Time to Reset Our Revolution

By Lane Hudson

Originally published on Advocate.com March 31 2009 11:00 PM ET

In Washington, D.C., we
now have more political support for equality than at any moment
in our nation's history. It should be a time when significant
progress appears not only inevitable but swift. After all,
equal protection under the law is a guiding principle of our
democracy.

While some have long
asserted that the question, "When will you make the law
treat me the same as everyone else?" should be the central
theme of our movement, that idea has gained us little ground.
Our movement has settled for a piecemeal approach that has
yielded barely a crumb of equality in the Congress.

It is likely that the
current political climate is the most pro-equality we
will encounter for years to come. Therefore, there is
movement among some activists and donors to push a
sweeping agenda that would provide full equality. It
would come in the form of an omnibus bill that addresses every
instance in federal law where the United
States excludes LGBT
citizens from the promise of equal protection
under the law guaranteed by the Constitution. It's bold. And
it's happening outside of our organizations and our
politicians.

It also might be
exactly what our movement needs.

For too long we have
allowed ourselves to be engaged in a debate with the antigay
right wing of American politics, which has precluded
rational discussions with mainstream Americans and rational
politicians. Instead of debating the core issue of equal
protection under the law, we have been put on the defensive to
explain whether our very being is a choice or a matter of
biology, and we've been forced to dispel
notions that gay soldiers prey on straight men as they
serve side by side in our nation's military. Such debates are
trivial compared to our ultimate goal, and continuing to engage
in them is ridiculous.

The idea of presenting
an omnibus bill that would address every instance of inequality
under the law would allow us to reset our movement and reset
the debate. When I talk to friends, family, and strangers, I
inevitably get into a conversation about being gay and what it
means to me. Perhaps it is a part of my personal effort to come
out at every opportunity that drives this discussion, but it
has given me an informal poll on what average people can
support.

Almost without
exception, they feel that LGBT people should basically be
treated the same as any other person under the law. I
would venture a guess that a poll question asking something
similar would receive a large majority of support.

Accordingly, we should
not continue to engage in petty debates set and framed by our
staunchest opponents. Let's think big and reset the debate on
our own terms. Making it about being treated equally under the
law is simple. It's easy to understand by average Americans,
the media, and politicians.

Just imagine a
congressional hearing on legislation meant to right every
instance of inequity that currently exists in the law for LGBT
people. Instead of right-wing nutcase Elaine Donnelly talking
about gays destroying troop cohesiveness, we might actually
have a discussion about the promise of our Constitution to all
of our citizens.

Perhaps we could help
our politicians remember that it is in the best tradition of
our nation to make people equal. We've worked at perfecting the
idea throughout the history of our nation. It's never been
easy, but it's always been the right thing to do. At every step
along the way, our collective conscience has looked back on
those moments with tremendous pride.

This is one of those
moments. If we are to make our fellow citizens, our elected
officials, and the media understand it, we have to start acting
like it. That's why we have to think big and act like the
future of our nation depends on it.

I'm sure that there are
those who would argue that the strategy we have engaged in up
to this point is working and that we are on the cusp of
progress. I disagree. For more than 30 years, our movement has
collectively gained almost no progress in achieving equality
through federal legislation. There was one provision passed as
a last-minute amendment in 2006.

It's hardly a track
record I would be proud of. If our movement were an individual,
its résumé wouldn't land a job,
wouldn't win an election, wouldn't attract business investors,
and wouldn't make its momma proud. In other words, it's been a
complete failure.

This new administration
gives us a great opportunity to move away from the past and
focus on big new ideas. Failure to do so is equivalent to a
dereliction of duty. If we don't ask, we won't get anything.
It's that simple. The old way has failed. It's time for a new
and bold, yet simple approach that shows we will not be kept
down by anyone. It puts friend and foe alike on notice that we
know what we deserve and we're going to fight for it until we
get it.