Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Marriage equality victories could damage lgbt community's focus

What's with some members of the lgbt community in that we seem to be determined to pull a defeat out of the jaws of victory. In the middle of stunning marriage equality victories, bothersome things are coming up.

No doubt some of you have heard of the Brendan Eich situation. Eich was the CEO of Mozilla who resigned recently. There were a multitude of reasons for his resignation and it was mostly due to internal pressure.

However one thing which stood out was a $1,000 donation Eich gave in support of Prop 8, the now defunct law which kept gays and lesbians from legal marriage in California.

The sexy angle is that lgbts targeted Eich and brought made him resign. This time, unfortunately, it wasn't just the anti-gay right pushing it. Some folks, such as Chris Hayes from MSNBC pushed the angle.

And now comes this letter, which will be thrown in our faces. From John Becker at Bilerico:

A coalition of 58 LGBT people and allies -- most of them conservatives or libertarians -- came out with a statement today on the resignation of former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. Mr. Eich, you'll recall, voluntarily stepped down earlier this month amidst public outcry over donations he made to the viciously homophobic Proposition 8 campaign and various anti-gay politicians. The statement, titled "Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent," desperately tries to revive the lie that Eich was targeted and toppled by LGBT activists -- a victim of "left-liberal" "intolerance," as Andrew Sullivan so hysterically claimed. The truth, of course, is much different: not a single LGBT organization commented publicly on the controversy at all, much less called for Eich's ouster. The campaign against Eich was concentrated almost exclusively within the tech community and was driven largely by Mozilla staffers and developers. 
Becker is correct. And his assertion is backed up by a very good New Yorker article on the matter,  How Mozilla Lost Its CEO. One part really stands out for me:

The problem was that Eich’s stance was unacceptable in Silicon Valley, a region of the business world where social liberalism is close to a universal ideology. At this point, a tech company having a C.E.O. who opposes gay marriage is not all that different from a company in 1973 having a C.E.O. who donated money to fight interracial marriage: even if there were plenty of Americans who felt the same way at the time, the C.E.O. would still have been on the wrong side of history. And since the role of a C.E.O. as a public face of an organization is more important than ever these days, Eich’s personal views were inevitably going to shape his ability to run the company.

Other than a petition and comments on various blogs, there was no organized plan to oust Eich. No major lgbt organization called for his resignation.  And as I understand it, no major lgbt blogs did either. There is no other way to put this. The letter calling for "tolerance" was a dumb move because it unfairly brands the lgbt community.
It implies accusations about us regarding Eich that are simply not true. In the case of his resignation, our hands are clean. We can't help the fact that some parts of society doesn't view us with as much venom as it used to. Nor should we feel guilty about it. If Eich had been giving money to racist or anti-Semitic groups, the same thing would have happened.

Well almost. I highly doubt African-American or Jewish groups and leaders would be apologizing for his departure.

But as much as I want to give the signers of the letter total grief, I really can't. I think the letter was a bad move but I can understand what the writers were trying to say. One signer told me that he was disturbed by some of the comments he read by members of the community regarding Eich. Of course as I assured him that those were just comments and not a representation of the entire community, I could understand where he was coming from. Perhaps the signers of the letter were trying to tell the lgbt community that as we work to gain our equality, we mustn't take the harsh, intolerant guise of those who have denied us this equality. Our cause is noble, righteous, and pure. We must never forget that.

That is something I can understand even if I do not agree with how it was said. As a community, we mustn't lose our heads. We've slogged down during the times in which we were constantly losing. However, the present headiness of victory makes seems to be making some of us vengeful, unfocused, and overconfident.  Already many prominent members of the community are embroiled in huge and unnecessary argument about who gets credit for our marriage equality victories thanks to a book which doesn't even begin to tell the story but anoints the laurels.

I always thought that sort of thing happens after the battle is over and as I see it, until we can marry in all 50 states, there should be no victory dance and no spoils of credit to argument about. And even when we do - because we will - win marriage equality for all 50 states, that's only part of the battle for lgbt equality. We've got so much more work to do.

Or in simpler tones - you don't do a touchdown dance until you a touchdown  And for God's sake, you don't give the enemies of lgbt equality ammunition just to simply prove a point of how ethical you are.

It's not a good sign for the future. And I hope lgbt community don't lose track of what we are trying to accomplish.


Anonymous said...

Well said, Alvin. I'm not quite at the same place as you are where you talk about understanding where the signatories are coming from.

But what I really wanted to comment on was your line about not wanting to celebrate until all 50 states have marriage equality. I *really* want to thank you for that. I was in Arizona during Prop 8. Oh wait, I mean I was in Arizona during Prop 102 - but nobody cared about that because it's just Arizona (or something). So when Cindy and Meghan McCain did NO H8 photos, my reaction was, "where the *hell* were you for Prop 102? And why no NO 102 just to show that you guys actually give a crap about your own state?"

I doubt that was your intention on the 50 states point, but it's something that's bugged me. :)

Glenn Ingersoll said...

One of the signatories to that scolding letter is Ken Mehlman. That man can wag a finger when he's not just repented his help in welding anti-marriage provisions to many a state constitution but has reversed the damage he was so involved in doing. Until then seeing his name on a letter like this just renders it a sick joke.