Thursday, January 22, 2009

Eyes Wide Open: The Continuing Threat of the Religious Right

Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish links today to a posting by James Kirchick at the New Majority site, which,in my view, provides important reminders about why we cannot stop monitoring the religious right in the new administration of President Obama
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Kirchick notes that at a post-election symposium sponsored by National Review, Maggie Gallagher, Jeffrey Bell, and Ed Whelan stressed the need for conservatives to use gay issues (and, of course, inevitably, gay human beings) as political bargaining chips even more strongly in this period in which conservative ideologies appear to be in check. Kirchick documents a number of recent references to a ratched-up anti-gay initiative by the religious right. He also notes that the success of anti-gay ballot measures in Arkansas, Florida, Arizona, and California in the last election has energized social conservatives and the religious right.

I hate to keep harping on this theme, but it's going to get worse before it gets better--that is, it's going to get worse for gay citizens on the United States if the religious right has its way. We are all they have right now.

They will not scruple about continuing to use us as political cannon fodder as long as this strategy appears to yield results. We can expect, in the months ahead, a strong initiative by the religious right to drive the wedge even deeper between the black and the gay communities. As Kirchick notes,

Some conservatives have grown drunk off the wine of this triumph [i.e., prop 8], citing the 70% support among African-Americans to ban gay marriage as a sign that a significant portion of this most reliable of Democratic voting blocs could potentially be poached if the GOP stresses its anti-gay bona fides even more.*

Kirchick thinks that, to the extent to which the neoconservative movement continues to ally itself with anti-gay religious and social causes, it places itself on the wrong side of history. He foresees significant legal initiatives to grant gay citizens rights, as the attitudes of society at large swing away from stigmatization of gay persons.

I hope he's right. But there's the meantime to be lived through, and that time promises to be difficult for gay Americans. I am less sanguine than are some commentators about the willingness of those in the solid middle to engage themselves in the struggle for gay rights. Our liberal allies have sold us out in the past when it was expedient for them to do so, and they will continue to do so in the future, if they are allowed to do so with impunity.

Many of them see us as a liability, as a weak point in the liberal agenda for social change. Many believe that our issues--and our lives--should take a back seat in their reform agendas. In many liberal agendas for reform of our democracy, gay issues are far down on the list of priorities, and will remain so in the new administration.

I do see hope with the next generation, which is conspicuously less homophobic than the one that has dominated our political life for several decades now. The generation now relinquishing power, the baby-boom generation, remains, in my view, far more homophobic than many of its member will ever admit openly.

Meanwhile, the time for rest is ahead, for many of us.

*Note that Kirchick is still citing the now-disproven 70% figure for African-American support for prop 8.