I’m a partnered gay man, and I have to say, WTF is the Human Rights Campaign thinking endorsing anti-marriage, anti-privacy Joe Lieberman? Rape Gurney Joe has never truly risked a thing for GLBT people, ever. He’s helped install James Dobson endorsed judges to the Supreme Court like Sam Alito and he’s done everything possible to undermine a progressive agenda in America. But the policiy of the Human Slights Campaign is so wedded to its fancy black tie fundraisers and corporate connections that it’s more than willing to sell out the people it shakes down to finance its operations. Thankfully, local GLBT people and their allies in Connecticut (and all over the country) know who’s really on their side: Ned Lamont.
The list of evidence demonstrating George Bush’s Favorite Democrat’s antipathy to GLBT people – except as a constituency to be manipulated – is long. He plays to the faux-morality, anti-privacy intrusion crowd and games the HRC scorecard to maximum effect while undercutting everything GLBT people and their allies fight for:
Joe’s anti-gay record doesn’t end there: He told the New Haven Advocate that “homosexuality is wrong,” joined with notorious homo-hater Jesse Helms in voting to take away federal funding from schools that counsel suicidal gay teens that it’s okay to be gay. On gays in the military, Lieberman has enunciated the now-discredited canard that “homosexual conduct can harm unit cohesion and effectiveness.” (Tell that to the dozens of countries, from England to Israel, that permit openly gay troops in their armed forces.)
In fact, Lieberman worked with Georgia’s Sam Nunn to fashion the destructive “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which resulted in escalating expulsions of gays from the military every year after it took effect. Its Catch-22 provisions have directly stimulated a rising wave of violent gay bashing and harassment in the military because victims can’t complain without “telling.”
How quickly and conveniently HRC forgets. CT activists do not suffer these delusions – Anne Stanback, Director of Love Makes a Family, is in Lamont’s camp.
Interviewed for this article, here’s what Ned Lamont had to say:
LAMONT: I think we’ve got a federal government that is intruding into our private lives more and more every day. It was evidenced by the Terri Schiavo case, it’s evidenced by the appointment of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court, and it’s evidenced in terms of gay rights. I think if two people want to get married let them get married. We don’t want the government intruding into our churches, into our private lives. I strongly oppose the constitutional amendment that’s been bandied about every election cycle in Washington DC outlawing the right of two people who are in love to get married.
FDL: The Human Rights Campaign, the principle lobbying organization in Washington DC on behalf of GLBT rights, has come out in support of your opponent, Senator Lieberman. Do you have any thoughts on that endorsement?
LAMONT: What’ I’m learning about the political process is that, at the national level, there’s a real tendency to support the incumbents, but at the local level – here in the state of Connecticut and I think you’ll find this elsewhere – you have a lot of members who feel differently. I’m finding that on the union front and I think we’re finding that on the HRC front as well. Sometimes the national organizations don’t necessarily speak for their supporters on the ground level.
FDL: In summation, then, why do you feel that supporters of GLBT equality should support you in the Connecticut-Senate primary?
LAMONT: Because I strongly believe that rather than us having a federal government that tries to take rights away from people, we need a federal government that guarantees rights for people. Guarantees them a right to privacy; guarantees them a right to live their lives without federal interference. I think the Bush administration has been wrong on this. I think Senator Lieberman is too likely to mix religion and politics, and I believe that, when it comes to gay rights, that’s the next civil rights struggle, and rather than take away people’s rights, we should be fighting to guarantee rights.
Asked to comment on it’s endorsement of Senator Lieberman, here’s what Mike Mings, the HRC’s Deputy Director of Electoral Activities and PAC Manager, had to say. This interview was conducted on May 23. The tone was friendly but our questions were direct:
FDL: The HRC has taken some criticism for its endorsement of Senator Lieberman over candidate Lamont. Do you have any comment on that?
MINGS: Well, Senator Lieberman has a strong record of supporting fairness for all Americans. He’s someone that, in his three decades, has been consistently, by our standard, on the side of fairness for our issues, and that’s why we’ve endorsed him.
FDL: The HRC offers this endorsement in spite of a couple of things, and we’d like to offer you the opportunity to comment. First, he has been clear in his opposition to equal marriage rights. Any thoughts on that?
MINGS: What we score senators on is bills that come before their jurisdiction in the senate. He has been an outspoken opponent of the Federal Marriage Amendment, so that is what we score on, something that his vote matters on, so that is one of the issues, among several others, such as his co-sponsorship of the Domestic Partner Benefits Act, treatment for HIV, support of hate crimes legislation, employment nondiscrimination. He has a long record that supports GLBT issues.
