What’s the most pressing gay rights issue on the agenda right now? If you ask the average American, or, frankly, a Development Director at a national LGBT advocacy organization, the answer will probably be same-sex marriage. And it certainly seems like the gay rights movement is on offense, after a historic victory on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and slow but steady progress on the relationship recognition front. The problem is that national media (and also gay donor) myopia has served to obscure some truly horrible legislation and legislators that are appearing in state capitols. I think progressives generally recognize that the pro-choice movement is under serious, constant assault — there was an outcry when the South Dakota “license to kill” bill was exposed. But on LGBT issues, there is complacency.
Just this past weekend, Louisiana State Rep. Jonathan Perry was elected to the State Senate. His claim to fame is that he proposed a law — in two separate legislative sessions — that would bar the state of Louisiana from issuing a birth certificate listing two parents of the same sex, even if both parents had legally adopted the child. The key here is that this legislation has no effect on the relationship of the parents — gay people cannot obtain a civil union, domestic partnership, or civil marriage in Louisiana, and the prospect of Louisiana granting any legal recognition of gay relationships in the short term is a pipe dream. This bill would have only harmed the child of gay parents, whose legal status may have been compromised in any number of situations, but most severely in the case of the death of one of his or her parents. This bill was literally an anti-adopted-child bill. Perry’s views on homosexuality are so retrograde that he feels children of gay parents should be singled out and punished. When confronted with the consequences of his legislation, Perry went on the record to say that he didn’t care.
Despite the best efforts of my former employer, the Forum For Equality, Perry was elected by a margin of 52-48. Progressives need to wake up to the fact that while elderly white lesbians getting married in Connecticut is a beautiful thing that is long overdue, truly bigoted and powerful people in this country are out to do real harm to gay people and their children, right now. And they are winning elections. In general, there are some truly odious things going on in southern state legislatures across all issue areas. I’ll do my best to highlight them, but I think a structural shift in intellectual and financial resources is desperately needed.