GLN permalink 6-2-2013
With a recent Crain's poll showing Illinoisans favoring our state's equal marriage rights bill by a nearly two-to-one margin, and Democrats holding a huge majority in the Illinois General Assembly, the usual excuses of pro-LGBT legislation being held up by Republican conservatives didn't hold water.
Yet on Friday night, the Assembly closed its spring session without bringing SB10 to a vote, despite repeated promises by its chief sponsor, Chicago Rep. Greg Harris, to do just that. While Harris's broken promises certainly hurt, lead responsibility for the failure and betrayal rest with House Speaker Mike Madigan.
Anyone who knows anything about Illinois politics knows that Mike Madigan owns the House. He is the de facto leader of the Illinois Democratic Party, and what he says in his own House goes. If he had insisted on a positive vote, Illinois would have become #13 in the list of states that have equal marriage rights.
Madigan has repeatedly shoveled millions of tax dollars to his wealthy cronies, leaving the state's finances in a total mess. But when it came to passing civil rights legislation, he refused to spend any political capital on it.
Shortly before our emergency response protest last night, some urged GLN to not name the names of the legislators who screwed us. But we did, and we will continue to do so. To not speak up when you are in an abusive relationship, gives cover for the Democratic abusers to continue. And it betrays the handful of courageous Republicans who bucked their party's yahoo wing and publicly stood up for doing the right thing.
The failure of SB 10 was not only a failure of the legislators in Springfield, but of people in our own LGBT community. Despite the rich history of our community's failure in dozens of campaigns across country -- California's Prop 8 only being the most egregious -- the coalition which closely partnered with Harris stuck to that same failed script. They ran a top-down corporate campaign, freezing out better messaging and helpful allies.
When religious leaders leaned on their Bibles to justify discrimination, Coalition leaders responded with the same tepid, warm and fuzzy messaging that has failed time and time again. A generation before the Prop 8 debacle, Harvey Milk and his allies defeated Anita Bryant's anti-gay Briggs Amendment in California. They did it by calling out her bigotry, and naming it as such. In far more difficult circumstances than younger people can imagine today, they not only won, but they sent Anita Bryant's career into a tailspin.
That is why the bigotry of today's Anita Bryants -- Cardinal George and Rev. James Meeks -- needs to be called out, mincing no words. Opposition to legal equality for whole groups of people is bigotry, and should be called such. GLN has caught no end of grief from other organizations for our protests against Cardinal George, but we know our history and know what has worked.
Another secret to Harvey Milk's success back in the late 1970s was his success in building a diverse coalition against the Brigg's Amendment.
But this wasn't accomplished by his simply talking to people in African American, Latino and other communities. Nor was it simply a matter of making sure that the hue of the faces seen in the ads and public appearances was not all-white.
Real coalitions are a by-product of real solidarity. And for that, talking against racism and other social ills is not enough. Words must be backed with actions. Harvey Milk got the gay community of his time to support unionists fighting the viciously anti-union Coors Corporation, with a wholesale boycott of Coors in gay and lesbian bars. And so when our time came, unionists were key allies in the fight that defeated the Briggs Amendment.
Thus today, for example, it is a scandal that GLN is alone among Chicago's predominately non-Latino organizations that consistently participates in Chicago's immigrant rights marches. While we focus mainly on LGBT-specific issues, GLNers have frequently been prominent in a host of "non-gay" progressive issues not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it's smart politics for when we, as a minority community, need the solidarity of others, such as with SB10. "Gay rights-only" advocacy is not only a very narrow view of the world, it's stupid politics.
So what to do next?
We need to take back our movement from the professional consultants and other "experts" who consistently have made such a mess of things. We do this by loudly insisting on transparency in any campaign done in our name, by insisting on effective messaging, and by doing our own independent outreach and solidarity to "other" communities (really our communities as well, as LGBTs are everywhere!).
And we must not rely solely on passive, on-line "activism." A civil rights movement worthy of the name is in-person, in-public, and in the streets.
Some weekday between now and the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on California's Prop 8 and Section 3 of the federal "Defense of Marriage Act." GLN and other organizations around the country have called for "Day of Decision" actions on the night that the Court announces its decisions.
In Chicago, the response will begin at 7 PM that night in the parking lot of the 7-11 at Halsted & Roscoe.
Win or lose, we must respond. If we lose, we must forcefully reject the Court's decision. If we win, we must forcefully remind other Americans that we need legal equality in more than just marriage, but in employment, housing and public accommodations. We must also remind other Americans that we demand more than simple legal equality -- we demand LGBT-affirming education in all of the nation's public schools, a real commitment to end LGBT youth homelessness, and many other measures social equality that aren't covered by legal equality alone.
Get more information about Chicago's Day of Decision action here.