The Progressive Backlash

Volume 5, Number 4 | Jan. 26 – Feb. 01, 2006


The Progressive Backlash

Americans are wondering, “What happened to our nation’s values?”

Many gay Americans have lost faith in the face of repeated attacks on our values. But one thing is definite, the influence of the religious right on American government is becoming more transparent, and in the process, people are growing increasingly skeptical of the president, and his cronies.

With strong arguments coming from such respected figures as Jimmy Carter, in his compelling new book, "Our Endangered Values," we are seeing the very real problems created by the blurring of the church and the state. The former president explains in Christian terms how many in the government have abused the nation’s sense of faith to further their own political purposes.

The recent plea deal by Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist, may just provide the tipping point for the broader public recognition of the problem for which many progressive Americans have been waiting. It remains to be seen who Abramoff will implicate in this plea agreement, but it is almost certain that a few of our community’s most rabid critics, especially those who couch their fear of equality in the name of God, will “come a tumbling down.”

While it may not surprise many in our community, it will certainly shake up a few of those Americans who previously would have been predisposed to place their trust in what the government told us.

Why do I believe this? My husband Gary and I went to his family’s home in Pennsylvania for Christmas. Because of the inconvenience of buying a present for everyone—Gary’s has a big Italian family—they have a grab bag Christmas gift system. Gary’s sister-in-law, the very woman who voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 elections—even after my seven-page letter to her outlining exactly what the president had said and done in his political past—drew Gary’s name. She e-mailed me to ask what she could get for him. Gary told me that if she contacted him about what he wanted for Christmas, he would ask for something very specific—the defeat of the Republican U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, in the 2006 election, one vote at a time.

I responded to her e-mail by asking her outright not to vote for Santorum, whose homophobia is notorious, even among the most conservative elected officials. I included excerpts from his ridiculous tirades against LGBT Americans—when he compared gay sex to bestiality and incest in an interview with the Associated Press—after the Lawrence v. Texas decision. I told her how he used the Terri Schiavo debacle to raise money for his own re-election campaign. I told her how he espoused family values while advocating the demise of poorer families through such conservative initiatives as Social Security privatization and Medicaid reduction. I laid it on the line with her and she heard me.

For Christmas this year, Gary received a beautifully wrapped box with only a letter inside. It was the most wonderful statement of love and support I have ever read. Gary’s sister-in-law said that we have always stood up for her and that the least that she could do was take this stand for us by refusing to vote for Rick Santorum. She even promised to get her husband, Gary’s brother, to do the same.

One vote at a time!

How can we ensure that this progressive backlash becomes a reality? We must have the courage to speak up, the initiative to discover the truth and the faith in the notion that all bad things shall come to an end. The gay community has experienced an incredibly rapid evolution. Our images are everywhere in the media—and they are increasingly more accurate ones. Our families and neighbors know who we are and love us. The tide is turning and it is our responsibility to encourage this shift everywhere that we can.

Remember, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you ask for!

Anthony M. Brown served as research assistant to Nan Hunter at the ACLU’s Gay and Lesbian Project and, as a 2002 intern at Lambda Legal, helped prepare the Lawrence v. Texas brief. At the law firm of McKenna, Siracusano & Chianese, he heads its nontraditional family and estates law practice. A board member of The Wedding Party, Brown can be reached at