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Time to Reset Our

Time to Reset Our


COMMENTARY: A bold agenda that would provide full equality for all LGBT people is currently gaining ground outside gay organizations and politicians -- Lane Hudson says it might be what our movement needs.

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 resume 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.

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