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HRC & Social Security: Where They Stand (GCN, 12.9.04)

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Gay City News
9 December 2004

On the day that The New York Times ran a front-page story reporting that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) was moderating its push for same-sex marriage rights and willing to entertain a discussion of supporting Social Security privatization in return for recognition of gay and lesbian partners in the program, dozens of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) leaders sent the following letter to every member of Congress. Matt Foreman, the executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), initiated the letter and HRC was invited to sign on, but declined.

December 9, 2004

Dear Member of Congress (or Senator):

First, know that we appreciate and value the thoughtful and visionary leadership so many of you have provided. As a community, we are proud to have allies in both parties.

There has been much speculation over the last month about the meaning of the results of the last election and its impact on the future of American politics. Some have even suggested that same-sex marriage was a major factor in the outcome. Upon reflection, thoughtful analysts have come to dismiss that notion and realize that terrorism and the War in Iraq were uppermost on people’s minds.

The powerful and revealing fact is that that over 60 percent of voters in November 2 exit polls said they supported either marriage or civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. What remarkable progress we have made over these last years.

The New York Times today reported that some in the LGBT community are ready to pull back on our struggle for freedom to make everyone more comfortable politically, or willing to bargain away the rights of others to make a deal for themselves. Specifically, the notion was advanced that we could make gains at the expense of senior citizens by privatizing Social Security.

For our part, we want to be absolutely clear and on the record: We specifically reject any attempts to trade equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, a group that includes many elders, for the rights of senior citizens under Social Security or, for that matter, the rights of any other group of Americans.

Finally, although the struggle for freedom can be difficult and painful for those without full equality, it would be an historic mistake to grow tired of the battle or surrender basic rights and equality in order to make the road easier. We have made it through some extremely harsh and challenging times, including losing thousands and thousands of our friends and family to HIV/AIDS. This is a community that has heroically walked its own path of tribulations and travail, determined to be free and proud American citizens.

We will not sacrifice our rights—or the rights of others like senior citizens on the altar of political expediency. Most of us, if confronted with that choice, would not even know where to begin. Which right would we give up?

The right to adopt children? The right to serve our country proudly and with honor? The right to be at our partner’s bedside in death? And how much would we be willing to hurt others like seniors as part of a cynical deal to help ourselves? We are not for sale to those who would undermine Social Security and we are not prepared to walk away from political leaders who have stood with us.

Nothing short of full equality and protection granted to all other American citizens is acceptable. We know that these are times that require wise and brave people who believe and love justice and freedom.

Given recent events, we wanted to restate our determination to do what’s right—for our community, for senior citizens, and for America. With the greatest respect,

Sincerely,

Diane Abbitt, Co-Chair, Equality California

David Barr

Roberta Bennett

Betty Berzon, Ph.D.

Steve Black, Political Director, The Pennsylvania Gay And Lesbian Alliance

David Bohnett

Craig A. Bowman, Executive Director, National Youth Advocacy Coalition

Howard Bragman

Kent Burbank, Executive Director, Wingspan (Southern Arizona’s LGBT Community Center)

Richard D. Burns, Executive Director, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center – New York

Alan Van Capelle, Executive Director, Empire State Pride Agenda

Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director, Lambda Legal

Josh Cazares and Nancy Wohlforth, Board Co-Presidents, Pride At Work, AFL-CIO

George Chauncey, Ph.D., Professor of History, University of Chicago

Bruce Cohen

Darrel Cummings, Chief of Staff, Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center

James Dale

Teresa DeCrescenzo, Executive Director Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services

Ann DeGroot, Executive Director. Out Front Minnesota

John D’Emilio, Professor of History. University of Illinois at Chicago

Sue Doerfer, Executive Director, Lesbian-Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland

Hon. John J. Duran, Mayor, City of West Hollywood, California

Randall Ellis, Executive Director, Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas

Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Laurent Fischer

Patrick Flaherty, Director of Community Relations, Milwaukee Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center

Michael Fleming, Executive Director, David Bohnett Foundation

Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Matthew J. Gallagher, Executive Director, DignityUSA

Rick Garcia, Director, Equality Illinois

Penny Gardner, Ph.D., Program Director, Michigan Equality

Aimee Gelnaw, Executive Director, Family Pride Coalition

Steven Goldstein, Chair, Garden State Equality, New Jersey

Richard Gollance

Herb Hamsher

Richard S. Haymes, Executive Director, New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project

Sheila Healy, Executive Director, National Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Centers

Rick Jacobs, California Co-Chair, Dean for President

Terry Kaelber, Executive Director, Seniors in a Gay Environment (SAGE)

Michael Kearns

Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality

Kate Kendell, Esq., Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights

Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director, Equality California

Anamaria Loya, Executive Director, La Raza Centro Legal

Bill Melamed, Board Member, American Foundation for AIDS Research

David Mixner

Jeffrey Montgomery, Executive Director, Triangle Foundation

Dave Noble, Executive Director, National Stonewall Democrats

Torie Osborn

C. Dixon Osburn, Executive Director, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

Pauline Park, Co-Chair, New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy

Clarence Patton, Interim Executive Director, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs

Christopher J. Price

Jennifer Rakowski, Associate Director, Community United Against Violence

Warren Redman-Gress, Executive Director, Alliance For Full Acceptance

Doug Riley, Executive Director, Kansas City Anti-Violence Project

H. Alexander Robinson, National Black Justice Coalition

Eric Rofes

Mark M. Sexton and W. Kirk Wallace

Stacey L. Sobel, Executive Director, Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights

Jeff Soref

Jeff Soukup

Jonathan Stoller

Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches

Olga Vives, Vice-President, National Organization for Women

Bernard Whitman

Phill Wilson, Executive Director, Black AIDS Institute

Evan Wolfson, Executive Director, Freedom to Marry

This open letter to the community was published in the 16 December 2004 issue of Gay City News.

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