Today at Creating Change Conference in Oakland
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
Reclaiming Moral Values: A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Agenda for 2006
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman rallied more than 2,500 LGBT rights advocates during his keynote speech Moving Forward: A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Agenda for 2006, in which he presented a strategic blueprint for the national LGBT community as it faces the political challenges of the upcoming year.
First, he stressed, the movement must confront the right’s ugly tactics head on.
“The sad and appalling reality is that they wield enormous influence over public policy, with Karl Rove in the White House vetting through them everything from HIV prevention policies to the nomination of Supreme Court justices. The sad and appalling reality is that the president caters to them, and prays with them. They together have the gall to wrap all of this in ‘moral values.’ And we can’t pretend like their tactics and this unholy alliance are not working,” said Foreman.
Second, Foreman urged the LGBT rights movement to seize the moral values issue and go on the offensive: “We must say over and over and over again, simply, directly, and unambiguously that anti-gay, anti-lesbian, anti-bisexual and anti-transgender discrimination in all its forms is immoral.”
Third, he said, “we need to stop seeing and talking about this wave of anti-marriage, anti-any-form-of-relationship-whatsoever constitutional amendments as political contests that we ought to be winning if only we did something better. When you boil it all down, these amendments are about inviting the public to vote on whether they deem us as good as they are, whether our love and our families are worthy of respect — put simply, whether or not we are fully human. This — putting the rights of a minority up for a popular vote — is always wrong. This is not democracy. This is the tyranny of the majority and it’s immoral.”
Foreman also said it is critical for the secular and religious communities unite.
“To our demise, we, on the secular side of our movement have been largely oblivious to the extraordinary work going on within faiths and denominations around LGBT equality. Where do you see the straight people fighting the hardest for us — in churches. ... Not only have we frequently failed to recognize and support all of this heroism, we have not taken advantage of amazing organizing skills of those involved in these struggles or brought to bear the political muscle of the millions of who have come to support us through them. All of this has to change ... Now, more than ever, we need people of faith — and they are the only ones that can do this — to call upon the religious right to repent, repent from its homophobia.”
Next, he told the crowd, “We must — from a morals-based place — demand that candidates and elected officials who take our money and get our votes — and here, I’m largely talking about Democrats — stop running and ducking on gay issues. Enough already. Most of the positions and responses in the last election cycle were spineless and incoherent. Starting now, we need to demand that they stop being on the defensive and go on the offensive about the moral imperative of protecting our people from discrimination and our young people from being harassed and bullied in schools.”
Finally, Foreman concluded, “Let’s always remember that building our community over the long term is far more important than any quick wins. Let’s remember that our moral values demand that we always speak honestly about our lives, without disingenuous whitewashing and sanitizing to make us more acceptable to the ‘mainstream.’ Let’s remember that our moral values demand that everyone is included and no one no one gets left behind — not people of color, not trans people, not bi people, not Native people, not leather people — not anyone. Together folks, we are going to build, win, and build some more.” Click here for a full text of Matt Foreman's speech.
‘Our struggles are all connected’
Author and activist Helen Zia electrified the crowd, especially the strong Asian Pacific American contingent, at the morning plenary with her speech, denouncing the right wing’s labeling of dissenters as ‘evil.’
“Ever since the great fundamentalist unleashing of ‘evil’ calling and ‘evil’ naming, I’ve known that I must be ‘evil’ too. I’m against war, against torture, against the demonization of immigrant and queer communities. I think government secrecy is a form of tyranny. I’m for human rights and full personhood for all without the threat of violence or repression from the state. I’m a queer person of color who got married to my partner last year in San Francisco and now the Christian right wants the Constitution to ban us. So I am very ‘evil.’”
Zia encouraged the conference attendees to see the fight for LGBT equality in the context of struggles that have taken place across centuries of oppression of native peoples, African Americans, immigrants, migrant workers and detained and relocated minorities in times of war.
“Our struggles are all connected, and the harder it is to see the link, the more the state wants to keep us separate — and so we must work even harder at making that link. Creating change doesn’t always happen in a straight line. There are zigs and zags, so we must take good care of each other.”
