In the late ‘60’s, around Stonewall, there was a mantra during what was called the homophile or gay rights movement that was inspired by the black militants during the civil rights movement calling for “Black Power” and “Black is Beautiful.” Homosexuals (the term used then) adopted it and began naming their efforts “Gay Power” or “Gay is Good.”
“Gay Power” was a common chant during and after Stonewall and became a rallying cry for the fledgling movement. In reality, gays weren’t seeking power per se but an end to injustices while desiring tolerance and in many instances, survival. Rather than attempting to exert power over straight folks, gays and lesbians were more concerned with the post-war purging of gay soldiers from the military, the threats of exposure that put people’s jobs and homes at risk, police intimidation, violence and many other maladies.As the decades passed by with victories and defeats marking the timeline in a one step forward, one step back cadence, there was no true gay power. This is despite right wing blogs who speak of the “gay mafia” as if there is a band of gays in rainbow-colored trench coats and submachine guns going around intimidating straights—those pitiable oppressed heterosexuals.
They say the radical homosexual agenda is out to destroy Christianity—the largest religion in the world—ignoring the fact that an overwhelming proportion of LGBT folks are Christian. As a recent example, Erick Ericson, the editor-in-chief of RedState.com, a right wing blog, characterizes the gay rights movement as “totalitarian” when it comes to religion.With momentum building for a nationwide ruling by the Supreme Court in June that will likely strike down state bans to same-sex marriage and the myriad Federal court cases that have ruled against those bans already, as well as burgeoning public support for marriage equality across every demographic, one can see a turn in the so-called culture war.
Anticipating this “gaymageddon” on the horizon, social conservatives (bigots) have been putting in place laws to protect the religious liberties of individuals who don’t like the idea of same-sex couples getting married because in their belief systems it goes against God.However, “gay power” began to creep back into the lexicon for the first time in over four decades. The recent enactment of religious protection laws from Indiana and Arkansas thinly disguised as assurances for businesses that they don’t have to deal with LGBT individuals based on “religious beliefs” indeed brought on “gaymageddon” and not just with LGBT folks—mafia or not.
The uproar over these laws was so deafening that both Republican-led states had to mend the law so as not to allow discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Where the “power” entered the fray was not just us LGBT folks who were savvy of the original intent. It came from an unprecedented number of businesses, organizations, corporations and celebrities. As a result, the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal, according to Time, laid the groundwork months ago in Indiana to forge a redoubtable coalition to fight the law by the time it passed the legislature.Clearly we can understand that Tim Cook, the openly gay CEO of tech giant Apple, would protest the measure. But other groups, such as Indiana-based Angie’s List, and the NCAA where the marquee college basketball tournament was about to take place, joined the chorus. Even the four coaches of the Final Four men’s teams added support and two of those teams were from the South!
Others included Nike, Salesforce.com, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, American Airlines, Levi Strauss and Company, Gap, PayPal, Twitter and more. In all, over 100 tech companies called for nationwide non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.The governors of New York and Connecticut threatened to ban travel by state employees to Indiana. However, Republican newbie Governor Hogan of Maryland dismissed an effort by state Senator Rich Madaleno to follow suit as a “political stunt.”
But get this: middle America behemoth Wal-Mart protested the law and NASCAR did as well. If one can get NASCAR—not exactly a liberal institution (certainly not their fans)—to jump in for gay rights, well what would you call it if not “gay power”?Greg Ballard, the Republican mayor of Indianapolis as well as former Indy mayors, slammed the law. The Indianapolis Star featured a rare front-page editorial. “FIX THIS NOW,” the headline screamed in World War III font. “Indiana is in a state of crisis,” the editors warned the governor. “It is worse than you seem to understand.”
While these businesses and corporations understand that discrimination will hurt the bottom line, the American public is also on board. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on April 9, there was “solid opposition to allowing businesses to refuse services or refuse to hire people or groups based on religious beliefs. Fifty-four percent said it was wrong for businesses to refuse services, while 28 percent said they should have that right. And 55 percent said businesses should not have the right to refuse to hire certain people or groups based on the employer’s religious beliefs, while 27 percent said businesses should have the right.”With expected backlash from the Supreme Court ruling this summer and other last-ditch efforts to stem LGBT equality momentum, there is much more work to do. Most of the states do not have non-discrimination laws and a Federal law continues to languish in Congress. You can marry one afternoon and be fired the next morning.
We should use this new gay power surge to fix this and use it at the ballot box. We may not have achieved “gay power” in the literal sense, but you know you’re on the right track when Newt Gingrich calls us a “lynch mob.”