|by Hastings Wyman|
A Changed World The terrorist attacks on this nation's financial and political capitals united the American people overnight. The New York City firefighters and police who died trying to save others, the gay rugby player who may have helped foil the hijackers on the plane that went down in Pennsylvania, and the gay co-pilot on the plane that hit the Pentagon were all Americans. After those terrible first hours, we became not Democrats or Republicans, not gay or straight, but Americans.
Sure, there were some exceptions. Jerry Falwell, bless his tiny little heart, claimed that "the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians" helped make the terrorist attacks happen.
But the old disagreements and hostilities that characterized our politics mostly gave way to a seldom-seen unity. Members of Congress from both parties sang "God Bless America" on the Capitol steps. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) expressed confidence in the ability of President Bush and his administration to respond to this crisis.
This period of standing together won't last, of course. As the nation confronts this new post-terrorist reality, not everyone will agree on what is to be done. Will improved intelligence gathering violate our civil liberties? At what point do new air travel restrictions become more burdensome than useful? Who is to bear the enormous costs of this response? Taxpayers? Corporations? Consumers? Should offsetting spending cuts be made and, if so, where? In education? Health care?
Those of us who are gay won't necessarily answer these questions in the same way. But we will have to pursue our particular goals, such as the enactment of laws that help gay people become fully accepted members of American society, in this new political environment, one dominated by discussions of national security, civil liberties and funding priorities.
For a time, the nation's gay leadersactivists across the country and lobbyists here in Washingtonwill have to adjust to having our community's issues take a back seat while such national priorities move to the forefront. Our gay leaders will also have to adjust to these national issues dividing the electorate into new, as yet undetermined, coalitions of interests.
So for gay people, what is to be done? First, let us continue putting our shoulders to the wheel, as we have in other times of crisis, to help our nation survive and triumph. World War II comes to mind, as does the AIDS crisis. Then, in the appropriate time and manner, let us pursue our political goals, which surely are in line with the ideals that have made this nation a beacon of hope for the world, as well as a target for those with a narrow and evil vision.
Other News In Massachusetts, state Sen. Cheryl Jacques' (D) loss in her bid to become the nation's second out lesbian in Congress was a setback for the gay community. Jacques, an articulate and attractive former prosecutor, would have made a major contribution to the nation and to the gay community. The winner of the primary, held on September 11, the day of the terrorist attacks, was state Sen. Stephen Lynch (D), an abortion opponent who did not support gay goals in the legislature. Lynch got 40 percent of the vote, followed by Jacques, with 28 percent. Two other candidates got 16 percent and 14 percent. Lynch now faces Republican state Sen. JoAnn Sprague in an October 16 general election. Sprague, who is pro-choice, told Boston's Channel 7, "I'm socially very progressive and I'm fiscally very conservative." She added, "I am a Weld Republican and proud to say it," a reference to William Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts who supported gay causes.
In Virginia, the anti-gay campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Earley may have implications that extend beyond the borders of the Old Dominion. Earley got into the race with the support of incumbent Gov. Jim Gilmore (R), chairman of the Republican National Committee, who is under the gun to produce a victory for his underdog protge. Chances are good that the RNC chief signed off on Earley playing the gay card in his campaign, which has included a series of radio ads accusing the Democrats of supporting "gay marriage," plus comments by Earley that he favors Virginia values, not Vermont values. Log Cabin Republicans, who had attracted support from such luminaries as Sen. John Warner (R) and Rep. Tom Davis (R), who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, protested Earley's stance, but once again are on the outside looking in.The Democratic National Committee continues its romance with gay America, sending out a fundraising letter to lists of gay voters over the signature of its openly gay treasurer, Andrew Tobias. The letter says that under President Clinton, "there were more than 100 openly lesbian and gay appointees working in the administration. Today there is one." Tobias also notes, "We have a House Majority Leader, Dick Armey, who calls Barney Frank 'Barney Fag,' and a Senate Republican leader, Trent Lott, who likens being gay to kleptomania and alcoholism." An insert in the direct mail package attacksin red inka "Secret Anti-Gay Bush Deal" in the Salvation Army controversy.
Hastings Wyman publishes Southern Political Report, a nonpartisan biweekly political newsletter. He may be reached in care of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth or at HWymanSPR@aol.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 11, No. 13, September 21, 2001.