The 19th annual Creating Change Conference continued today in Kansas City, Mo., where more than 2,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates have converged to strategize and plan on the heels of Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman presents LGBT agenda in annual “State of the Movement” address
“Let’s remember this moment of hope and optimism as the time that, with incredible pride in all we’ve accomplished, we lifted our heads up and re-embraced a vision and an agenda where equality is the floor and a transformed America is the ceiling.” — Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman gave a riveting “State of the Movement” address at today’s Creating Change Conference, where he spoke about our movement’s accomplishments, challenges and agenda — “yes, the fearsome ‘gay agenda’” — for the future.
More than a thousand people packed into the morning plenary, so many that extra chairs had to be brought in. Foreman began his speech by spotlighting the significant advances made in Tuesday’s midterm elections, where pro-LGBT candidates at every level defeated those aligned with the forces of political and religious intolerance.
“In fact, not a single pro-LGBT elected official lost to an opponent of equality, while plenty on the other side did,” said Foreman, who also cited the defeats of anti-reproductive rights ballot initiatives in California, Oregon and South Dakota; the elections of Keith Ellison (Minnesota) as the first Muslim to serve in the U.S. Congress; and Kim Coco Iwamoto (Hawaii), who became the highest-ranking transgender elected official in the nation; and the courageous campaigns against eight state anti-marriage amendments, which included Arizona’s historic defeat of its ballot initiative.
“As you will remember, in 2004 there were 11 of these immoral attacks on the ballot and in only two of them were we able to persuade more than 40 percent of the voters to oppose them. On Tuesday, there were eight on the ballot and our side got more than 40 percent in five of them. Overall, support for us went up from 33 percent in 2004 to nearly 40 percent on Tuesday — that, folks, is a sea change in public support in just two years,” Foreman said.
He then highlighted all that has been accomplished to get to this point. For example, in 1970, not a single law protected lesbian, gay and bisexual people from discrimination. Today, 18 states — representing 40 percent of the U.S. population — protect LGB people from discrimination. In 1990, not a single state law protected transgender people from discrimination. Today, nine states — covering 22 percent of the U.S. population — protect transgender people.
Foreman also cited the progress made in the area of partner recognition in just six years: In 2000, Vermont became the first state to establish civil unions. In 2001, California expanded domestic partner rights. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to grant the freedom to marry. And also in 2004, Connecticut enacted civil unions. In 2005, California created civil unions in everything but name. And, with the court ruling three weeks ago, New Jersey will — in a matter of weeks or months — have civil unions or marriage.
“And how did all of this, and so much more, happen? I can assure you it wasn’t legislators waking up one day and saying, ‘Geez, let’s do something good for the gays,’” said Foreman. No, it was the grassroots work of activists and allies year in and year out.
“And what makes all of this so much more remarkable, astonishing and amazing is that this has been accomplished in spite of hundreds of years of prejudice injected into every fiber of society’s DNA,” he said, adding our movement has “accomplished more in a shorter period of time than any other social justice movement in the history of the world, and our momentum has been accelerating over the last six years in spite of the fact that so much of our government has been under the hard thumb of reactionary forces. And now, as Bette Davis would say, fasten your seatbelts.”
Foreman called today’s movement “strong, unbowed, unbeaten, vibrant, energized,” but one that has a very long way to go. “If anyone thinks homophobia is receding as a staple of American and political life, you only need look at how the last few weeks of the campaign played out,” he said, pointing to, among other examples, the “blame the gays” tactic employed by the Republican leadership during the Mark Foley scandal.
He then offered an agenda in which we “see and think bigger and better.” An agenda that will not allow a federal nondiscrimination or hate crimes bill that is not transgender inclusive. An agenda that unequivocally states that equality under the law is the floor, not the ceiling. One in which there is marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose is inviolate. One in which everyone can serve openly in the military, and there is an end to the scapegoating of any group of people for political gain, including people of color and immigrants.
“This, folks, is a big agenda. It requires us reaching out and working with and for ‘other’ causes as never before. This is not only the right thing to do, it is critical we do it. It will make achieving the floor of our agenda and the vision of our movement possible,” Foreman concluded. “So, let’s remember this moment of hope and optimism as the time that, with incredible pride in all we’ve accomplished, we lifted our heads up and re-embraced a vision and an agenda where equality is the floor and a transformed America is the ceiling.”
[ Read the Associated Press article ]
[ Read the Reuters article ]
Frank Kameny receives Lifetime Achievement Award today
“When we identify the founders of our movement, Frank Kameny leaps immediately to mind. Frank was among the women and men who in the 1950s and ’60s risked everything to not only be out and open about their sexual orientation and gender identity but also to be among the very first advocates for our freedoms,” said Task Force board member Mario Guerrero, development and public affairs director of BIENESTAR, in introducing Kameny.
“Frank challenged the federal government when he was fired from his job in 1957. When he was rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear his case, he kept right on going and founded the Mattachine Society of Washington in 1961. In 1965, he led the now-famous demonstration in front of the White House in one of the first public demands for fairness and equal treatment for LGBT people. In 1968, Kameny coined the phrase ‘gay is good.’ In 1971, Kameny founded the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, a still-thriving advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.,” said Guerrero.
The tireless Kameny, a founding board member of the then-National Gay Task Force in 1973, told the audience that our movement has “come a very long way in a very short time. But we still have issues to fight; the job is far from done.”
Supported by the Anderson Prize Foundation, the Task Force is proud to make a donation of $7,500 to the Kameny Papers Project which is essentially a managed fund for Kameny that was put together by those who love and care about him. The Kameny Papers Project enabled the purchase and donation to the Library of Congress of Kameny’s archive of more than 70,000 letters, documents and memorabilia collected over his decades of activism.
Photo caption: Task Force Deputy Executive Director Rea Carey presents Frank Kameny with the Lifetime Achievement Award