thing
standing between this handful of right-wing judges and
decades of antigay court rulings.
Senate majority leader Frist wants to change the
Senate’s rules to destroy the filibuster, a
strategy called the “nuclear option”
because of the impact it would have on doing business in
the U.S. Senate. In response, the Democrats have promised to
halt all work in the Senate except gravely urgent
matters until the rule is restored.
“Justice Sunday” is the far
right’s attempt to make its position the only
one heard in Washington, D.C. With up to 60 million
constituents calling the telephone numbers of their elected
representatives—both the numbers and the message were
spoon-fed to them on Sunday—many
“moderate” Senators may fear for their
political survival and decide to toe the far-right line.
What is most concerning about “Justice
Sunday” is the fact that every major news
outlet in the country covered it, including CNN, The New
York Times
, The Washington Post, and
the Los Angeles Times. The far right got its
message out and beamed around the world.
Gay men and lesbians? We got no coverage. We had
no voice in this coverage. No one pointed out that
this whole brouhaha—although stoked by the
Terri Schiavo case—began in 2003 with court rulings
striking down sodomy laws and marriage discrimination.
I have yet to see a newspaper article or television news
report linking the struggle for gay equality with what
happened yesterday, and it’s our own damn
fault. No one bothered to schedule a large protest or
a march. Not one gay group of which I’m aware sent
out talking points or set up a public relations
strategy to reach the reporters who were writing about
the story on deadline. Did any GLBT activists meet
with religion reporters and editors last week to make sure
their coverage was balanced? Where were the media action alerts?
So far there have only been a couple of press
releases from a couple pro-gay groups saying they
disagreed with what happened. (Thank you, Stonewall
Democrats!) It is sickening at how ineffective all the rest
of the gay rights groups have been in this antigay
religious crusade.
There was silence on Sunday, and we should be
ashamed of ourselves. Once again—-just like in
the election of 2004—the gay men and lesbians
in the country have gotten their hats handed to them in the
culture war.
We lost again. Big time. And it can’t
happen again.
You don’t need to have telephone numbers
and talking points handed to you. Want to make a
difference? You know who to call. You know what to
say. Get to it.

Tags: Commentary

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