News organizations and activist leaders are reporting that many gay voters are frustrated with the lack of progress on major gay-rights issues and are planning to sit out the election or vote for third party candidates to send a message. That could spell disaster if it puts the Senate in the hands of the most far-right, anti-gay group of Republicans we've ever seen. Illinois LGBT voters and their allies have a clear choice between pro-equality Alexi Giannoulias and anti-equality Mark Kirk. And the outcome is too important for voters to walk away or use their vote to send a symbolic message to Democratic leaders.
Frustration with the failure to make more progress over the past two years is understandable. Early in this administration I called on President Obama to bring more focused leadership to these issues.
But advocates for equality cannot let their anger - no matter how legitimate - make us lose sight of the bigger picture, which is a surge of particularly reactionary anti-equality candidates running for both the House and Senate.
The bottom line is this: next week's elections could spell a catastrophic reversal of fortune on LGBT equality and other defining issues. Rather than working to achieve further advances, we could find ourselves scrambling to preserve the hard-won gains we have achieved on a whole range of policies that make a difference in people's lives.Read more story below....
Let's go into this election with our eyes wide open, and be clear that every additional Republican vote in the Senate gives greater power to Sen. Jim DeMint the most anti-gay politician in national office and to the Tea Party candidates that are running with DeMint's backing. On gay rights issues, DeMint and the candidates he is hoping to make his colleagues represent a throwback in attitudes to decades ago. DeMint has said that gay teachers should not be permitted in public schools. He believes no state should be allowed to recognize the freedom to marry. He goes on Religious Right talk radio to denounce "the government legitimizing and promoting behavior that we have always considered wrong." He actively promoted Religious Right lies about hate crimes legislation, which he said "perverts our justice system" and "would lead to the criminalization of biblical truth as 'hate speech.'
DeMint's record and the positions of the candidates he's supporting make it clear just how wrong it is to think that gays have nothing to fear from the Tea Party movement because it is supposedly concerned only with taxes and deficits and not social issues. Imagine a Senate in which DeMint is a power broker with a new caucus of six or eight or ten colleagues who are pledged to denying legal equality to LGBT people and who would use every tool at their disposal to prevent even the slightest forward progress.
In recent debates, Mark Kirk has reminded voters that he voted to uphold Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which prevents gay members of the armed forces from serving openly and honorably. Kirk also stated that he opposes marriage equality. In sharp contrast, Alexi Giannoulias openly calls for a repeal of DADT and has been forthright in his support for full marriage equality.
The difference between these two candidates is clear. And so is the gulf between the pro-equality and anti-gay agendas of Democratic and Republican Senate leaders. Voters who support equality don't want to spend the next six years having federal policy dictated by elected officials who, when it comes to LGBT Americans, sound like anti-gay Religious Right leaders like Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Harry Jackson.
It is important to hold public officials accountable. But the best way to send a message to friends and foes alike, and to continue progress toward an America whose LGBT citizens enjoy the same freedoms as our neighbors, will not be by sitting this election out but by demonstrating our commitment and resolve, by protecting allies, and by defeating those who would like to turn back the clock to the days when being gay was in itself a criminal act.