I'm not surprised at the recent Gallup poll showing that interaction with gay people affects public perceptions of a whole spectrum of issues from gay marriage to gays in the military. But I'm surprised at how oblivious people are to what it means.
Up to now, LGBT activists have used intimidation as their main tactic. When the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8 last month, for example, liberal columnists went into overtime attacking the one thing Democrats never do: the government. LA Times' Tim Rutten called the decision "social and moral nonsense," and Andrew Sullivan decried Obama's non-committal Prop 8 position in "The Fierce Urgency of Whenever." Others blamed Prop 8 supporters. 5,000 people showed up in New York City and 15,000 more in Los Angeles - a lot of them wearing No on Prop 8 campaign's "No to H8" logo. Impressive? Yes. Effective? No.
As one Twitter friend put it, outreach - not condemnation - is the secret to winning over social conservatives, Republican and Democrat.
While there is no doubt in my mind that good can come out of a positive exchange with any one of us, I disagree that liberal columnists should not hold the government and its elected officials accountable. It is also quite a claim that Democrats never contradict or challenge the government.
Perhaps the tone and tenor could be modulated, but there is and should be a place in public discourse for gadflies. I think activists know full well what they are doing. They are not “oblivious” or unfamiliar with the adage that one can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. In any social or political movement, there are many players and various strategies. They all have their roles to play.
We have the right to hold up a mirror to the very ignorance, hate and lies that perpetuate our status as second class citizens. It is in our interest to expose man-made ideas passed as religious truth or “natural” law. We need to remind officials we campaigned for and elected that we are not a dispensable constituency. I dare say that we have the obligation to hold the President to his repeated promises of equality for all, precisely because a generation before him fought for racial equality, a legacy that has allowed his ascendance.
And I also disagree that our activism has been ineffective. It has been impressive AND effective.