Monday, December 20, 2010

Liberal Watchdog Group Launches "Equality Matters"

Richard Socarides and Kerry Eleveld of Equality Matters
On the heals of Saturday's historic victory against anti-LGBT bigotry, the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America has launched what the New York Times is calling "A War Room for Gay Equality". The web-based project Equality Matters was created by Media Matters founder David Brock and Richard Socarides, former domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton. The site went online early this morning and will be managed by The Advocate's ace Capital Hill reporter, Kerry Eleveld.

The New York Times reported Sunday:
As gay people around the country reveled on Sunday in the historic Senate vote to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a liberal media watchdog group said it planned to announce on Monday that it was setting up a "communications war room for gay equality" in an effort to win the movement's next and biggest battle: for a right to same-sex marriage.

The new group, Equality Matters, grew out of Media Matters, an organization backed by wealthy liberal donors -- including prominent gay philanthropists -- that has staked its claim in Washington punditry with aggressive attacks on Fox News and conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

It will be run by Richard Socarides, a former domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton who has been deeply critical of President Obama's record on gay rights. A well-known gay journalist, Kerry Eleveld, the Washington correspondent for The Advocate, will leave that newspaper in January to edit the new group's Web site,, which is to go online Monday morning.
LGBT rights activist and author David Mixner hails the new project, saying, "While a range of groups are working to advance gay rights, the movement has lacked a national rapid-response war room of the sort that can push back against homophobic messages in the media and the political arena and keep the pressure on elected officials."

Mixner adds, "I think the lesson we have learned over the last two years is that you've got to be tough and you've got to keep people's feet to the fire."

With the political shift in Washington coming up in just weeks, the unfortunate reality is that we are unlikely to see the introduction or passage any new legislation regarding LGBT equality, but two major challenges still exist. The discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) remains law and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is dead for now. While passing ENDA during the next two years may be all but impossible and legislative repeal of DOMA has a snowball's chance in hell, there are marriage equality cases making their way through the federal courts. Equality Matters has made achieving marriage equality a priority.

Socarides writes on the site's blog:
"The struggle for marriage equality goes back to the late 1980s when groups like Lambda Legal and leaders like civil rights attorney Evan Wolfson (now head of the equality group Freedom to Marry), brought the original same-sex marriage case.  Many, even those who were gay rights supporters then, thought they were asking too much.  The truth is that they were visionaries.

Last year, following voter approval of the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 in California, another visionary, Chad Griffin, formed the American Foundation for Equal Rights.  He hired two of the best lawyers in America, one of them the most respected conservative legal figure in the country, former Republican Solicitor General Ted Olson and Democratic legal superstar David Boies.  Together, they have since won the most sweeping gay rights court ruling in history.

That ruling captured an historical imperative. Supporting full equal rights is no longer out of the political mainstream, nor should we let our elected officials fail to seize this moment in history to embrace the dignity of each and every human being. Anyone who misses the opportunity will undoubtedly find themselves on the wrong side of history.
And as the Democratic Party starts work on its new national party platform next year, it will have to face the issue head on, as will President Obama."

Although the Equality Matters site is up and running, it looks a little bare bones at the moment. I'm sure that will improve in time. 

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