As it Happened: Taking on the Radical Right

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At the annual meeting of the Kansas Equality Coalition of the Flint Hills (KECFH) on April 8, Sean Cahill, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Policy Institute, challenged the radical right, saying, ”The un-American attitude of stoking resentment against religious and cultural pluralism is immoral, as is stoking animosity toward the courts that interpret laws and our constitutions—what they are set up to do. Hyping hotbutton social wedge issues while neglecting poverty, racism, human suffering going on around the world and the environmental cataclysm that is being cause by a culture of greed is immoral.”
Sean Cahill opened his presentation by questioning one of the theories the radical right has used against LGBT equal rights – that it is a threat to the civil rights of people of color.

“The cruel irony, when looking at the facts,” stated Cahill, “is that those hurt most by anti-gay family policies are LGBT people of color. LGBT people of color are more likely to be parents, come from lower income levels, and have a lower rate of home ownership. The Radical Right is especially keen on calling homosexual parenting ‘an unproven social experiment,’ but in many communities same-sex parenting has been happening for a very long time.”

The 2000 census found that 34% of lesbian couples and 22% of gay male couples are raising children less than18 years of age while 46% of married straight couples are doing so. Both the 1990 and 2000 censuses show that lesbians of color parent at a higher rate than white non-Hispanic lesbians. The census data also show that African American same-sex couples are twice as likely as white gay couples to be raising children, even though they earn on average $22,000 less than white same-sex households) and are less likely to own the home they live in.

“From this data we see that while marriage equality would benefit all LGBT couples, a disproportional benefit would occur to African American, Latino, Asian American gay/lesbian families by providing them with access to spousal benefits while working, as well as retirement benefits,” said Cahill. “But possibly the greatest benefit would be peace of mind for parents regarding their children.”

While the radical right attack on the LGBT community has been especially vicious in the past three years—for example they lobbied to prevent gay partners of 9/11 victims from being eligible for relief funds and services, they also seek to end no-fault divorce and require mutual consent before a divorce will be granted. They strongly oppose reproductive rights; sex education in public schools; sexuality research; women in combat; and affirmative action.

In general, Cahill said, “the Radical Right suffers from sexphobia.” Citing research that shows the leading cause of marital unrest, resulting in divorce, is male impotency, Cahill highlighted the fact that the Traditional Values Coalition lobbied Congress against funding a national study on impotency and research that would find cures for it. And though human papillomavirus (HPV) directly contributes to the formation of cervical cancer in over 10,000 women and kills over 4,000 a year in the United States, radical right groups like the Family Research Council have strongly opposed FDA approval of a HPV vaccine. Tony Perkins, FRC said: “Our concern is that this vaccine will be marketed to a segment of the population that should be getting a message about abstinence.”

“The radical right is outspending gay rights groups at a ratio of four to one,” Cahill said. “The 13 co-sponsors of Marriage Protection Week spent $217.2 million on that campaign . . . the 13 largest LGBT advocacy groups spent only $54.1 million promoting marriage equality.” He noted that “the Louisiana Marriage Campaign forced the state to spend millions on an election rather than address the issue of the dike and levee system, which proved to be fatal for 1,000 Louisiana citizens. It promoted the agenda of a small segment of society over the common good.”

Following such a bleak overview of the current situation, Cahill ended his talk by providing the audience with reasons to look optimistically at the future. He encouraged his listeners to remember that political change lags behind cultural change, especially at national level. He stated that 58% of college freshmen (58%) support the freedom to marry, 73% support equal inheritance rights, and 68% support equal Social Security survivor benefits. A May 2003, Gallop Poll showed that 88% of Americans support “equal opportunities for gays and lesbians in the workplace”

Cahill concluded: “Our moral values have to affirm that it is good for people to feel safe. It is good for people to be happy. It is good for people to give and receive care and love. It is good for people to live authentically, with integrity, with honesty. These values are what we can give to society and we must begin to articulate them in our thoughts, words and actions.”
The meeting also featured Ann Zimmerman, a Kansas folk singer of great emotional power, and the annual report for 2005, which highlighted the numerous achievements of the chapter, including the successful anti-marriage amendment campaign, the Simply Equality campaign to amend the City of Manhattan’s antidiscrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression and the National Coming-Out Day Film Series.

New chair Alley Stoughton, who succeeded outgoing chair Christopher E. Renner, urged members to become more involved in the chapter's activities, and expressed the hope that KECFH could successfully reach out to more members of the local LGBT community in the coming year.

KECFH began as Human Rights Campaign Meet-Up in April 2004; the Manhattan advocacy group Flint Hills Alliance had disbanded in 2000; it later became the Flint Hills Human Rights Project, whose members played a key role in brokering the negations that lead to the creation of the Kansas Equality Coalition in September 2005.
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