Editor's Letter: On a New LGBT Magna Carta

The time for separatist movements has gone, and we need to act collectively.

BY Matthew Breen

October 08 2012 4:00 AM ET

In this job I see all kinds of agendas that separate LGBTs: lesbians from gay men; racial divisions; wealthy from poor; and transgender people from those who don’t feel the “T” should be part the acronym. But as Ari Karpel illustrates in his piece, “Will We Evolve Too?”,  the time for separatist movements has gone, and we need to act collectively and also work to gain the support of non-LGBT communities. Yet as much as LGBTs have in common in our search for civil rights, we have no thesis, no mission statement. If the Democratic and Republican national committees can create party platforms, shouldn’t we explore the idea of a document that addresses our common concerns?

Certain values feel self-evident, and while I don’t propose to create a political document, the fact that we must think beyond our front doors to address the concerns of our neighbors in order to truly be a community affects my political decisions.

1. Education: A well-educated electorate is a more civil rights–minded one (think marriage equality on ballots), and yet we’ve let education deteriorate and get more expensive; proper sex ed reduces teen pregnancy, STI transmission, and antigay stigma.

2. Bodily integrity: The government should not have a say in the sex lives of consenting adults.

3. Poverty: Low wages and employment discrimination affect lesbians, transgender people, and LGBTs of color disproportionately; poverty is correlated with violence and crime.

4. Health Care: People with HIV/AIDS, homeless LGBT teens, and lesbians are underserved and/or face medical discrimination on a shocking scale.

5. Crime: LGBTs are too often the target of violence, and the police response depends on how well educated they are on LGBT-specific concerns.

I’m well aware that this list is nascent and not without controversy (e.g., for me, the implications regarding sex ed and freedom from government intervention in our sexual expression lead me inextricably to a pro-choice position). But these concerns guide my belief that we must do certain things that will help our LGBT community, our entire country, and our world: Invest in comprehensive, accessible, and affordable education (including sex ed and cultural training for police); keep government out of our bedrooms and bodies; invest in programs that increase living standards; and work toward universal health care — just for a start.

What concerns do you feel an LGBT Magna Carta should address?

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