Thursday, August 10, 2006

Why would I vote for a Democrat?

I'm taking a stand. I am sick of holding my nose to vote for Democratic challengers or incumbents who continue to be intimidated by the Republican Party's apartheid stance on lesbians and gays. Initially, my disenfranchisement grew after President Clinton's 1993 flip-flop over lifting the ban on gays and lesbians in the military. He broke his promise after courting pink votes during his 1992 presidential election. Perhaps more egregiously for a Georgia voter such as me, my Democratic senator opposed Clinton's changes to the military policy from the Reagan-Bush Administration and threatened to legislate a permanent ban.

Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, with a cabal of military commanders attacked Clinton's initiative to rescind the anti-gay ban just after Bill entered the Oval Office. After Judge Hatter's decision that stated...

...[t]he Department of Defense's justifications for its policy... are based on cultural myths... very similar to the reasons offered to keep the military racially segregated in the 1940s...

...and a flurry of judicial, legal and political maneuvers, the newly-minted president caved in to tenacious pressure as a congressional statute authorized, Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The march to codify gay discrimination didn't stop there. In 1995, after Republicans swept into power, Congress enacted and Clinton signed the Solomon Amendment, legislation that denied DOD funds to schools (some people resist discrimination) that barred military recruiters from campuses. In 1996, the law was amended to include funds from the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health & Human Services.

Consequently, in protest, I did not vote after 1992 until the 2000 election when I got a whiff of what Texas Republicans such as George W. Bush would envision for our future (not a pretty picture.). However, I did not remain silent through the 1990s. A blessing in disguise, Clinton's 1993 reversal and the resultant bigotry over gays in the military motivated me to finally undertake painting queer and feminist Christology, art that I had conceptualized in 1991. I decided to answer gay apartheid with artistic courage and foster my spiritual belief that God created who we are albeit a sexual minority. Exercising my faith, I believed that Christ did not condemn lesbians and gays and conceivably could have had a male lover.

Since the fateful 200o election, I have rallied to support Democrats with my money and my vote to blunt the advance of Republicans who pandered to homophobic voters and the Religious Right's anti-gay agenda. I also vehemently opposed the invasion of Iraq and later voted for John Kerry in 2004 both in the primary and the general election. I had put aside my grievance with the Democratic Party over DOMA and its sometimes wishy-washy attitude towards gay equality. But, on Tuesday, my patience ran out.

When Georgia Democratic voters in the 4th District delivered a victory to Hank Johnson by more than 12,000 votes over Cynthia McKinney in the runoff election, I was absent from the approximately 70,000 voters who turned out. My partner and I participated in the primary to stop Ralph Reed (which I'll explain in a minute) and in the 2004 primary when McKinney barely edged out five other contenders. Yet, 33,591 less Democratic voters went to the polls in this July 18 primary compared to the one in 2004. Why?

From my perspective as a registered voter in the 4th District of Georgia, Cynthia didn't give me a reason to vote for her. When Cynthia McKinney did not show up to vote against FMA, I did not feel compelled to show up to vote for her. Her scuffle with the Capitol police didn't overly alarm me and I liked her defiance of Bush over the years. She wasn't perfect but who is? What I cared about was whether she would represent me, her constituent, a lesbian, a marginalized minority. Perhaps I wasn't the only voter who felt this way. Cathy Woolard, a lesbian for whom I voted in the 2004 primary, received 18,164 votes--more than enough votes for McKinney to have cinched the Democratic nomination in this year's primary. But I had had enough of Democrats avoiding the "gay wedge" issue. Candidates would now earn my pink vote. And Cynthia hadn't. So on Georgia's July 18 primary election day, my partner and I did what we thought was best: We asked for Republican ballots to vote specifically against Ralph Reed and for every Republican challenger to a GOP incumbent in the field.

When Cynthia did not win a majority of Democratic votes, a predicament that put her in the position of having to face a runoff with Hank Johnson, I emailed Hank asking him whether he supported gay civil rights. Did I get a reply before the runoff? No! So Tuesday, my partner and I stayed home. I wondered if other disenfranchised lesbian and gay voters had done the same. The 4th District has an enormous gay population with Atlanta as the gay mecca of the South. I also pondered when the election results were tallied, did McKinney lose by forgetting lesbians and gays in her district, by failing to reach out to us? Who can say? I can count two votes she lost because she didn't.

Yesterday, I emailed Hank Johnson again about his views on gay rights. Will I get an answer before November? I dunno. But I do know this. I will no longer vote for a candidate who will not stand up for gays and lesbians. I will not vote against myself just to vote ABAR (anybody but a Republican). After reading Billmon's post last night and the out-of-state lobbying money that was donated to Hank Johnson's campaign, I am less inclined to vote for him.

In surveying Georgia's candidates, I don't feel I have a Democratic candidate who supports me. So sad, so true, and so disappointing. Unlike Democrats with principles and a spine such as Russ Feingold, too many have not heeded the call from civil rights voices such as the late, great Coretta Scott King or the NAACP.

I would mobilize to vote against Perry McGuire whose outrageous remarks about gay teens cannot go unanswered. However, the Democrat incumbent for attorney general, Thurbert Baker, will likely win re-election, so I see no need to go to the polls in November. ABAR is like voting for a Republican on gay civil rights in effect, so why vote for Republican Lite? Hank Johnson has already taken an antiwar position but he has not, at the time of this posting--after I have sent two emails requesting his position on gay civil rights--declared that he will support an end of discrimination against me. If he won't declare his support for my gay brothers, lesbian sisters, my partner, and me, I don't feel compelled to move my feet for him. Maybe he'll come around. I can only hope but we'll see.

As for the rest of Georgia's Democrats, I will seek clarification on their positions on discrimination against gays and lesbians. If I receive no answer or a lackluster response, neither will I answer their call to vote for them. It's as simple as that.