GLN IN THE PRESS
Gay groups divided over possible conflict in Iraq
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force opposes war, others disagree
By RHONDA SMITH
WASHINGTON The opposition of some U.S. gay groups to military action in Iraq made news as far away as Australia last week, when the gay Sydney Star-Observer published a Jan. 9 story headlined "U.S. gays launch war on war."
The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force is the largest gay advocacy organization to take a stand against possible war. On Dec. 26, the group announced it has joined a broad coalition of civic, religious and political groups called "Keep America Safe: Win Without War."
The National Transgender Advocacy Coalition also announced Wednesday that it had joined Keep America Safe.
"Unprovoked war will increase human suffering, arouse animosity toward our country, increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks, damage the economy and undermine our moral standing in the world," said coalition members, which also include the National Council of Churches, the NAACP, the Sierra Club and the National Organization for Women.
In a written statement, organizers at NGLTF urged gay organizations to join the Keep America Safe coalition.
But David Smith, communications director for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay political organization, said that group does not plan to take a stand on the issue.
"We believe that such a statement would fall outside of our specific mission, which is to ensure that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people achieve equality in today's society," he said.
Log Cabin Republicans, a nationwide gay political group, endorsed the Bush administration's efforts in Iraq.
"We certainly support the president on his war on terror," said Mark Mead, a LCR spokesperson. "If that means we need to have a regime change in Iraq to protect American lives here and abroad, then we support those efforts."
In recent months, some gay rights activists accused NGLTF of "dragging its feet" about joining the anti-war movement.
Out Against the War, a grassroots gay coalition in San Francisco that often uses the Internet to organize supporters, called for a boycott of NGLTF in December because the organization had not opposed war.
"We felt they were moving too slow," said Kevin Weaver, a gay rights activist in San Francisco and one of the NGLTF's most vocal critics.
Lorri Jean, NGLTF executive director, said the group's leaders took more time to conduct research and analyze the issue before announcing their stance.
"We are thoughtful and try not to take knee-jerk positions," she said.
Joseph DeFilippis, a coordinator of the Queer Economic Justice Network in New York, said in November that NGLTF leaders were reluctant to oppose a U.S.-Iraq war because they might lose funding, just as the group did when its leaders opposed the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s.
"But the Task Force has been willing to take other positions in the past that had financial ramifications," Jean said.
NGLTF holds its annual Creating Change conference, a national gathering of politically progressive activists, each November. During the 2002 conference, leaders of various gay civil rights organizations announced that their groups formally oppose a U.S. attack on Iraq.
The groups included the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the National Youth Advocacy Coalition, Pride at Work, and the Mautner Project for Lesbians with Cancer.
A handful of local and state level gay and transgender organizations have also announced opposition to war with Iraq, including Trans=Action in Georgia.
"Sometimes, we must step out of our own box of being a local organization that narrowly focuses on transgender issues to make statements concerning greater issues affecting the nation and the world," the group said.
A coalition of gay activists in Chicago struck a similar tone in a full-page ad placed in gay newspapers there.
"A new U.S. war will indirectly kill people in our community here at home by diverting necessary funds away from already scaled-back social service programs," the ad said.
This article appeared in the issue of:
January 17, 2003