The Thistle Volume 13, Number 2: Sept./Oct., 2000.

Straight from the Closet

With the November elections rapidly approaching we find ourselves once again deluged with propaganda from all sides trying to convince us that one candidate or another will fight for us and will represent our interests once they get to Washington. In this twisted dance that mixes equal parts personality contest and mud wrestling it is easy to become disillusioned and not even bother trying to figure out what any of these candidates actually stand for or whose interests they actually represent. This can be especially dangerous when it comes to issues of personal freedom, and now is a time in America when crucial decisions will be made that will help set the path we all follow for the foreseeable future. One of these issues that is of particular importance today is the rights of people to be not only free from discrimination based on their sexual orientation but theirs rights to have the same privileges as any other member of our society. Today is a unique time because in the last decade we have seen a marked increase in both the visibility and social acceptance of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals while at the same time we have witnessed a rapidly growing reactionary movement. Today we have states voting to recognize civil unions between same sex partners while we have those same states attacked as leading to the moral downfall of America and those same laws being challenged in court. In this climate the next four years will be of vital importance to seeing whether America will begin to move towards true equality or whether it will sink back into a thinly disguised homophobia dressed up in liberal terminology like “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Since this is such a crucial time for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the positions of the candidates in the coming election, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that we should never rest comfortably with the assumption that simply voting in an election will insure our rights.

Starting with the two major parties we find that indeed none of these candidates would fully support the equal treatment of people regardless of sexual orientation or life style. The Bush / Cheney ticket is, not surprisingly, the more intolerant of the two and, in my opinion, can not even be considered as an option. To illustrate my point, George W. Bush opposes allowing homosexual parents to adopt children, he opposes recognizing same sex marriage, he believes that private organizations like the Boy Scouts of America should be allowed to refuse membership homosexuals, and probably most important of all he opposes the extension of hate crime legislation to include crimes based on the victims sexual orientation. Near the end of Dick Cheney’s tenure as Secretary of Defense he recommended that the military’s ban on allowing homosexuals to serve and on keeping women out of combat situations should remain in effect. When this brief overview of these men’s attitudes is combined with the rhetoric of their “compassionate” conservatism, I think it is safe to say the Bush / Cheney ticket is not going to represent the LGBT community, no matter how many speakers they parade out at conventions. The Gore / Lieberman ticket has a slightly more mixed history when it comes to these issues, but they are still bound by their Judeo-Christian morality and their political desire to be viewed as centrists. Before the fatal beating of Pfc. Barry Winchell in his barracks on July 5 Al Gore supported the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy his political partner President Clinton instituted after abandoning his campaign promise to completely end the ban on homosexuals in the military. After Winchell’s death, however, Gore flip flopped under pressure and now states that he believes that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy should be eliminated. In addition, Gore supports recognition for domestic partnerships that have legal protections, but he rejects the idea of expanding the definition of marriage to include same sex partners. Mirroring Gore, Joseph Lieberman has had a mixed record on gay rights. He has opposed gay marriages and was a backer of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to disregard gay marriages recognized by other states, but he did support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which prohibits job discrimination against gays. Probably most significant, however, is that he did support the extension of hate crime legislation to include women, gays, and the disabled. Given the choice between these two tickets we would be left with choosing the lesser of two evils and that is exactly what we would end up with, evil. None of these men support the equal treatment of homosexuals, and neither would their administrations. We are therefore left to turning to a third party if we still have any faith in American politics to advance the issues most important to us.

Unfortunately, many of the third parties are not much better than the Republicrats when it comes to LGBT issues, and some are a whole lot worse. Not that I expect anyone to think that they would offer a real alternative for the homosexual community, but for completeness lets begin with Pat Buchanan and Ezola Foster who are the likely candidates from the Reform Party. They are about as reactionary as you can get. I think little more needs to be said about them than to quote from a speech Buchanan gave on Aug 11 of this year in which he stated that “Rampant homosexuality, a sign of cultural decadence and moral decline from Rome to Weimar, is celebrated, as our first lady parades up Fifth Avenue to share her ‘pride’ in a lifestyle ruinous to body and soul alike.” Well maybe I should add that he stated in October of 1999 that AIDS is nature’s “retribution against homosexuals”, and that Ezola Foster has openly stated that she supports ALL of Buchanan’s views on homosexuality. Any questions? Next we come to Harry Browne, the Libertarian candidate, who in classic objectivist fashion has decided to side step the issue by stating that the government should not be involved in any of these decisions. He has stated that as long as government is providing any economic or social benefits to married couples that it should do so equally regardless of the sexual make up of the couple, but that in the end he would rather see marriage be a completely private matter with no governmental involvement at all. This attitude cuts both ways, however, in that he also believes that the government should not intrude on the “rights” of companies and therefore he does not support anti-discrimination laws that would protect homosexuals or any minority for that matter. In a perfect world I can agree that there would be no need for laws like these, but their removal today would simply return us to the kind of blatant intolerance we had in the 1950’s and I can’t imagine anyone who wants to see that. Well after all this you may be asking if there is any hope at all. I can’t tell you whether there is or not, but in this election we do have two choices that are not simply the lesser of many evils. First of all, there are Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke, the candidates from the Green Party, who as a whole seem to offer a legitimate alternative for members of the LGBT community. The Green’s party platform states that :

- We affirm the right to openly embrace SEXUAL ORIENTATION in the intimate choice of who we love.

- We support the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in housing, jobs, civil marriage and benefits, child custody - and in all areas of life, the right to be treated equally with all other people. On paper this seems to cover the vast majority of what we are fighting for, but it is important to remember that the Green Party’s commitment and ability to carry through on their promises has not been tested, nor have their two candidates spent much time talking about these issues beyond stating that they endorse the party platform. Secondly we come to David McReynolds and Mary Cal Hollis who are the candidates from the Socialist Party USA, and who are, in my opinion, by far the best choice. Being a gay man who “came out” back in 1969 at the leading edge of the fundamentalist backlash that was to follow in the seventies and eighties, McReynolds believes that we have made great progress over the last thirty years, but that much more remains to be done. He and the Socialist Party support the full legal equality of all people regardless of sexual orientation, including the right to marriage not just civil unions. Given his long history as a true fighter for social change and fundamental equality of all people I have no doubts as to his sincerity in embracing the issues of the LGBT community, however, as with the Green Party, due to the political monopoly of the Republicrats we have no way to judge his ability to effectively implement his ideas if he was to be elected.

I hope that this article with it’s rather grim appraisal of my hopes for this election has not deterred anyone from voting who honestly wishes to control their own futures, but I do hope that those same people take a real hard look at American politics before deciding that simply voting for people like this every four years is truly enough to effect real control over our own lives.


The Thistle Volume 13, Number 2: Sept./Oct., 2000.