Friends in the LGBT equality movement, let’s take a minute to right-size our perspective, shall we?
We have made tremendous strides in the past few years. It’s gotten to the point that three states legalizing marriage equality in the past couple of weeks has barely made a ripple in the national news. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is dead. A major league athlete has finally come out, and the President of the United States praised him publicly for doing so. While the work certainly isn’t done, we have much to be genuinely joyful about.
One of the areas where there is still work to be done is with regard to immigration. Currently, same-sex couples comprising an American citizen and a foreign national cannot get the latter legal resident status based on the former’s citizenship, unlike with straight couples. This is unjust, of course, and it is rightly something we should work to correct.
So I can understand John Aravosis’s frustration when a provision in the immigration reform bill slogging its way through Congress that would have fixed the problem was killed the other day. It is genuinely disappointing to have legal protection of same-sex binational couples jettisoned so rapidly. On the other hand, immigration reform is going to be a very difficult issue to get any GOP support for, and I imagine such legal protections would make an unpalatable piece of legislation totally poisonous. It sucks, but something something sausage-making.
I would understand if Mr. Aravosis wanted to call the Democrats who went along with stripping the protections for same-sex binational couples spineless cowards. I would disagree, but I’d understand. Call them lily-livered poltroons or craven political calculators or whatever. Vent some spleen. Fine.
But this is just too much:
And what happened during the Senate committee mark-up yesterday? Durbin and Franken both used the 267,000 figure to justify dropping UAFA. Political homophobia became homophilia, they were bashing us because they loved us. [emphasis wearily added]
That figure is supposedly the number of gay undocumented immigrants living in the United States who would be helped by immigration reform, an effort at spinning the bill as a pro-gay measure even without UAFA (the provision for binational couples). Yes, it’s weak sauce. WHAT IT IS NOT IS GAY-BASHING!!!
No. No, no, no, no.
To squeeze lemon juice all over the lacerations he ladles out in his post, Aravosis festoons it with pictures of Sens. Durbin, Feinstein, Schumer and Franken with the word “Homophobe” written in red above them. Dianne Feinstein, who cried when she announced that her colleague Harvey Milk had been killed? Al Franken, who appeared with his wife in an ad opposing a same-sex marriage ban in Minnesota? Homophobes, the both of them.
Wrong! Stupid! Counter-productive!
Homophobia is hating gays and lesbians and being motivated by that hatred to keep us pariahs and second-class citizens. What it is not is being insufficiently willing to agitate for our cause when there are delicate political considerations in balance. Rick Perry is a homophobe. Dick Durbin is not.
We are not the Democrats’ only constituency, and our issues cannot always come first. We must behave like reasonable adults when we are disappointed. Yes, by all means we should advocate for our rights. But it serves no purpose whatsoever to call names at the very people who have done the work of advancing our agenda. Have we forgotten that until very recently it was very politically risky to openly support marriage equality? Do we think we have become such political winners that we can start crapping all over our friends?
We cannot start crapping all over our friends! Same-sex marriage is legal in a small (albeit growing) minority of states. A great many of the remaining states have bans in their very constitutions! The fat lady has not only not sung, folks, she hasn’t even caught the cab to the theater. And we will win precisely zero arguments by conflating a political setback like the loss of UAFA with outright homophobia and gay-bashing or by confusing our friends with our enemies.
Mr. Aravosis seems to have lost touch with reality a bit. We’ve come as far as we have by making a case for ourselves that resonated with the population at large. We’ve demonstrated that we are (and always have been) capable of serving valiantly in the military. Our friends and families have come to recognize that our relationships are no less deserving of legal protection and societal celebration than their own. We’ve made progress by doing hard, grown-up work.
We won’t make much more by acting like petulant second-graders. Lament the loss of same-sex protections in the immigration bill. Work hard to win those protections. Call out our supporters if you feel they didn’t try hard enough. But let’s not lump them in with our enemies. We shouldn’t give our enemies that kind of help.