By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Didn‘t they hear Jesus Christ was gay?
Friend of Bill: David Mixner
Seeking justice for all: Urvashi Vaid
Recalls her evening with Bill: Torie Osborn
protesters, clinton and mixner, vaid: apwide world; osborn, robert hale
Gays euphoric about eight years of unprecedented prosperity and power in the Clinton era now face a political nightmare: the prospect of a George W. Bush victory in November.
Concerned figures as diverse as L.A.’s fund-raising mogul David Mixner and New York‘s grassroots activist Urvashi Vaid see the progress rolling back if Bush fools the country into buying his Orwellian “compassionate conservatism.”
Imagine the end of hate-crimes legislation, an even more militantly conservative Supreme Court, the elimination of executive orders protecting gay federal employees from job discrimination. Imagine more witch-hunts of gays in the military, the loss of hundreds of gay appointees in all branches of government, the end of unprecedented access to the White House, the collapse of 287 gay-affirmative bills in state legislatures across the country. Imagine a halt to domestic partnership, the overthrow of Vermont’s civil-union victory giving gays all the rights of married people but the license, the end of laws protecting gay high school kids from discrimination. Imagine the Bush who hobnobbed with Bob Jones University students seizing a bully pulpit to weaken gay rights.
This disturbing peek at Life After Clinton has led to renewed appreciation of the substantial gains won by gays over the last eight years, under a Democratic administration. This is not to say that Clinton‘s record on gay issues is without fault. Memories of his reversal on the rights of gays in the military are enough to prove his fallibility. But, without a doubt, Bush would be much worse.
If anyone still needs evidence that gays must redouble their efforts to hold on to their political power, look no further than Proposition 22: The Knight Initiative, which says only unions between a man and a woman can be recognized as marriage in California, passed by a huge margin. The No on Knight campaign has been widely criticized for resting too much on its media-savvy laurels, demonstrating a dereliction of duty when it came to firing up people to go all out to beat the homophobic proposition. “Have we learned nothing from this debacle?” asks Carol Anderson, who is organizing a new statewide grassroots organization, California Alliance for Pride and Equality (CAPE), in response to the failure of No on Knight to organize the new generation of young gays and lesbians. “Are we in denial or what?”
Just exactly what Bush’s stand on gay issues is, is unclear. It is this uncertainty, perhaps, that helps him. “We are too complacent,” says Anderson. “We say there is no chance they are going to decriminalize sodomy, and it doesn‘t matter who is in office, and that Bush would never become president because he’s such a moron. Some gays talk about voting for Bush because it‘s better for the pocketbook. That is one of the most self-hating things I have ever heard. To put money over one’s political life is plain stupid. I recall that line from Ship of Fools where the Jew is talking and saying, ‘They can’t eliminate all 6 million of us.‘ That’s just the way we gays and lesbians are now. I am concerned that there is a good possibility that Bush will be elected -- he is nine points ahead of Gore in the polls -- and that Congress will stay Republican, and if so, we are in deep doo-doo.”
To activists, these gilded times don‘t seem all that different from 1930s Weimar Germany, when the prevailing liberal forces had no inkling that Hitler could ride into absolute power. “Gays in pre-Nazi Germany experienced more freedom of expression than they probably had in any other time and country besides classical Greece,” argues activist Wendell Jones. “After Hitler became chancellor, Magnus Hirschfield’s library was looted and its contents burned, and gays either fled, entered the fascist SS or went to concentration camps.” The image of a pink triangle, used by the Nazis to identify gay prisoners, is now the symbol of gay pride, meaning “never again.”
All this is not to say that Bill Clinton has been the perfect president. “Personally speaking,” says Jon Davidson, senior lawyer at the Los Angeles office of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, “Clinton has been a disaster on all levels, but as my father used to say, you don‘t vote for a president, you vote against the other guy.”
Davidson’s words are slowly becoming the rallying cry behind what is shaping up to be the greatest fight for a presidential candidate the gay community has ever seen. In 1992, the Democrats‘ embrace and the Republicans’ repudiation of gays led to the emergence of a one-party gay voting bloc (an unparalleled 9 million gay votes) and of huge sums of gay-identified money directed to the Democrats. In 1992, gays contributed $2 million to the Clinton campaign, placing them among the top Clinton donor groups in the country. That $2 million landmark figure was actually surpassed last October, when the L.A. gay-and-lesbian community held a fund-raising dinner to “Take Back the House,” during which Clinton, Patrick Kennedy and California Governor Gray Davis clamored for photo-ops with the state‘s richest gay men and women. More than $1.2 million was raised, making this the single largest political fund-raiser in gay and lesbian history.