Lincoln’s Legacy for GLBT Rights
Lincoln’s Legacy for GLBT Rights
Sparked by a debate with a Log Cabin Republican friend of mine, I began reviewing information surrounding the Civil Rights movement in the United States. It’s part of our history that stands very relevant to every member of the GLBT community. I was struck by the overwhelming realization that the Democratic Party is today what it is thanks largely to the efforts of moderate/liberal Democrats and the “Lincoln Republicans”. I know that before I even make these statements there are Republicans out there ready to pounce on the very thought that they are any different than they were in the 60’s. But, from what I see, it is the truth.
In 1960, when the Civil Rights Act of 1960 was put on the floor, 18 Southern Democrats tried hard to keep it from coming to a vote. After the longest filibuster in history it finally passed. Then, when Kennedy put forth Civil Rights legislation in 1963 it was not received well by Southern Democrats and by conservative Republicans. After Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson pushed the major bill through in 1964 along with high level of public support; we began to see those very conservative Southern Democrats migrate to the Republican party. As the Republican Party became more conservative, those who once would have been “Lincoln Republicans” were now more aligned with the ideals of the more socially conscious and liberal (by comparison) Democratic Party.
For me, this is when we began to truly see the Democratic and Republican parties we know today. Of course, we have seen minor fluctuations within each party to try to conform to cultural changes. But, the Democrats stand as the more liberal and the Republicans the most conservative. So, today as the GLBT community looks out to the political battle field hoping for a champion to help us win our equality, we typically find that our greatest allies are within the Democratic Party.
Are we misguided for putting our faith in a small select group of people? That is open for debate. But, as history has shown us, nothing happens without the outcry of public support. Lincoln knew that he would never win over everyone when it came to acknowledging the rights of the slaves, but he was willing to take our country to war to secure those liberties. His legacy lives on currently in the Democratic Party. Although there are Republicans who will quietly support GLBT rights, it’s definitely not a platform item that they hold up to the spotlight.
Our mission as the GLBT community is to raise the level of public outcry that will enable bi-partisan support of GLBT equality. President Obama and the members of Congress will be able to act only when they have confidence in overall public support. We as the GLBT community shouldn’t be standing around and waiting for someone to just make it happen. We all need to be Martin Luther King Jr. to our communities. We need to work together as Democrats, Log Cabin Republicans, Republicans, Independents or whatever party to which you feel allied. We need to be active in building VISIBLE support for GLBT equality. It’s one thing to have someone tell you they support it, it’s another to have them contact their congressman or stand up for GLBT rights at your work place, group or organization.
Lincoln’s legacy lives on currently with the Democratic Party. In many ways, it is our civil war to win equality. Support those who support you with their words and actions. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and DOMA are still very real. What have you done to help get them repealed? Take time to take action. Contact your congressman and tell him/her that the time for GLBT equality is NOW and that they have your support!
Gay day on Capitol Hill
The National Equality March was here! Signs, flags, buttons, body paint and wild attire highlighted the landscape of people. There were members of the LGBT community and our allies as far as I could see. I looked to my right and saw actor Chad Allen pointing up to the sky. He was pointing at what some were calling a sign of our just purpose - a rainbow appearing in the clouds. I started snapping photos so I could document that it actually happened. In that moment, surrounded by thousands of other like-minded people, I felt so proud to be an out gay man. I felt proud to be standing up and demanding equal rights for myself and my gay brothers and sisters.
The overflowing energy of the crowd made me anxious to get the march started. I was even eager to smile happily at any protesters popping up along the way. But instead of protesters, the route was filled with supporters and well wishers. It was amazing. We did come across three men who were attempting to save our souls, but the large crowd diminished their shouts.
Upon arriving at the Capitol, we soon began to get a greater perspective on how many people were marching. The lawn in front of the Capitol was nearly filled, and we heard that the line of marchers stretched back about 15 blocks. We listened eagerly to speaker after speaker demanding equality for the LGBT community. It was emotionally uplifting and physically energizing. The sound of the massive crowd responding to remarks echoed across Capitol Hill. I had to wonder, though, what all of these people would do once they returned home.
Yes, we marched and rallied. We demonstrated that even though we sometimes disagree about how best to accomplish our goals, we can come together collectively to demand our equality. But what are all of my fellow marchers going to do to help in that fight? Yes, many of them are already actively involved. But what about those sitting back waiting for President Obama to just do it all for them? It’s my hope that many will realize that our equality won’t come if we sit back and yell for the President to just wave his pen and make it happen. It’s hard for me to respect the comments about President Obama not taking enough action when they are made by people who are doing nothing themselves. Standing up for your rights can’t stop just because the march is over. Barney Frank’s comments regarding the march have some validity. The real chance to gain our equality depends on what we all do in our own communities. Before you challenge President Obama, have a conversation with your representatives in Congress. President Obama is making it a matter of conversation. Are you? Take personal responsibility and keep demanding your rights.