Blog By Barry

January 23, 2009

NY Gov Selects Kirsten Gillibrand For Senate, Throwing Latin@s, Queers, and Progressives Under The Bus

So Clinton’s replacement in the Senate will be Representative Kirsten Gillibrand, a conservative Democrat who has often voted with Republicans on immigration issues and LGBT issues. From Wayne Barrett in The Village Voice:

Gillibrand has described her own voting record as “one of the most conservative in the state.” She opposes any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, supports renewing the Bush tax cuts for individuals earning up to $1 million annually, and voted for the Bush-backed FISA bill that permits wiretapping of international calls. She was one of four Democratic freshmen in the country, and the only Democrat in the New York delegation, to vote for the Bush administration’s bill to extend funding for the Iraq war shortly after she entered congress in 2007.

Gillibrand is against drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, and co-sponsored the SAVE act, a right-wing proposal intended to make life harder for undocumented immigrants, without facilitating legal immigration or addressing economic conditions driving immigration. (The SAVE act was also terrible politics for the Democratic party.)

On LGBT issues, Gillibrand has “voted against the repealing of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ legislation, opposed legislation that would grant equal tax treatment for employer-provided health coverage for domestic partners, opposed legislation to grant same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents the same immigration benefits of married couples, and opposed legislation to permit state Medicaid programs to cover low-income, HIV-positive Americans before they develop AIDS.”

On the other hand, as Liss points out, now that Gillibrand is facing a statewide Senate race in 2010, she’s abruptly discovered her inner gay rights activist:

“After talking to Kirsten Gillibrand, I am very happy to say that New York is poised to have its first U.S. Senator who supports marriage equality for same-sex couples,” said Van Capelle. “She also supports the full repeal of the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) law, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) and passage of legislation outlawing discrimination against transgender people. While we had a productive discussion about a whole range of LGBT concerns, I was particularly happy to hear where she stands on these issues.”

Hooray for lack of principles! Hopefully she’ll flop just as flippily on immigration issues.

Nonetheless, I’d rather have a real progressive in that seat. Hopefully she’ll be challenged in the 2010 primary.

One more bad thing about this selection — as Scott points out, her House seat isn’t a safe seat for Democrats, and this increases Republican odds of taking that seat.

UPDATE: It turns out that Gillibrand didn’t vote against any of those four LGBT issues, because they were never brought to a vote. (Thanks to Timothy at Box Turtle Bulletin for pointing this out to me.)

She did, however, turn down the chance to co-sponsor all four of those bills. All four of the bills had over a hundred Democratic co-sponsors, so they weren’t small or obscure bills; and according to HRC’s Congressional Scorecard (pdf link), Gillibrand has the worst record of supporting GLBT issues of any New York Democrat. So it’s fair to say that Gillibrand has been the least supportive Representative of any Dem from New York.

Nonetheless, she hasn’t actually voted against these things, so it’s not as bad as it at first appeared.

January 19, 2009

Comparing struggles

Renee writes:

Say it with me, gay is not the new black. African-Americans did not cause the passing of prop 8, and the gay community does not have the right to compare its struggles to the black civil rights movement.

I completely agree that gay is not the new black, and African-Americans did not cause prop 8 to pass.

But I’m not sure I can agree about “the right to compare.” I’m not sure what that means. Is Renee saying that gay people don’t have the right to bring up Loving vs Virginia in legal arguments about equal marriage rights, for instance?

Despite all the differences between different struggles for civil rights and justice, there are some experiences that different groups will have in common. To pick a famous example, MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail has an unbreakable connection to the black civil rights movement. But I don’t think it takes away from that to say that it also contains practical and moral advice for anyone engaged in a justice movement today:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

There are few, if any, oppressed peoples who wouldn’t find a reflection of their own experiences and struggles in what King wrote, about how “wait!” in practice always seems to mean “never.”

As Ta-Nehisi points out, the Black civil rights movement itself often compared the black experience and the Jewish experience.

As a Jew, I think that’s fine, because although the experiences and history aren’t identical, many of the comparisons made were useful and relevant. No justice movement is exactly the same, and no two oppressions are exactly the same; but there are similarities, and movements can draw lessons positively from other movements. The trouble comes when the comparisons made are facile, or disrespectful, or ignore history rather than comparing history.

January 15, 2009

Seda’s Coming Out Story

Filed under: Transsexual and Transgender related issues — Ampersand @ 12:46 am

From Fannie’s Room:

All that remained was coming out to my kids. We did that after Christmas 2006, about the same time I started hormone therapy. They were six and three at the time. My eldest is fascinated with science, so we put it in terms of clownfish and parrotfish, both of which sometimes change sexes naturally. We told them that I’d always felt like I was a woman inside, and I was now going to start the process of changing, including dressing as a woman. Sam took it in effortlessly. For him, it was the same absurdity that everything is at that age, and was just something else new. Trin, the elder, drew a very sad face.

“What’s wrong?” Tears in his eyes, he replied, “Now that she’s a woman, Maddy won’t want to wrestle anymore.” Assurances that I would, indeed, continue to enjoy our wrestling matches comforted him. In the summer of 2008, I overheard him talking about me with one of his friends. “Don’t you miss having a dad?” his friend asked. “No. I like her better as a woman,” he replied.

That’s just a sample; the whole thing is worth reading. Part 1, and Part 2.

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