By: Sally Miller
Are you thinking of ruing for public office? If, so, there is a boot camp for gay candidate wanabees, run by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. It is modeled after Emily’s List which for decades has groomed potential women candidates for office. Our Stockton City Council member, Susan Eggman, attended one of those learning sessions when she was preparing to run for office. At a recent session for aspiring candidates, on attendee was Daniel Hernandez on the staff of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who helped save her life after her shooting last winter. Those interested in running for office are advised how to dress, how to refer to their partners, and what types of family photographs to use in their campaign literature. A hard fact they are told is that a gay candidate needs to raise twice as much money as a straight to run for office. Rep. Barney Frank, the first out gay to serve in Congress was closeted for his first 6 years in the House. Houston has an out lesbian as Mayor, the New York City Council is also headed by an out lesbian, and lesbian representative Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin considering a run for the U.S. Senate, which will be a first . The Victory Fund at its inception in 1991 endorsed two candidates for office while last year it endorsed 164. Of the 500,000 elected U.S. officials, 495 are openly gay, whereas 20 years ago there were 49.
Gay former service personnel are having trouble re-entering the military, despite the official end of the infamous Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. They are not given priority in their efforts to re-enlist at a time when many Americans are joining up because of the lack of jobs in the civilian economy. There are plans for a class action suit to achieve reinstatement. 14,000 were discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The military continues to deny benefits to gay spouses even if the couple is legally married. So a housing allowance, for example, would be only for one person, nor would they qualify for military benefits that are allowed when a family member is killed overseas. Nor can they learn the details of a family member’s death while in service as straigts can, nor do they qualify for travel allowances to attend a deceased loved one’s return to the U.S. They also are denied base i.d.s for shopping or to attend events. So there is a long way yet to go.
Russia now has an incipient gay rights movement, despite the many legal obstacles and public disapproval it faces. The leading gay rights advocate had to endure slurs from his opponent and his host on a recent television debate on the topic of gay rights. Efforts to hold Moscow Pride events the last few years have often resulted in attacks by thugs. Rainbow flags have bee burned at various public events. The major anti-gay member of the Parliament has said that homosexuality cannot be allowed because it is a question of survival for the country. But a law against male homosexuality has been repealed and gay clubs exist in the larger cities. Yet violence against gays is still prevalent with some activists hiring body guards. Both the EU and the US have criticized crackdowns on gays in Russia.
Finally, under the Rhode Island civil union statute passed earlier this summer, few couples have stepped forward. Clearly, civil unions are now seen as a poor substitute for legal marriage.