Gay Rights on National Party Platform?
The Greens Did That Decades Ago
By Ron J. Suresha
A shorter version of this piece first was posted on Huffington Post Gay Voices
After many weeks of equivocation and speculation, the Democratic national party platform has finally adopted the protection of same-sex marriage equality as a plank on their national political platform.
Although not at all surprising, most leaders in the G&SM* civil rights movement will trumpet the news as a major breakthrough for the Democrats, but honestly, the overcautious, halfhearted way that Dems approached this civil-rights issue was not impressive.
I have found it exceedingly painful to watch the Democrats grapple with the concept of embracing G&SM equality over the years. At long last, now in 2012, President Obama was more or less pushed toward his admission of acceptance of same-sex marriage equality by a preceding statement by Vice President Biden that allowed media to press the issue with the President. This wave of political inertia pitched forward, to more or less force the Dems’ hand to adopt some small measure of equal civil rights for G&SMs lest they alienate the middle-left Independents.
Sure, compared to the outright homophobia of the GOP and Tea Parties, the Democrats seem like angels of deliverance for progressive queer folks. However, it’s ironic that gay activists act thrilled to learn of these reluctant endorsements for their own civil rights from Democratic leadership when there is a national political party that has affirmed G&SM rights for decades.
Many queer folks will likely be surprised to learn that the Green Party, an organized international political party based on the principles of environmentalism, social justice, grassroots democracy, and nonviolence, has affirmed the concept of gender and sexual-orientation nondiscrimination since its inception in Europe and its adoption by the Greens of USA at least 13 years ago.
In the 2000 presidential election, I was a registered Democrat who voted for Ralph Nader. When Al Gore handed the election to George W Bush and the Democrats blamed Nader for losing the race (Gore did not even win his home state), I decided to look at alternatives to the two-party system.
I discovered that the Green Party USA embraced fully the concept of equal civil rights for G&SMs on its national platform, otherwise known as the Ten Key Values, in the three following provisions:
• We, as Greens, are committed to establishing relationships that honor diversity; that support the self-definition and self-determination of all people; and that consciously confront the barriers of racism, sexism, homophobia, class oppression, ageism, and the many ways our culture separates us from working together to define and solve our common problems.
• We affirm the right to openly embrace sexual orientation in the intimate choice of whom we love.
• We support the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in housing, jobs, civil marriage and benefits, child custody – and in all areas of life, the right to be treated equally with all other people.**
In 2000, these are goals that feminist and GLBTQ progressives should have expected Democrats to embrace, instead of the party being dragged reluctantly to assume a progay position more than a decade later.
On a personal level, when I met my husband in 2003, it was a very happy coincidence that to discover that both of us had switched parties from Dem to Green, for many of the same reasons. We both particularly appreciated that the Green Party was, and always has been, a group in which our relationship in the group, as well as the basic human right to love whomever we choose regardless of gender or sexual orientation would be affirmed.
I represented the New London Greens as a Justice of the Peace for three years, mainly because I felt the urge for civic duty and understood that being a JP was a way to serve my local party chapter, my local community, and same-sex couples wishing to wed legally in Connecticut (I also married different-sex couples too, of course). But moreso, I performed my duties knowing that the political party I represented, the Greens, had long ago affirmed my essential civil rights as a gay/bisexual/queer identified man as well as those of the same-sex couples I was joining in civil marriage.
It surprises me when telling queer folks about this, how often they immediately discount the longstanding Green Party endorsement of G&SM rights, repeating the same tired trope about progressive third party candidates draining Democratic votes. The so-called progressive media hardly even acknowledge that the Green Party exists and has been at the forefront of liberal politics ever since it came to America more than four decades ago. Even respectable gay political pundits such as David Bender, when questioned about Green Party, revert to the conventional wisdom that national third party Presidential candidates are not viable.
If gay pundits continually discount and ignore third-party candidates such as the Greens, there is little hope of breaking the two-party binary deadlock that has crippled this nation. Queer folk are so overjoyed about Obama’s limited support of same-sex marriage that they don’t seem to recognize that the Democrats are their friends now only because the polling tells them it’s politically advantageous to include a very narrow definition of same-sex civil rights — that of the right to civil marriage — as a concession to moderates. But they continue to overlook the fact that the Green Party has been the true home of progressive queers in our country for quite a long time now (interested folks can discover more at the Lavender Greens’ website).
Even as late as the 2008 presidential election, moderate Dems have demonstrated their reluctance to support gay rights. During the HRC candidate debate, the major candidates, Obama and Hillary, were still not up for full marriage equality.
Surprisingly, most queer activists that I knew outright rejected, for the most superficial reasons, the two lone candidates who embraced complete civil rights for gender and sexual minorities, former Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Alaska Senator Mike Gravel. When asked why they wouldn’t consider voting for either of the two Democratic candidates who stood up and told us, “I believe in your human right to love whomever you choose as much as I believe in my own right to do so,” some queer activists simply said, “too ugly” or “too old.”
Believe me, I’m thrilled that Dems have recognized that by doing the right thing by queer folks, simply affirming G&SM marriage rights on the national party platform, they will appeal to voters like me. And I wouldn’t not vote for President Obama. But please, don’t start calling the Democrat Party “progressive” because of this one long-awaited act of kindness to us. The real progressive party in this nation, the Greens, have always affirmed that our rights as gender and sexual minorities are human rights.
* Gender & Sexual Minorities (G&SM), pronounced gazz-em, is an inclusive acronym that represents the overlapping communities of GLBTIQA (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Intersex Queer Questioning & Allies) persons.