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Some gay groups to join Iraq war protest in D.C.

Task Force endorses march; HRC stays neutral

‘If you try to do everything, you end up not doing anything very well,’ said gay rights activist Frank Kameny, regarding the efforts of gay groups to oppose the Iraq war.


Friday, September 16, 2005

As organizers prepare for next week’s anti-war march in Washington, D.C., some gay groups are mobilizing to oppose the Iraq war, others groups remain neutral and at least one supports the U.S. military action in Iraq.

United for Peace & Justice, a coalition of more than 1,300 local and national groups, is calling for an end to the war and the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. From Sept. 24-26, the coalition plans to stage demonstrations across the country.

According to its Web site, UPJ coordinated more than 790 anti-war demonstrations worldwide on Feb. 15, 2003, including a New York City rally that brought out at least 500,000 people.

Pride at Work, the gay caucus within the AFL-CIO, is among the organizations preparing to march against the war.

Howard Wallace, vice president of the San Francisco labor council of the AFL-CIO, said gay groups and labor groups on the West Coast are collaborating on social justice issues, from the fight for same-sex marriage rights to ending the U.S. presence in Iraq.

Wallace, who will be travelling to D.C. as a part of the Pride at Work contingent, said he plans to meet with Sen. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and urge her to speak out against the war.

Gay Men of African Descent, a New York City group, is among the groups endorsing the protest. Several gay groups of color have taken stands against the war, claiming that racial profiling incidents have increased as a consequence of the “war on terror.”

In advance of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, many organizations came out against the war. Linking the Iraq war to a generalized assault on civil liberties, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force opposed the war as part of the “Keep America Safe: Win Without War” coalition that included the National Organization for Women and the NAACP. The Task Force is backing the anti-war march by e-mailing supporters and calling on them to participate, according to a spokesperson for the group.

The Task Force’s anti-war position drew some controversy.

“If you try to do everything, you end up not doing anything very well,” said Frank Kameny, a veteran D.C. gay rights activist.

Kameny said gay groups should focus on the situation of gay people and the status of homosexuality in the culture.

The Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest gay rights organization, shares that view.

“Many Americans, including HRC members and supporters, will be involved in the anti-war efforts in Washington. HRC takes positions on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues only, which is why HRC has no official position on the Iraq war,” said Jay Smith Brown, HRC spokesperson. “Where war-related issues affect the GLBT community, such as the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ policy, HRC takes a strong position and works to advance equal rights.”

The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay partisan group, said that it supports President Bush’s policies in Iraq.

“Log Cabin is committed to a strong and confident foreign policy,” Christopher Barron, political director of the Log Cabin Republicans wrote in an e-mail. “We support global efforts to win the war on terror. We wouldn’t comment on the propriety of the actions of other organizations. Obviously, each organization is going to do whatever it believes is appropriate in light of its mission.”

The National Stonewall Democrats, a gay partisan group, has not taken a position on the issue. The Lavender Greens and Outright Libertarians USA, the gay rights caucuses of the Green and Libertarian parties, both oppose the Iraq war.

Andy Thayer, an organizer with the Gay Liberation Network in Chicago, said that although few mainstream gay organizations have become active in anti-war organizing, grassroots gay groups will have a presence over the weekend and will likely speak during the opening rally.

“Gay people should oppose this war because of solidarity,” Thayer said. “If somebody is being wronged and we don’t aid them, how can we expect other people to come to our aid when we need help?”

Thayer is part of an effort to get the city of Chicago to pass a resolution in favor of ending the war. As he has petitioned for this resolution, he said, he has found that gays and lesbians are overwhelmingly against the war.

“I would say [we are] 80 percent against the war, in this we mimic other minorities, such as blacks and Latinos,” Thayer said. “Our community is used to the fact that the administration lies to us. This administration that says it wants to spread democracy is not even using equal employment practices in its instrument for spreading such democracy. That should be a red flag.”

Thayer said that while the Bush administration claims to pursue a war against terror it remains allies with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which violently oppress gays, and supports the Federal Marriage Amendment, that would write discrimination against gays into the U.S. Constitution.

The International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Campaign is another gay organization that has consistently opposed the Iraq war.

“Post-Hurricane Katrina, we are seeing a fissure in our own social stability come to the forefront,” Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of IGLHRC said. Ettelbrick said that the mainstream gay organizations have disconnected from basic progressive politics.

“Sometimes when you feel the momentum of success in a certain area you naturally want to focus on that momentum,” Ettelbrick said. “We have broken through on the marriage issue, and it is understandable that people would want to follow that momentum.


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