Zia is a longtime activist and the author of Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, and coauthor with Wen Ho Lee of My Country Versus Me. Her work on the landmark civil rights case of anti-Asian violence is documented in the Academy Award-nominated film Who Killed Vincent Chin?
Building ties with labor
Mary Kay Henry, executive vice president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), gave a plenary address today in which she called for stronger ties between the LGBT community and the labor movement.
“We know from exit polls that union members are twice as likely as non-union voters to vote for progressive candidates. A stronger union movement can help elect progressive candidates who will support LGBT issues. The connection is that direct.”
Henry is a founding member of SEIU’s Lavender Caucus. Her election as Executive Vice President came the same day that SEIU delegates adopted a marriage equality resolution.
“Imagine what could be different if the labor movement and the LGBT movement worked together in new and creative ways. Imagine that, in your state and community, when you go to the town council or state Legislature to fight an anti-gay measure, you arrive with a lavender army that includes lots of purple — the purple caps and T-shirts of SEIU activists in your community,” she said.
“And imagine that, when you read in the newspaper about the struggle of a group of local janitors or child-care workers to win the right to unite with SEIU for a voice on the job, you and your fellow Task Force activists go to their rallies to support them...and they are then able to support their families and work on the job with dignity... Together, we can create change. Real, progressive change that’s good for all working families.”
At a glance
Tony DeBlase, a founder of the Leather Archives & Museum, located in Chicago, and creator of the Leather Pride Flag, was honored posthumously with a Creating Change Award for his demonstrated commitment to social justice.
Among the day’s many highlights:
|H. Alexander Robinson, strategic director, National Black Justice Coalition, presents at Wolves in Wedding Dresses|
Wolves in Wedding Dresses: How Conservatives are Using Same-Sex Marriage to Pit African Americans against LGBT Americans presented finings from a new quantitative analysis of the voting record of conservative members of Congress on legislation addressing the issues African Americans identify as most important to their community. Findings reveal that conservative political and religious leaders claiming to be friends of the African-American community based on opposition to same-sex marriage are proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing or, in this case, “wolves in wedding dresses.”
Yellow Peril, Terrorists, and Racism: Current Issues Confronting LGBT Asian Americans surveyed whether and how LGBT rights issues benefit Asian Pacific Americans and immigrants and took a queer approach to traditional race- and class-based civil rights and immigrants’ rights.
Prisons, Rape and LGBT Detainees Activists and a survivor addressed the experiences of LGBT detainees, the homophobia and gender assumptions underlying official indifference and how LGBT activists can help end the epidemic. Click here for more information.
The Third Wave of Ex-Gay Ministries: LGBT Youth in the Crosshairs, which reviewed new research on organizations with “ex-gay” ministries, including Focus on the Family, Exodus International, and Love in Action and armed participants with the skills and information necessary to effectively respond the next time the “ex-gay” bandwagon comes to your hometown.
Challenging Ageism as a Strategy to Divide and Conquer explored how ageism interacts with and reinforces race, class and gender oppression.
Transgender Inclusion: How to Do It Well covered the dos and don’ts of trans inclusion. Organizers explained the different steps and levels of trans-inclusion, as well as the common barriers and plateaus that organizers and activist experience on their journeys to full transgender inclusion.
Bi Politics laid out what makes the bisexual movement different from the overarching queer movement, as well as points of similarity.
The Pride Ritual
Hundreds of conference attendees drummed, chanted and danced to the music of the spirit during the Pride Ritual at Creating Change. The 'Techno-Ritual' was a multimedia, multi-sensory, multi-faith celebration drawing from the world’s spiritual traditions to create a deep sense of identity, belonging and purpose for LGBT people, friends and allies. This powerful and moving event celebrated and honored the accomplishments and contributions of LGBT people throughout history, and provided an opportunity to examine historical oppression, changing grief into empowerment. The event, sponsored by Q-Spirit, and was part of spiritual celebrations taking place throughout the conference.
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movementís premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
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