Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Dallas Principles

Although President Obama continues to protest that he supports full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, fact is, he has done nothing to back up his words. He has not even attempted minor changes that fall within his purview such as the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell or suspension of dismissals due to DADT through an executive order. This comes as no surprise as he is an elected official beholden to numerous and disparate stakeholders. If he were to come out pushing for LGBT initiatives such as same-sex marriage, he would instantly alienate constituencies he believes he needs, adversely affect his more important policy initiatives and ultimately, his grander vision of change. This would also go against his dogged and at times quixotic adherence to pragmatism and bipartisanship.

So what are the gays to do? Contrary to Meghan McCain's claim that homosexuals are better off with the Republican Party, the LGBT community is well advised to cast its lot with Mr. Obama and the Democrats. At least until the GOP becomes more centrist and rids itself of a conservative social agenda. As such, gay establishment leaders keep aligned and in step with the administration, preaching patience to the troops.

However, that is not enough. Pressure on the White House and the Democrats to remind them of their promises of full inclusion and equality - pressure for real change - has to be kept. And this push should come from the grassroots as they have the numbers and the power when agitated, harnessed and deployed. More importantly, it is the individual on the ground, not the highflyers flitting through the halls of Congress and the White House, who suffer more from discriminatory and unfair policies and institutions. The elite of the LGBT community have the resources as well as social and political capital to buffer themselves. Middle and lower class lesbians and gays do not. LGBT of color have so much less.

It is thus appropriate that a week ago, 24 thinkers, activists, and donors gathered in Dallas, Texas to discuss the immediate need for full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender people in the United States. Collectively they prepared The Dallas Principles and have launched a campaign promoting this grassroots effort. They outline principles, lay out goals and sound a call to action.

Their preamble reads:
President Obama and Congress pledged to lead America in a new direction that included civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. We now sit at a great moment in our history that inspires the nation to return to its highest ideals and greatest promise. We face a historic opportunity to obtain our full civil rights; this is the moment for change. No delay. No excuses.
No more delays. No more excuses.

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