Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Non-Eddie Haskell Guide to Dealing With June Cleaver

Worthy Adversary Ridor of Observe But Do Not Interfere brought up a few points in his comment to my previous post concerning activism in the new age of what I call "June Cleaver" politicians -- smart, successful businesswomen who are immensely popular and successful in their communities, and who happen to oppose gay marriage/rights.

First, Ridor asks if I "think it is better to be patient and wait for them to reconsider their feelings and opinions so that I can attain the rights that is supposed to be mine".

To clarify, I'm all for asking them to reconsider their opinion. However, that takes time and is going to require patience and a willingness to work with them on our part.

When I became a manager in my previous job, my mentor told me something that became very clear when I had to evaluate my employees -- "Never confuse effort with effectiveness." The same thing applies to activism -- we should never assume that because things aren't flashy or obvious, they don't work.

Take Florence Shapiro. It would be easy and show a lot of "effort" to stand up and denounce her on the evening news, in the Dallas Morning News, and to anyone who would listen as a horrible antigay bigot. The problem would slam every door in Plano the next time glbts asked for anything.

Instead, we do a little scouting. We look at Florence's bio, which outlines her past record and interests. We do a little digging and figure out what issues really float her boat -- best examples are education and business.

When we go to talk to her, it's a matter of telling her right off the bat that we're not asking her to support gay marriage, although that would be great if she did -- we're just asking her not to support antigay discrimination. You point out to her that virtually all of the large companies headquartered in her home city of Plano have corporate policies promoting diversity and discouraging discrimination based on sexual orientation, as well as offering domestic partner benefits and other services to their glbt employees -- all of which would be jeopardized by an antigay amendment to the Texas Constitution. You bring in business leaders from these multibillion-dollar corporations, similar to what was done with Dallas's nondiscrimination ordinance, to demonstrate the importance these businesses place on their glbt employees. You explain to her how many glbt constituents she has and what they are involved with in their community -- especially those who are public school teachers.

To summarize, this isn't "cowering and brownnosing", as Ridor decried. This is treating Florence Shapiro as the intelligent businesswoman and legislator that she is and helping her to make a better-informed decision. Just because she opposes gay marriage is no reason for us to treat her badly -- it's an opportunity to work through the issue with her.

The gay community was handed an incredible challenge with this year's elections. Unfortunately, the gay community, after years of fighting Fred Phelps, knows no other tactics or targets other than yelling, screaming, and counter-demonstrating. It's like the old saying goes.....everything looks like a nail when all you have is a hammer. Unless we get some new tools and commit to using them, we're going to continue putting holes in things every time we try to fix something.

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