November 23, 2008

Setting Priorities

As leaders of the LGBT community reevaluate their goals and activism processes in the wake of recent election defeats, an important part of that needs to be understanding where those goals stand in the general scheme of things, particularly with the new Congress and President coming in January.

I am happy to see that there is some understanding among this group that, while the issue of same-sex marriage is very important, there are other issue that impact LGBT people which also need attention, and additionally issues like the current financial crisis that trump all of them in the short term.

A recent article in USA Today quotes some of these leaders:

There will be some hard questions asked about where marriage ranks on the list of possibilities and priorities" gays should focus on, says Steve Ralls of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Amy Balliett, whose website,, mobilized thousands Saturday to protest the reversal of gay marriage in California, plans more demonstrations, but she says the economy must come first. "Barack Obama can't put his initial focus" on gay marriage, says Balliett, who wed her partner in California last month. "That is just not fair to our nation."

I believe that last quote is very reasonable and demonstrates a very healthy, balanced perspective which is likely to be tested in the early months of the new Obama administration, as evidenced by this article in the Washington Times regarding the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell":

President-elect Barack Obama will not move for months, and perhaps not until 2010, to ask Congress to end the military's decades-old ban on open homosexuals in the ranks, two people who have advised the Obama transition team on this issue say.

Repealing the ban was an Obama campaign promise. However, Mr. Obama first wants to confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his new political appointees at the Pentagon to reach a consensus and then present legislation to Congress, the advisers said.

"I think 2009 is about foundation building and reaching consensus," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The group supports military personnel targeted under the ban.

Mr. Sarvis told The Washington Times that he has held "informal discussions" with the Obama transition team on how the new president should proceed on the potentially explosive issue.
Lawrence Korb, an analyst at the Center for American Progress and an adviser to the Obama campaign, said the new administration should set up a Pentagon committee to make recommendations to Congress on a host of manpower issues, including the gay ban.

"If it's part of a larger package, it has a better chance of getting passed," he said.

I know it's easy for me, a straight man, to preach patience and perspective to the LGBT community since my rights are not impacted by these delays, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. It's not about instant gratification now, it's about getting things right and, unlike Proposition 8, making them last.

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