With less that one year until the 2012 elections people who support full civil and human rights for all Americans will need to judge candidates and parties to determine whether they support policies that are on the 'right side of history'. As of today the Republican Party and the majority of their candidates are proving they don't. One candidate for the Republican nomination for president jokes about sexual harassment in the workplace as he denies allegations, and others are afraid to comment at all. All the candidates are pledging to turn back the clock on LGBT rights and the one candidate who dares support civil unions, Jon Huntsman, is at 1% in Republican polls.
Juxtapose this with LGBT civil rights leader Frank Kameny lying in state at the old Carnegie Library in Washington, D.C. with the mayor and Congressional delegate delivering eulogies; the director of the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in attendance; and politicians and former members of a post-DADT military in dress uniform acting as pall bearers. The planned memorial service on Capitol Hill in the Cannon HOB Caucus Room with leaders of the Democratic Party scheduled to speak. They will honor Kameny's more than 50 years of fighting for the rights of the LGBT community and the work of so many others who have brought the struggle to a place where the LGBT community can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Where one can envision the time when everyone will have the right to marry and have full civil and human rights everywhere, not just in a few states or localities. Then there is the Senate Committee vote to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The vote was 10-8 in favor, a strict party line vote, with all Democrats voting to repeal and all Republicans voting against.
As was the case during the fight for African American civil and human rights and women's rights, the LGBT community now sees and feels that victory is around the corner and the tide is with them. But as in those other movements there are always those who think they can reverse that tide. Those who want to keep you in your place or in the closet and those who look back and say, "Weren't times better before you began to fight for your rights?" Today there are the likes of apparently lunatic author Ann Coulter, anti-Semitic arch-conservative Patrick Buchanan, and the majority of the Republican Presidential field telling the LGBT community, and indicating to women and African Americans that we should go back to what they consider the good old days. Their collective lack of understanding of what 'the right side of history' will be is always frightening and often sad.
It is frightening because there is an audience who apparently share their views and sad because they always find a platform for their vitriol on FOX news or radio shows like Rush Limbaugh's. It is sad when a leading Republican Presidential candidate spends days prevaricating over whether there was an agreement or settlement regarding the sexual harassment allegations against him, and 70% of Republican voters say they don't have a problem with it. The candidate and many of those voters would rather attack the media for talking about this than the candidate for his actions or response. That is the sad state of the national Republican Party today.
The Democratic Party has its own share of dinosaurs and many of them have views that put them on the wrong side of history. That is why it is crucial for voters to look at both the Party and the individual candidates as we move toward the 2012 elections. When it comes to electing members of Congress it is important to understand how Congress works. The first vote that any elected Congressperson casts in each session of Congress is the vote for their leadership. Today the Democratic leadership in Congress, even if not all the members of the Party, support moving us toward the 'right side of history'. On the other hand the Republican leadership has apparently been co-opted by the Tea Party and the extreme right wing, and would rather move us back into the dark ages. It appears that most of the moderate wing of the Republican Party has gone into hiding and the views of the Alan Simpsons'; Nelson Rockefellers'; and Christie Todd Whitmans' are relics of the past.
The fight for human and civil rights and for the hearts and minds of the nation make the 2012 elections so important. For women, African Americans, Latinos, the LGBT community and even union members, our stake in this election is about our future and the future of our children and their children. It is not only about how jobs will be created but whether we will be able to get those jobs. It is about fair immigration laws and passing ENDA. It is about who will be appointing the next Supreme Court Justice.
In 2012 we will be determining the future for all minorities to fully participate in society and in the economy. It is about continuing the march toward full civil and human rights for all. If the legacy of Frank Kameny, Martin Luther King, Jr, Bella S. Abzug and Cesar Chavez, and so many others who have fought for people's rights are to survive and be fully honored, we will need to unite. We will need to speak out and participate in the process by voting. If we don't we could see the hard won victories of the past 50 years recede or even be wiped out.
That would be a travesty of justice and we cannot let it happen. Together we must work to ensure that those who are elected in 2012 will support and then vote for policies that place them on the 'Right Side of History'!