This past Valentine’s Day, I had dinner with someone I had been seeing for a little more than two weeks. For a young man, my date had an impressive resume. He was currently serving as press secretary for a midwestern senator from a deep-red state. He was progressive, attractive and believed strongly in the gay rights movement.
Although my date infatuated me, I could not skirt the feeling that he lacked something essential. During our date, he began to complain about a speech his boss gave in support of the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment. Because I knew that my date was well aware of his senator’s views and philosophy prior to taking his job, I politely asked him to stop whining about the anti-gay rhetoric he had heard at work.
And that’s when I realized that the vital thing my date lacked is moral integrity.
Homosexual people cannot accurately label themselves as members of the gay rights movement until they choose to place a high value on following a strict moral code that demands equal rights for gay Americans. If you believe in a moral code that promotes equal rights for gay Americans and you live every aspect of your life in a way that promotes that moral code, then you have moral integrity as it relates to the gay rights movement. If you believe in equal rights for gay Americans but compromise your beliefs for a morally debased reason, such as collecting a paycheck, then you lack moral integrity. My Valentine’s Day date lost his right to declare himself an essential or credible member of the gay rights movement when he chose to work for and promote a politician that represents the antitheses of his moral beliefs.
The movement for equal rights for gay Americans is a moral one and it is not one to be taken lightly. From marriage, to adoption, to military service, to employment non-discrimination, the rights that the movement advocates for touch on some of the deepest moral issues facing this country. The moral rights that true gay Americans are fighting for are not rights that are subject to compromise. They are too important.
Yet far too often, the gay rights movement does not hold those who purport to be members and leaders accountable when they compromise its integrity with their actions. While Joe Solmonese promoted congressional candidates in 2004 who supported the Federal Marriage Amendment, in 2005 he was selected as president of the Human Rights Campaign. While the editors and publishers of Window Media try to position their company as the leading media voice for gay Americans, it provides its readers with anti-gay rhetoric from the likes of Jeff Gannon. And while Patrick Guerrero may have been a great leader for the Log Cabin Republicans and may be a spectacular choice to lead Tim Gill’s new venture, his past support of politicians who stall the movement’s progress undermine his stated commitment to the gay rights movement. Though I am certain that these leaders do strongly believe that gay Americans should have equal rights, they do offer terribly glaring examples of how the gay rights movement has too often not held supposed members accountable for lapses in moral judgment.
If the gay rights movement continues to give soapboxes to leaders who fail to stand up for all aspects of the movement in every aspect of their lives, what kind of message does that send to the movement’s opponents? While the anti-gay activists successfully rail against the movement with their false moral and religious beliefs — 44 states currently have laws or constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage — all the movement has to fight back with is its moral integrity. And like any grassroots movement, its moral integrity comes from the people involved.
However, even as you cannot have a credible moral voice in a movement without moral integrity, you also cannot win a moral debate without using moral truths. The gay rights movement continues to face blistering defeats at the hands of an opponent with a sense of cohesion and moral certitude. Yet the gay rights movement continues to come to debates with a fragmented group of moral vagabonds uncertain of what messages to use to defeat their opponents. Even those in the movement that have moral integrity do not always use it to their advantage.
If the leaders of the gay movement led with the moral truths they have on their side rather than slick media campaigns, then the movement’s arguments would be strong, cohesive and valid. The gay rights movement would begin to win battles with rational thought and the strength of moral integrity.
But when the gay rights movement’s leaders resort to debating with ”flashy” messages instead of moral truths, the movement finds itself defending its objectives with senseless slogans like, ”George W. Bush: ‘You’re Fired!”’
It is understandable that those living in a country that values freedom may be misguided into believing that every institution and movement in that country should be free and open forums for all ideas. However, a moral movement is not free and it is not open. Morality is not objective. Morals are also more than lofty beliefs. Morals are worthless if individuals do not act upon them. This is why the movement for equal rights for gay Americans will succeed only when it is a pure movement and finally expels or censures those ”members” who compromise its integrity with flailing moral misjudgments. A shift towards movement purity is the strategy that has worked for the gay rights movement’s opponents and it is the one that will work for the movement in the long term.
Graham N. Murphy lives in the District of Columbia and is an award-winning advocate for LGBT young people. He currently works in the education field. Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.