I never expected the Human Rights Campaign to endorse George W. Bush in the upcoming presidential election. I would also be the first one protesting outside their building if they had. However, I also hoped that HRC would extend the same courtesy to John Kerry, the likely Democratic nominee for President, by not endorsing his campaign either. Unfortunately, in the end HRC was true to one of my endorsement expectations and dashed my hopes when it came to the other.
With its endorsement of Senator John Kerry, HRC made clear that it’s an organization founded on the ideal of political expediency. At this point it is clear that HRC is not an organization based on morality.
Sure, HRC only had three choices in this election cycle when it came to making a presidential endorsement. They had to pick from Bush, Kerry and independent candidate Ralph Nader. When it came to picking a candidate, I am sure Bush’s explicit anti-gay stances made the choice that much easier. While Ralph Nader is a proponent of most gay rights initiatives, it is clear that pumping resources into his unviable campaign would not be worth it for any political organization. So HRC was left with the fact that it must pick Kerry, right? No, absolutely not.
While John Kerry is a strong proponent of many important gay rights measures, he has made clear that he does not support same-sex marriage. For that reason, and others listed above, if HRC had any moral backbone whatsoever, its staff and board of directors would have come to the conclusion that the organization did not need to endorse anyone for president in this election cycle. If HRC had sat out on this election, it would have been a bold statement that the gay rights movement is not willing to compromise on our most important issues. As a matter of fact — if HRC truly is an advocate of same-sex marriage — it seems odd that they would compromise their morals and get behind a candidate who doesn’t agree with them on one of the greatest civil rights issues the gay rights movement has ever faced.
While same-sex marriage may not have been an issue for consideration in making past endorsements, it is certainly an issue this time around. Even though President Bush has brought the issue of same-sex marriage to the forefront of this election, HRC cannot deny that they too played a pivotal role in making same-sex marriage an issue for November.
What is most strikingly amoral about HRC’s endorsement of Kerry is that not too long ago the organization posted on its website a rebuke of Kerry’s endorsement of a ban on same-sex marriage in his home state of Massachusetts. With his endorsement, the Massachusetts state legislature was able to pass the first test in getting a ban on same-sex marriage into that state’s constitution.
HRC now cites Kerry’s opposition to a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage as a reason for their endorsement of him. Kerry has long stated that he believes same-sex marriage is a state’s rights issue. And when it came to Kerry’s own state he made quite clear what he believed needed to be done on the issue. I wonder if black people, during the Jim Crow era, would have supported the NAACP had it endorsed a candidate who believed that racial segregation should be a state’s rights issue. In the time of racial segregation in America, there were many racist politicians who did.
While HRC’s endorsement may point to the organization’s lack of morality, it also points to its willingness to compromise on key issues that are important to the GLBT community. It is almost frightening to think what the organization gives away when it goes to Congress and claims to lobby on our behalf.
It used to baffle me why the Christian (un)Right is so successful at lobbying and getting their way in elections and on key pieces of legislation. Sad to say, HRC has now made it quite obvious why the Right is so successful. It basically comes down to the point that the Right will never compromise and will always hold fast to their morals. On the other hand, HRC seems to prefer political expediency over moral and uncompromising leadership on issues of grave and unwavering importance. At this point, I can only see the compromising as benefiting HRC. By becoming a moderate organization, HRC has also become an organization that is recognized by the political elites as one to be manipulated.
Unfortunately, because of the amoral actions of one organization that has been successful at convincing most of the nation that it represents all of us, John Kerry has been given a free-pass when it comes to the issues of the gay civil rights movement. He has been given permission to balk at our request to be granted the equal right of having our loving same-sex relationships recognized by the government. He’s been let off the hook for endorsing a discriminatory constitutional amendment in his own state.
If the GLBT community is going to survive in the grand politick of the 21st century, it had better start seeking its moral conscience, as well as forceful leaders. It had better become a community that will not stand for defeatism. It had better become a community that is not afraid to be bold when it comes to being principled. It had better become a community that refuses to give time and financial resources to leaders that take our rights for granted.
I truly believe that once we stop selling our souls for the sake of political expediency and ill-conceived compromises, the GLBT community will really begin to make strides. The gay rights movement is certainly the moral conscience of this country and we must never forget that. As an oppressed people, we must not neglect all that we must and should stand for. If we do not stand up for ourselves, no one else will.
Graham Murphy is a recent graduate of the George Washington University and currently works at a child care association.
Town Square is a forum for members of Washington, D.C.’s GLBT community to express their opinions on topics and issues of the day. For submission guidelines, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.