In response to our DOMA protest, the Chicago Free Press wrote an editorial criticizing it in part. Here is the reply we have sent as a letter to the editor:
To the Editor
In an editorial, "Remembering Our Message," a Chicago Free Press editor took to task Gay Liberation Network and Join the Impact organizers of the January 10 rally and march for bringing up the Israeli assault on Gaza. The event, the editor said, should have stayed focused on repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and not introduce "divisive" and "inappropriate" issues.
While GLN has always focused primarily on LGBT issues, we don't limit ourselves to narrowly defined "gay identity" issues. We know that if we are going to ask non-LGBT people for solidarity, we cannot be oblivious to demands for justice by other oppressed groups. Solidarity is a two-way street, both for moral reasons and for reasons of practical politics. Of course, following 9/11 we took a lot of heat within our community when we came out against the impending Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Today our critics are largely silent as history has shown what a disaster these wars have been. We were unpopular for a while, but we felt it was necessary to take a public stand and win people to it.
What many more privileged LGBT people fail to realize is that we wreck solidarity within our community if we don't take the rainbow flag illustration of our diverse population to heart. A majority of LGBTs endure multiple oppressions -- women, racial minorities, immigrants including Palestinians, the disabled, etc. If we ignore their "non-gay" issues, they understandably become alienated from the rest of the LGBT community and reluctant to pitch in to support community-wide initiatives.
And we are everywhere, including in Gaza's Palestinian community, which is being heartlessly slaughtered right now while the world's most powerful nation arms the butchers. Many of us came early on to recognize that the bloated military budget for Iraq and Afghanistan drained resources desperately needed in our own communities. Similarly, billions of US tax dollars finance Israel's war against the Palestinians.
In the U. S., the dominant media spin on the invasion of Gaza is a wild distortion of reality, not unlike the propaganda we witnessed in the run up to the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, with contrary viewpoints hardly ever heard. The endlessly repeated assertion that Israel "has a right to defend itself" against Hamas rockets conveniently ignores the years-long blockade of Gaza, the most densely populated region in the world, with next to no natural resources, leading to rampant malnutrition and lack of medical care. Also ignored are sixty years of occupation -- Iraqis can't stand us after nearly 6 years of occupation, so we can only imagine how the Palestinians feel about Israel!
Israel's defenders claim it is the only democracy in the Middle East. What kind of "democracy" has laws allowing indefinite detentions without charges, laws used extensively against the Palestinian population? What kind of "democracy" is hyper-concerned about who is or who isn't a Jew (in apartheid South Africa it was who is and who isn't white), and confers a myriad of privileges on the select? Here in the U.S., the LGBT movement has long challenged the right-wing notion that the U.S. is or should be a "Christian Democracy." The phrase is an oxymoron, as non-Christians are by definition second class citizens at best. Same thing with the notion of there being such a thing as a "Jewish democracy."
Finally, pursuing a "gay rights only" agenda for activism is now widely recognized to have been a major contributing factor to the California Proposition 8 debacle. Many post-election commentators noted that the "No on 8" leadership deliberately steered outreach away from neighborhoods populated with racial minorities.
Moreover, simply asking others to help us without contributing significant LGBT support for the human rights struggles of others is selfish, arrogant, and self-defeating. If we expect to get the rainbow hues of the LGBT community acting in concert, if we expect non-gay people in racially oppressed communities to support LGBT rights, then we have to actively support "non-LGBT" causes for peace and human rights.
Recently, Reverend Al Sharpton showed an example of the solidarity we advocate when he said he was appalled at California churches "organizing and mobilizing to stop consenting adults from choosing life partners." He apparently felt his words were not inappropriate or divisive in the African-American communities he speaks for. Though perhaps unpopular, he felt his words were necessary. To receive support you must give it.
GAY LIBERATION NETWORK
The editorial to which this letter responded can be found at http://chicagofreepress.com/node/3019