The entrenched gay leaders in Washington, DC, have spent the last two years blaming Republicans for the fact that they themselves have struck out on Capitol Hill and will end the 111th Congress with nothing to show for their multimillion-dollar fundraising efforts. If this were a public company, the Board or the shareholders would have run these leaders out of town a long time ago.
Despite campaigning for decades to put Democrats in control of all of Washington, their dream ticket of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama failed to deliver what the gay leaders themselves promised the movement. Led by Joe Solmonese of Human Right Campaign and Aubrey Sarvis of the Servicemen's Legal Defense Network, gay leaders have been tripping over themselves to protect President Obama from blame for not making the promised progress on gay equality. Solmonese and Sarvis are the faces of the most expensive failed gay campaign in history. Other gay leaders in Washington also have turned their comfortable and high-paying perches into a safe haven free from the consequences of job performance evaluations.
Gay Americans from outside Washington should demand that they stop sacrificing progress to further their personal political careers. It's time we found some young gay leaders who will work for equality and not be concerned about pleasing the Democratic Party.
Gay politics are not black and white. It isn't true that all Democrats are good on gay issues and all Republicans bad. The outcome of the Prop 8 vote in California, where the traditionally Democratic state also overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama for president, proves that Democrats have a lot of work to do in their own party. Republicans have failed us, too. I am not suggesting we dismiss the GOP sins of advocating for small government policies while practicing intrusive, big government tactics. But Republicans who advocate laissez-faire principles can be great allies, just as liberal Southern Democrats can be strong opponents working against us. But Solmonese and Sarvis have never seen it this way. For them, it's all a process to help the Democratic Party win more seats. And for this failed strategy, they should be judged harshly.
The partisan leaders of the gay and lesbian movement in Washington have spent endless political capital telling us that we would be better off if all of our elected officials were Democrats. They have spent millions of dollars trying to convince us that we will be taken care of by a partisan Democratic America. At the same time, they have also secured their positions of prominence within the Democratic Party by being able to deliver the gay vote. Sadly, we have become tokens for their careers. In early 2009, Sarvis sent a strong message to his Democratic friends that it wasn't the right time for the Democratic Party to take up gay issues yet. He told the Washington Times that waiting until at least 2010 for some LGBT victories made sense. "Where does 'don't ask, don't tell' fall in all this?," Sarvis asked. "I would say it is not in the top five priorities of national issues." His Board should have fired him on the spot.
It is painfully obvious that the national gay leaders have promoted their own partisan agendas and careers within the Democratic Party instead of working to ensure passage of civil rights.
Solmonese, a seasoned Democratic Party activist who at first maneuvered for a political appointment in the Obama administration, couldn't even move Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who represents the gayest district in the country, to put DADT or gay marriage up for a standalone vote in the House. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid easily manipulated gay leaders into supporting him to wait until after November's elections to put controversial issues up for votes. Reid wanted this issue to be unresolved going into November's elections and Solmonese and Sarvis allowed it. The real tragedy is that gay leaders in Washington don't have enough moxy to move their own political party -- the party that controls the White House, the Senate and the House. It is a sign that they either don't have the skills to make political progress or are too close to the Democratic leadership and therefore unwilling to make the necessary push. We can do better and we should start by demanding for Somonese's and Sarvis' resignations.