By Advocate Contributors

Originally published on Advocate.com February 06 2010 9:55 AM ET

It has been more than 30 years since the gay community lost Harvey Milk to an assassin’s bullet, but it has found no one to replace him. They don’t make gay leaders like Harvey Milk anymore, someone whose name all gay people recognize.

While it’s true that we have made great progress in some states, on the national level, we are stalled. This is particularly embarrassing considering that Democrats—our supposed friends—are in control of both Houses of Congress and the White House. With all these Democrats running around Washington, I don’t understand how we’re unable to achieve the rights we’ve been fighting for in the 18 years since Bill Clinton was elected, namely, overruling “don’t ask, don’t tell” and gaining the right to marry. I thought gay activists told us that putting Democrats in power would solve all of our problems.

Now that Democrats lost the Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy, they have lost their momentum and fear that their majority will shrink even further. They are figuring out how to pass as much legislation as they can—with gay rights at the end of their list —before Republicans gain more power. Yet if Democrats once cared about us, today we are further from their minds. Will we finally begin to realize that they’re not our friends?

Our so-called leaders won’t acknowledge this. They’re not really leaders but extremely wealthy fundraisers whose desires have nothing to do with fighting for our rights. They use their status and fundraising campaigns for their own personal agendas. It seems that their goal is to be invited to the White House and have pictures taken with the Obamas and the Clintons. But these “leaders” are not interested in demanding action from the powerful people with whom they’re partying. They’re afraid to upset the powerful. We raise money to fight, not to kiss ass. The purpose of giving money to political campaigns is to get results, not to host lavish fundraisers and parties. Remember the Human Rights Campaign dinner last year where Obama spoke and received multiple standing ovations from a room full of wealthy gay donors? Yes, his speech was full of beautiful words. But where’s the action to match the rhetoric? The HRC is a very easy-going crowd that will applaud any glamorous personality. But they’re always intimidated. We need leaders and organizations that are not intimidated by anyone, not even by our most eloquent president. (Continued on following page.)







To be perfectly honest, I don’t see much difference between our current Democratic president and George W. Bush. And I don’t think McCain would have been much different from Obama, either. Indeed, McCain’s wife, Cindy, just came out in favor of gay marriage and did a photo shoot for the NOH8 campaign. Where is Michelle? The Republican Party is at least evolving on the issue of gay rights, and if getting our votes means they become more competitive, we can expect they will improve.

I don’t judge by words. I judge by actions. Politicians take gay votes for granted, and who can blame them? They probably should take our votes for granted because we don’t ask for anything from them in return. Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act and gay people still gave him their votes. Indeed, they cheer him whenever he speaks before a gay organization. So maybe we don’t deserve a real fighter. Gays are looking for fashionable icons and nothing more than that.

Last year, I saw Jane Fonda at a Broadway fundraising event for gay causes. This is a woman whose contribution to the world was 25 aerobic workout videos. Many will never forget her visiting Communist troops in Vietnam. At the Broadway event, Fonda got a standing ovation before she even opened her mouth. Why? She’s a tired diva. But when Harvey Fierstein, one of the most celebrated gay artists in America, came on stage, he didn’t get a standing ovation. He gave an amazing speech that was directed at Obama, demanding that the president fulfill his campaign pledges. This event occurred a long time ago when people were still excited about Obama, and yet Fierstein still chastised him harshly for his lack of action.

Maybe the crowd didn’t applaud Harvey because he isn’t a diva. He didn’t produce workout videos, nor did he ever express support for Vietnamese communists. Perhaps if he had, the left-wing gay community would cheer for him. Even that scumbag ex-governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey, is invited everywhere. I was actually shocked to see him speak at an event for the Stonewall Community Foundation, an organization that I respect. This corrupt ex-politician, who had to resign because he put his lover on the state payroll, was giving a speech and the entire gay crowd was applauding him? What a shame.

At this point Obama is just a liar who makes a lot of promises. He took our money, the overwhelming majority of gay people gave him support, and a year into his presidency he has given us practically nothing back aside from lifting the HIV travel ban and hate crimes legislation. It doesn’t do us any good for the president to go to a gay fundraiser and say that he’s with us and tell us how great and wonderful we are. There’s a big difference in giving a speech at an event which only rich homosexuals can attend (these events are not televised or known to anyone outside a small set of the gay community), and saying the same things to the American people. (Continued on following page.)









The president just delivered his first State of the Union Address, and millions of straight Americans watched. He hardly said anything about us, except one sentence promising to repeal "don’t ask, don’t tell." He could have told the people of Maine—before the vote to revoke marriage equality there—that they should make the right choice and not take back our civil rights. But he didn’t. In his speech in Cairo last year, he advised the Islamic world to re-evaluate its relationship with Israel. But he did not bother to ask for an end to the harassment, beatings, and killings of gays happening on a daily basis in all the countries suffering under Islamic rule. Hillary Clinton has condemned anti-gay violence, but our president has not. How hard would it have been for him to show solidarity with our gay brothers and sisters living in some of the darkest places in the world?

As we can’t depend on straight Democrats, we need a gay Martin Luther King, Jr., to fight for us. Someone who will face arrest, enact civil disobedience, and raise a ruckus on our behalf. We need to choose a leader who cares about us and not just him or herself. Those are the actions for which MLK is so admired today. But gays seem to think that giving lots of money to political candidates is all that needs to be done. Making political donations is important, but it has to produce results to be effective. The people who deliver our money to the president should not just be delivery boys; they should be fighters, they should be crusaders. Why are we content to have them merely rub shoulders with the powerful?

Some will always say that there are bigger issues to address. They’re saying it now with Democratic prospects looking worse and worse. The president’s plate will never be cleared. But is it not the job of gay rights activists to make sure there is room on it for us? Fools are the people who say we should give Obama more time. I’m not even sure he will be here for another term, and the Democrats will not hold both Houses of Congress for much longer. I’m not looking forward to this opportunity to be lost. So if there is no action now, then when? It’s time for a new generation of gay leadership.