Thoughts: KM Soehnlein Jr.

Time for a National Gay Civil Rights Movement

Civil rights should never be put up for a popular vote. But again and again, in state after state, the rights of gay men and lesbians have been curtailed on ballot measures. The Religious Right has exploited ignorance and fear -- often among people of faith in poor and minority communities -- to get the votes they need to keep gay people down. And too many on the left say, Oh, that's terrible, but fail to understand that they are witnessing a kind of sexual apartheid in their own midst.

What happened this election day in California, Arizona, Florida and Arkansas is a stain on this country -- and is raised to the level of tragedy in light of Barack Obama's breakthrough victory. While the progressive left cheered "Yes, We Can," gay men and lesbians were slapped in the face and told, "No, You Can't." We were reminded again, painfully, that we are second class citizens.

But the truth is that these defeats are only the latest in a decades-long assault upon the civil rights of gays and lesbians by the Religious Right. Almost every state in the U.S. now has in place legislation that limits the ability of taxpaying gay men and lesbians to set up stable homes and beneficial relationships, raise families and receive the benefits that heterosexual citizens receive.

Shame on you, America. It is time to recognize the crime that is going on in this country: the deepening of discrimination against a minority population, state by state, year after year. It is time for people of conviction to speak out forcefully against discrimination. It is time for the Federal Government to do what voters in state elections have failed to do: protect the rights of its most vulnerable.

And if the government doesn't do it, get ready. Because as the protests across California and in Salt Lake City have shown, it is also time for gay and lesbians to show our anger. We are not going to quiet down and go away.

-KM Soehnlein, Jr., ACT UP Founding Member / Co-Founder Queer Nation
11/09/2008 (From

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