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Where’s
the outrage?

Where’s
the outrage?

Chad_graham_large

America's GLBT leaders were largely silent in the wake of Sunday's far-right (and, de facto, antigay) rally called "Justice Sunday: Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith." We should all be ashamed--and scared

I waited all weekend. I waited for the national gay rights groups to speak up. I waited for this country's tolerant religious leaders to speak up. I waited for the groups of gay and lesbian couples who've gotten the legal right to marry, through the work of fair-minded justices to speak up. I waited for influential moderate lawmakers--Democrat and Republican--who support an independent judiciary to speak up. To hold a rally. To hold a march in protest. To do something. Yet no one stood up to the millions of far-right evangelicals in this country who turned out for the "Justice Sunday: Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith" event, which was sponsored by the Family Research Council. Staged for the cameras in front of 1,700 people at a megachurch in Louisville, Ky,. and beamed via satellite to an estimated 61 million more in 44 states, the FRC event was intended to protest "activist judges" in this country. The far right is enraged that the Democrats in the U.S. Senate would dare to stall President George W. Bush's radically conservative picks for the federal court system. Rabidly antigay opinion makers--from House majority leader Tom DeLay to Focus on the Family's James Dobson--were there to ensure that these judges are following "Christian" examples and interpreting the Constitution as they believe the God-fearing founding fathers intended. DeLay wants to investigate and possibly impeach judges, based solely on his and his followers' disagreements with their decisions. In case you're wondering when this idea was last floated, you need look only to the decisions of the 1950s and '60s that outlawed segregation and struck down laws against interracial marriage. The racially bigoted extremists of the time--supporters of Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential bid, praised by current U.S. Senator Trent Lott--crowed just as loudly for the impeachment of Supreme Court justices. The difference was, they weren't running the show in Washington. U.S. Senate majority leader Bill Frist--who endorsed the goals of "Justice Sunday" via videotape--and DeLay are setting the agenda in our nation's capital. And they see nothing wrong with making it a right-wing Christian agenda, to the exclusion of all other people of all other faiths, from gay Christians to devout Muslims to committed atheists. They are saying to hell with freedom of religion in the United States. "We are not asking for persons merely to be moral," R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told the Associated Press. "We want them to be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ." That kind of talk should frighten every gay man and lesbian in this country. People of this kind of black-and-white born-again faith do not represent everyone. Yet these self-righteous zealots will have an enormous impact on your life--whether you can feel it right now or not. Let me be clear: The phrase activist judges is code for judges who treat gay people fairly, who rule that the phrase equal protection of the laws means just that when it comes to sodomy laws or marriage laws. Rather than ruling in favor of that simple call for equality written into the U.S. Constitution, the DeLay crowd wants judges who bring religious prejudices with them to the bench. And if getting their own judges appointed doesn't work, they'll impeach the judges they don't like and replace them with their own version of "activist judges"--who will be activists for antigay discrimination. These federal judges--who will serve on the bench for as long as they please--will issue key rulings to determine if gay men and lesbians can win access to marriage equality, as African-Americans did before us. These judges will determine if you can adopt or even be parents of foster children, as your qualified heterosexual peers can. They will help determine if the law will protect you from being savagely beaten because of your sexuality. They will determine whether you can be protected against being fired or kicked out of your apartment by a boss or landlord who disapproves of your private life. Guess how DeLay and Frist's judges would rule on these matters? And guess what happens if the Supreme Court is packed with judges who will back those rulings? There is no appeal, nor is there an act of Congress, that can undo a Supreme Court decision--as James Dale, the fired gay Boy Scout leader who lost his Supreme Court appeal, can tell you. The real battle over the particular right-wing-ideologue judges in question will occur in the U.S. Senate sometime this spring or summer--perhaps as early as this week. Lacking the votes to reject these archconservative judges in an up-or-down vote in the U.S. Senate (which now boasts 55 Republicans, all but three or four or whom work in lockstep with Frist and the White House), the Democrats have used the long-standing power of the filibuster to prevent those votes from occurring. It takes 60 votes to end a filibuster, and it's the last thing standing between this handful of right-wing judges and decades of antigay court rulings. Senate majority leader Frist wants to change the Senate's rules to destroy the filibuster, a strategy called the "nuclear option" because of the impact it would have on doing business in the U.S. Senate. In response, the Democrats have promised to halt all work in the Senate except gravely urgent matters until the rule is restored. "Justice Sunday" is the far right's attempt to make its position the only one heard in Washington, D.C. With up to 60 million constituents calling the telephone numbers of their elected representatives--both the numbers and the message were spoon-fed to them on Sunday--many "moderate" Senators may fear for their political survival and decide to toe the far-right line. What is most concerning about "Justice Sunday" is the fact that every major news outlet in the country covered it, including CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. The far right got its message out and beamed around the world. Gay men and lesbians? We got no coverage. We had no voice in this coverage. No one pointed out that this whole brouhaha--although stoked by the Terri Schiavo case--began in 2003 with court rulings striking down sodomy laws and marriage discrimination. I have yet to see a newspaper article or television news report linking the struggle for gay equality with what happened yesterday, and it's our own damn fault. No one bothered to schedule a large protest or a march. Not one gay group of which I'm aware sent out talking points or set up a public relations strategy to reach the reporters who were writing about the story on deadline. Did any GLBT activists meet with religion reporters and editors last week to make sure their coverage was balanced? Where were the media action alerts? So far there have only been a couple of press releases from a couple pro-gay groups saying they disagreed with what happened. (Thank you, Stonewall Democrats!) It is sickening at how ineffective all the rest of the gay rights groups have been in this antigay religious crusade. There was silence on Sunday, and we should be ashamed of ourselves. Once again---just like in the election of 2004--the gay men and lesbians in the country have gotten their hats handed to them in the culture war. We lost again. Big time. And it can't happen again. You don't need to have telephone numbers and talking points handed to you. Want to make a difference? You know who to call. You know what to say. Get to it.

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Chad Graham