FDL: Does your scorecard have all votes as scored equally or do you weight any of these votes with regard to their potential impact on the movement long term?
MINGS: Honestly, that’s not a question I know, exactly how we weight the scorecards. I think it’s my understanding that the Federal Marriage Amendment is one that’s weighted more heavily than the others. I know if candidates are not opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment, it’s not something that would lead us to endorse them.
FDL: The vote for cloture on Judge Alito certainly raised a lot of eyebrows. Judge Alito is not expected to be friendly to privacy rights, which include the rights of GLBT people. How does that figure, or does that not figure, into your decision to endorse Senator Lieberman?
MINGS: I’ll have to get back to you to see if that was something we scored on, on the Judge Alito vote. I’m just not sure if that was one of the votes we scored.
FDL: Since the marriage rights issue has been paramount in the GLBT fight for equality on both the federal and state levels, and since that fight has mostly played itself out in the courts, wouldn’t the vote for cloture on Alito count more heavily than others?
MINGS: Well, like I said, I’ll have to see if that’s something that we scored on. I’m just not sure if that’s part of the scorecard.
FDL: Can you cite for our readers any instance where Senator Lieberman actually took something of a political risk, at any point in his career, in standing up for GLBT equality?
MINGS: He spoke out strongly in favor of the U. S. Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which was obviously an important ruling for the GLBT community. He’s been someone who’s been outspoken on the Federal Marriage Amendment, which has been, probably, the most destructive piece of legislation that’s been introduced to our movement in recent history. So, those are quite courageous moves on his part, and something obviously we have been very supportive of him doing, and proud of him to do that.
FDL: The Senator has pretty regularly voted in favor of federal religious funding, and has taken strong positions against gays in the military. He’s enunciated the discredited notion that homosexual conduct can harm unit cohesion and effectiveness. Does that figure into the HRC’s endorsement of Senator Lieberman?
MINGS: I’m sorry, what did you say his stance was on that?
FDL: The quote is, “Homosexual conduct can harm unit cohesion and effectiveness.”
MINGS: Well, like I said, we have to go on votes that senators make in their capacity that actually will have an impact one way or the other. From what we’ve seen in recent history, he’s scored consistently at one hundred percent in the 106th Congress, eighty-three percent in the 105th, eighty-nine percent in the 104th. He’s consistently scored near the top on the issues that are important to the GLBT community. We have to take all of that into consideration when we look at endorsements.
FDL: Have you looked at any of the positions of candidate Lamont in determining the extent to which he might support full marriage rights in ways that Senator Lieberman does not? Does that figure into your endorsement decision?
MINGS: Part of our endorsement decision is based upon incumbency, and when we have an incumbent who’s in office who is consistently fighting for our rights, then we tend to side on the side of incumbents to continue with that long record that’s been proven.
FDL: Is the political advancement of GLBT rights better served by a strong Democratic majority in Congress, or is your non-partisan position dedicated solely to looking at individual candidates, biased toward incumbents?
MINGS: We’re a bipartisan organization, so what we look at is both Republicans and Democrats who have stated positions or who have a record that shows that they stand on the side of fairness. So, we really look at candidates on a case-by-case basis.
FDL: So it’s really not important to you to have, for example, a Democratic controlled senate, which can actually bring forth and support legislation safeguarding GLBT rights?
MINGS: No, I really wouldn’t say that that’s not necessarily important to us. There’s no doubt about it that this administration, and the leadership in Congress today, have been some of the most destructive leaders for the GLBT community, and that’s something that is important for us, that we get leadership that will be elected that will serve our community in a way that is both productive and respectful of our rights.
FDL: Senator Lieberman has taken the position to Democrats that criticism of the administration is unfounded during a time of war, and actually undermines the strength of the country. Since your position recognizes that it’s better to have Democrats in legislative control of the agenda in Congress, if Senator Lieberman is discouraging the very efforts of other Democrats to assert more control of the agenda by criticizing the administration, how do you reconcile that with your endorsement of Senator Lieberman?
MINGS: Well, you know, we’re not going to agree necessarily one hundred percent of the time on every issue, but what we have to go on is Senator Lieberman’s voting record, and his voting record is one that stands on the side of equality. We believe that this administration and this leadership in Congress, has been very hostile to the GLBT community and we are very outspoken on that, making those beliefs known.
