We all must hang together...

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com November 11 2004 12:00 AM ET

With the election of Bush to the presidency on November 2, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders need to take a long, hard, deep look at ourselves as a community and at the dark forces that are arrayed against us. We need to come together in new and powerful ways to counter the alliance presented by our enemies. And our religious leaders must be among the first to call for unity.The unification of American conservatism entities---fueled by the religious fervor of various denominations, especially the Roman Catholic Church---has paved the way for the unthinkable: The lines between church and state were not only blurred in this election, they were eliminated. In church after church, parish leaders were openly telling their followers whom not to vote for, and with impunity. While the names of the presidential candidates were not actually used in most churches---thus fulfilling the letter of federal law, which forbids tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or rejecting particular candidates---they didn’t have to be.The threat was simple: You can’t consider yourself to be a good [Catholic, Southern Baptist...fill in the denomination] if you vote for a candidate for public office who supports a woman’s right to choose, or equal rights for homosexuals, or stem cell research.In the Scranton, Pa., area on the Sunday before the election, Catholic priests in every parish read a 3 1/2-page letter from their bishop regarding whom not to vote for in the presidential race. Once again, though no candidate’s name was used, it was plain whom the bishop and the Vatican opposed.John Kerry was painted as a pro-abortion, pro-gay Catholic who ignores church teachings and as such should not receive the vote of any “good” Roman Catholic. The possibility of excommunication was even used as a threat against anyone who voted for Kerry, emanating from the Vatican department called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the successor to the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition. These churches skirted the law with razor-thin legality, and it worked. For the most part, the country’s religious-conservative segment voted the way its churches told them to vote.Early in the campaign, Jerry Falwell, that paragon of Christian virtue and love, formed a group of lawyers to go out and teach churches how to campaign in an effectively partisan manner while staying just inside of the law that forbids partisan campaigning by churches. Falwell has even established a school of law at his University of All Things Antiquated, which is intended to produce so-called Christian lawyers who will work against the tide of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. This is, of course, the same man who blamed the gay community, among others, for the September 11 attacks. Jimmy Swaggart, the allegedly reformed adulterer who recently said he would kill any gay man who looked at him the wrong way, was also active in pushing for Bush’s reelection.The church has fully entered the political arena, and it is there to stay. If those are the rules under which we all now play, religious leaders who favor tolerance and equality no longer need to fear speaking out in favor of the political values important to them.The other side certainly has not hesitated to cloak its agenda of exclusion in a deceptive shroud of faith. The White House effectively used homophobia and the specter of gay marriage to scare millions of Americans who say they’re concerned about “moral values”—into voting for an Administration responsible for a war that is wrong, a faltering economy that is bleeding jobs overseas, an environment that is getting sicker, a health care system out of control, a Social Security system in trouble, an incredible national deficit that will take a generation to correct, and a severe shortage of properly funded education programs for the poor.

Tactics such as those used in Arkansas and West Virginia worked: There, campaign brochures ranted hysterically that John Kerry would ban the Bible and make gay marriage legal---two flagrant lies created, promoted, and funded by the Republican National Committee, which represents the party of our “moral values” president. Despite this blatant breaking of the commandment against bearing false witness, the RNC didn’t even try to deny that it was behind this propaganda.GLBT people---and others who will suffer during a second Bush term---have to accept that for another four years the White House will be controlled by the fundamentalist religious right’s very own self-identified born-again Christian. That means that our enemies’ agenda, the total repression of the United States’ GLBT population, is at the top of the list for the Bush administration. God will continue to be used as a tool of subjugation.This perversion of all that is God will be seen as justification for constitutional amendments, both state and federal, that aim to take away hard-earned rights such as partner benefits, employment fairness, and hate-crimes protections; in eight of the 11 states that passed antigay constitutional amendments on November 2, the right to make almost any kind of contract with a member of the same sex is in doubt. The future also holds an inevitably ultraconservative Supreme Court, which can no longer be counted on to give GLBT people justice, or to keep the White House, the legislature, and the states from endorsing and putting into action one set of beliefs to the exclusion of all others.We must take back the image of our loving God, for the cause of true faith, true love, and true equality. For the next four years and beyond, we must be willing to fight harder than ever before.The message that GLBT people are out to destroy American “values” does not remain trapped in the voting booth or the church. Because of this White House endorsement of discrimination, people all over the nation will be emboldened to confront and attack us on all fronts and in all situations. They will see the election of Bush as a mandate to target us in schools, on the street, in our homes. After all, they have heard churches and the political party in power attack the GLBT population verbally for months, so it must be all right to attack psychologically and physically as well.Whatever our personal religious convictions---or lack of them---we must come together to stand up to schoolyard bullies; we are no longer 10 years old and being taunted with names like “faggot” and “queer.” If we don’t join together to fight back against these people, they will win---and push us back further toward the inequities of the past. “God” would be permanently taken hostage by people who traffic in hate. This must not happen.I once again call for a national summit of all GLBT organizations from across the country, joining an unheeded appeal (so far) that others have made. Religious organizations, churches, and supportive national bodies representing a multitude of religions (such as the Clergy Network for National Leadership Change) must also step forward to join political and civic organizations.Bush won in part because so many churches backed his election, boldly mixing politics within the conduct of their religious missions. Separation of church and state, a core democratic value, was boldly assassinated during this election, with no consequences to the offenders. The IRS will not go after these churches that violated the tax code; the White House will see to that.Make no mistake about it: Most churches, the Vatican, and the entire Bush administration have declared war on us. They will attempt to roll back every right under the Constitution that we have gained and driven again into a world of dark fear and repression. It is time to get serious about the fight we find ourselves in, by having our political organizations, our social organizations, and churches coalesce to present a united front to Americans---one that supports the true meaning of Christianity. We must make those who oppose our rights to equality understand that we will not be pushed back into the closet, no matter what the cost to us as individuals or as a collective. As the old saying goes, Fight fire with fire.The gloves are off; the rules of fair play seem no longer to apply. Religious leaders on the right have no fear of getting their hands dirty by taking sides in political fights, so why are gay-supportive religions largely absent from this national debate? In order to speak for fairness and justice, why have we not taken advantage of the loophole Jerry Falwell and others have exploited to the extent of tens of millions of dollars? Why are we not being heard when it comes to the question of God’s relation to gays?Whether secular or religious individually, we can be formidable if we come together. Remember, based on a very conservative estimate (5% of the population), it is reasonable to assume that at least 10 million American adults are in the GLBT group. By most estimates, there are more GLBT Americans than evangelical Christians in this country. We outnumber the population of Jewish citizens. Even if you subtract the astounding figure of the more than 20% of gays and lesbians who once again voted for Bush and his policies, we are a very powerful segment that the political and religious right would have to deal with as equals---if we start to cooperate with each other and bury our egos.When you add supportive family and friends, we could easily be a bloc of 20 million, 30 million, or 40 million Americans demanding equality. How long will we remain impotent?We must reorganize our national and intrastate strategies to include all of our friends in this war. In addition to churches, coordination must take place with such organizations as labor unions and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. We have to start using our brains and our money to compel the system to treat us fairly---or be condemned to live as a repressed minority. When we accept victimization as our role, we spit on the sacrifices made by our gay brothers and sisters who have gone before us, some of whom gave their lives.Let’s face it: Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and all the other national groups are not likely to seek each other out to merge as one for freedom. They need to be demanded by their members to do so. There has never been an attempt to unite all factions of the gay community under one umbrella with a coordinated agenda.Isn’t it time?Are you going to accept the role of a willing victim? It is time to act, and act now.We are at war, and in this war there are no neutrals.