Friends, Enemies and Identity Politics

As I write this, the news is filled with conflicting stories of interest—and concern—to the gay community.


On the plus side, I offer two “tidbits” suggesting increased support:

  • In Asheville, North Carolina, a pastor has announced that he will continue to perform religious weddings, but will no longer “officiate” for purposes of conferring that legal status. That is, he will conduct religious ceremonies for couples desiring to be married in the church—including gay couples—but those who are straight and thus entitled to the legal incidents of marriage will need to make an extra trip to City Hall if they want legal recognition. He says that it is his way of refusing to participate in an unequal system.
  • In Ohio, in response to a Republican-sponsored bill that would bar gays from adopting children, a legislator has sponsored a bill that would prevent Republicans from doing so. The anti-gay bill had a preamble with the usual “because children are more emotionally healthy growing up in ‘traditional’ families” justification; the anti-Republican adoption bill began by citing “credible studies” showing that children raised by Republicans tended to become more rigid, less tolerant adults.” It was pretty funny. The sponsor acknowledged his bill was a spoof, but said it pointed up the unfair and ridiculous nature of the anti-gay rhetoric.


On the minus side:

·        In response to the ever-vigilant Family Research Council, the federal Department of Health and Human Services has removed critical GLBT health information from its government website. FRC charged that the government “uses material from pro-homosexual activist groups…such as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.” The content—which addressed substance abuse among GLBT populations—had been up for six years.

·        All indications are that the Republicans—who face formidable problems in the upcoming midterm elections—are gearing up to once again use “gay marriage” and “the homosexual agenda” as their wedge issue of choice. The gay community should brace itself for a real onslaught of hateful faux piety this fall.


Welcome to the culture war, 2006 edition.


In such an environment, it would seem prudent to reward and support those who—sometimes at considerable personal risk—have stuck their necks out to stand up for equality and human dignity. In Indianapolis, one of those people has been Congresswoman Julia Carson—and I find it inexplicable that this newspaper has endorsed her primary opponent.


Not only has Carson consistently and visibly supported legislation important to the gay community, she has used her considerable political capital when she didn’t have to get involved. When timid Democrats on the Indianapolis City-County Council voted with the GOP to defeat an amendment to the City’s Human Rights Ordinance—an amendment that would have extended protection against discrimination to gays, lesbians and transgendered citizens—Carson called them in and told them to do the right thing or answer to her. The amendment passed. Without her support, it wouldn’t have.


I can only assume that the Word decided to support her primary opponent because he is a gay man.  But it is a profound mistake to assume that people who share an identity will also share political and social goals. I am Jewish, and I can assure my readers that I share very few positions with Senator Joseph Lieberman.


I remember many years ago, when some of us “women’s libbers” created an organization called the Women’s Political Caucus. Its mission was to support women’s rights and especially women candidates. In the legislature at the time was a female state senator who consistently voted for conservative Christian “values” that had the effect of perpetuating discrimination against women. Redistricting had thrown her into a primary battle with a pro-choice, progressive male legislator. The Women’s Political Caucus (properly) endorsed the man.


When we engage in “identity politics”—supporting people because they are members of our “tribes”—we are perpetuating the attitudes that support inequality. If gays don’t support their friends, they deserve their enemies.