FDL: Can you point to a success on behalf of the HRC, in terms of its work? For people who donate to the HRC, GLBT people, what’s your success record?
MINGS: On electing candidates, or on what, exactly? Our dollars have gone to. . .
FDL: Changing law.
MINGS: . . .making sure that many candidates have been elected to office who promote equality in states across the country. In Washington, it was because of the work that we did that helped get a statewide non-discrimination policy in place. Same thing in Maine. We were able to defeat constitutional amendments in at least six legislatures this session. So, you know, it’s sort of the way you measure success. In corporate America, we’ve pushed Fortune 500 companies so that eighty-three percent of those companies now have nondiscrimination policies that protect their GLBT employees. So, there’s a lot of different fronts that this movement is being fought on; this is something we’re involved in on a multitude of levels, at the federal government as well as state government and corporate America.
FDL: Is it fair, then, to say that you have no success stories to cite for us on the federal level?
MINGS: No. We have legislation on the federal level we can cite for you.
FDL: NOW and NARAL have looked at this race and have begun to approach their endorsement decision differently, taking not only the micro-view of Senator Lieberman’s vote on this or that piece of legislation, but looking also at the whole picture of Senator Lieberman’s record. They’ve come out in support of candidate Lamont’s campaign, recognizing that Senator Lieberman actually undercuts the advancement of a progressive agenda that protects women’s rights, as well, as many would observe, as GLBT rights. Why is that same calculus rejected by the HRC?
MINGS: We have a strict guideline of the way we endorse candidates that’s been approved by our Board, and those issues that we rank candidates on and score them by our card is what we have to go on. Given that the votes that we’ve scored for Senator Lieberman, he comes out at a place where he shows a strong support of fairness for the GLBT community.
FDL: Was Judge Alito supported by the HRC?
FDL: Senator Lieberman was part of the infamous “Gang of Fourteen” that cut off the ability of progressive Democrats to be able to threaten a filibuster in the Senate against any judicial nominee, thereby enabling the ascension to the Court of both Roberts and Alito, particularly Alito, for whom there may have been the votes to support a filibuster. Given that Judge Alito will serve on the Court for a good, maybe, thirty years, and given that he was the preferred and endorsed judge by people like James Dobson, why would that not be considered as a much larger issue than, say, a vote for ENDA which had no chance of passing, making it a “free vote?”
MINGS: Ah, like I said, I’ll have to see whether the Alito vote was scored or not, because I’m just not aware if it was.
FDL: Thanks for returning our call and giving your point of view for our readers.
MINGS: Thank you.
Mings seemed like a nice enough guy defending a phenominally stupid policy (in seventy-two hours, he has not gotten back to me with more information, as promised during the interview).
This self-defeating, idiotic, scorecard-driven myopia, dictated by the HRC Board, is not unique to the HRC, but common among national, progressive, single issue advocacy groups. The same thinking animates groups like the Sierra Club, where the need to solicit funds leads to a "bipartisan" stance that creates a stragetic gameplan that in turn undercuts the very agenda these national groups ostensibly represent. I included the whole interview with Mings in order to be fair, and also to illustrate the mindset that endorses a candidate who actually is cynically worse for the HRC’s financial supporters than is his opponent.
Endorsed by ultra-conservative phony "maverick" hack John McCain, Joe Lieberman is at the forefront of the movement to undercut the ascension of a progressive governing majority. Ned Lamont, on the other hand, is at the tip of the spear of a movement to advance a progressive governing majority. And on the very issue most important to GLBT families like mine – equal marriage rights – Joe Lieberman is against us, no matter how many times he votes against the Federal Marriage Amendment. Furthermore, the only thing risky about supporting the Lawrence v. Texas decision is if you consider your constituency to be represented by Sean Hannity, as Joe Lieberman apparently does.
Ned Lamont is the right candidate for Democrats in and out of Connecticut for a host of reasons, but GLBT families deserve to know in particular why he is right for them. Go ahead and reread Ned’s clear words quoted above. Ask yourself, has George Bush’s Favorite Democrat ever said anything so clear and right? Of course not. Instead, he stands up for theocratic wingnuts, against privacy and against marriages like that of Michael to Terri Schiavo.
If you’re a supporter of the Human Slights Campaign, let them know what you think about their endorsement of the anti-marriage candidate in Connecticut. In my house, we’re cutting them off from funding, and you may want to do the same. I’ve been invited to the black tie affairs, but rather than dust off a tux and pony up over $100 per plate to rub elbows with Ben Affleck, I’d rather give some money love to Ned Lamont.
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