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    January 22, 2009

    Affirmative action by any other name (II)

    Posted by: Chris

    Remember Equal Rep, the Facebook-based lobby group that campaigned for an openly gay cabinet appointment by President-elect Barack Obama? They took considerable issue with my suggestion that they were effectively pushing affirmative action for gay politicos -- not to mention distracting from much more important issues for the movement.

    Paulsousa Having failed to succeed with Obama's selections to existing cabinet posts, they've come up with an entirely new suggestion:

    Equal Rep is now putting on a follow-up national campaign to strongly urge President-elect Obama to create a new cabinet position, Secretary of GLBT Affairs. All participants are asked to phone and email President Obama’s White House comment line and email daily from Jan. 26-30. …

    Equal Rep founder, Paul Sousa, said, “And on top of that, gay Americans are the only minority group to have never been appointed to the Presidential Cabinet in the history of the United States. We’re asking President Obama to give this community the attention it needs and the representation it deserves.”

    There are other Cabinet positions that represent minorities such as the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs and Equal Rep is asking President Obama to create another position similarly for the GLBT community. It is commonplace for Presidents to create Cabinet positions due to community needs such as the creation of the Secretary of Homeland Security position in 2001.

    What to say, what to say, what to say… I think I'll just second the remarks of Matt Comer at InterstateQ:

    I don’t think Sousa really understands what his proposal means. The U.S. Department of GLBT Affairs?

    Never. Will. Happen. Ever. If African-Americans, after suffering centuries of bondage, rape and murder, didn’t get a representative U.S. department, neither will we.

    There’s no need for minority departments. The U.S. Justice Department, if operated correctly and with tools given to them by the president or Congress, is the office in charge of protecting the civil rights of Americans. And, let’s just face it, the LGBT community hasn’t yet gotten any federal civil rights legislation. That’s just a simple fact of life. If we can’t get a simple bill passed, what makes him think his proposal for a Gay Secretary is going to be taken seriously.

    There were better ways to address our representation in Obama’s administration and the government, and I’m sure the Victory Fund and others are working diligently away to find it. One way to address equal representation is supporting LGBT people who run for elected office. The more out elected officials we have, the bigger a pool there is for a president or governor to appoint from. Hell, even taking the initiative to run yourself, if no one else is running, is a solution. You might not win, but you make it possible for someone else to win down the road.

    But, the reality is that a Gay Secretary isn’t possible and isn’t the answer. And, no, the Secretary for Veterans’ Affairs is not similar to any idea for a Gay Secretary. Sorry.

    Whether or not the kids at Equal Rep intend an entire department or just the position of cabinet secretary, it's so far beyond the pale, not to mention a smack in the face of other minority groups. Why is the important work that would actually benefit the lives of LGBT Americans of such little interest to so many?



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    1. John on Jan 22, 2009 7:06:46 PM:

      This idea is about as worthy of consideration as the so-called "Department of Peace" one. I would vigorously oppose both. Good comments from you guys and InterstateQ.

    1. jpeckjr on Jan 23, 2009 10:56:30 AM:

      Thanks, Chris, for keeping on this. Perhaps the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice should have a secton for LGBT concerns, although, without any federal nondiscrimination protections, what would they do except monitor and report.

      A couple of days ago, for reasons I could not explain, I remembered Dan Bradley, the openly gay lawyer from Georgia appointed by President Carter -- that's right, Carter -- as head of the Legal Services Corporation. As I recall, Mr. Bradley was touted as, possibly, the first openly gay man appointed by a President to a high level federal position, albeit not Cabinet. I was a student at the same university Mr. Bradley attended (Mercer University in Georgia), just coming out, editor of the student newspaper, and interested in his appointment for several reasons. I recall specifically that The Atlantic ran a story on him.

      Mr. Bradley died in the 1980s. I mention him here because it is important to remember these things, these people who were first or close to first.

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