Gay groups criticized for pursuing marriage equality when people are poor

I’d written the other day about my concern that there’s a movement growing – a fringe one, but one that’s had the support of at least one large progressive think-tank and a decently-large progressive blog – to push gay civil rights groups to drop the gay rights agenda and instead fight against poverty.

The people pushing this agenda do not want us fighting for marriage at all, or even pushing for ENDA.  They want us doing the work of traditional race and poverty groups, full time, instead of gay rights.  And that simply doesn’t make sense if you’re going to claim that you’re a gay rights organization, or a gay rights activist.

To wit: this astonishing article from Rolling Stone on July 12 of this year.  And I quote:

For years, the larger LGBT movement has received criticism for focusing on marriage equality over issues seen as more relevant to working-class people and minorities. “If you’re a waitress in Jackson, Mississippi and you’re working at a job with no healthcare and your girlfriend is working at the local Target or Wal-Mart,” asks New Orleans writer and activist Kenyon Farrow, “how is marriage going to protect you from poverty?”

Well, the same way that modern marriage laws help protect women from poverty by giving them greater property rights than they once had when the marriage dissolves.  They used to get nothing.

But let’s back up a moment.  Other minorities fought their marriage equality battle 46 years ago, culminating in the Loving v. Virginia decision of 1967.  But when we fight for ours, nearly half a century later, suddenly the marriage battle – and the civil rights battle overall (at least as it pertains to gay and trans people) is selfish and superfluous.

gay marriage prop 8 doma

Photo by ©John Aravosis.

Rolling Stone continues:

Yet Farrow and others believe there is still a real need for the LGBT community to focus more directly on bread-and-butter issues. The group Queers for Economic Justice is already doing this in New York City by fighting for rights like paid sick leave and a living wage. Working to secure the right to vote – the most basic of democratic rights – would seem clearly to fit into this category.

You’ll notice one thing missing from that new queer agenda: Anything actually queer.

We are to believe that gay rights groups should no longer fight for gay rights – and they should specifically give up on marriage equality, and probably ENDA too (ENDA isn’t going to pay your rent) – because some gay people are poor.

The thing is, if you’re poor and your civil rights aren’t a priority for you, there already exist anti-poverty organizations that are fighting an anti-poverty agenda.  It’s unclear why gay rights groups need to disband in order to fight the agenda of organizations that already exist.  How many poverty groups disbanded when Matthew Shepard was murdered? That poor young man needed a lot more than a job the night he died.

No one is saying that we won’t help the larger progressive coalition – we will, and already are.  But these folks quite literally want us to stop fighting for our civil rights, and more specifically, stop using our civil rights organizations to fight for our civil rights. They actually seem to think that we should be ashamed of the fact that we’re fighting for our civil rights.  Rights, mind you, that they already have.  (One blogger recently chastised gays for focusing so intently on the Supreme Court DOMA and Prop 8 decisions in the days immediately preceding the rulings.  We were only anticipating the greatest victory in the history of our people. How selfish of us.)

Under that logic, then why not play the same game with environment issues.  Maybe environmental groups should stop fighting the Keystone Pipeline, and more generally stop fighting global warming, because neither of those causes will help poor people get a job today. It’s time the Sierra Club and WWF gave up on the environment and devoted all of their time to poverty.

And you know what else won’t help you get a job?  Protecting a woman’s right to choose.  Or opposing the death penalty.  Or worrying about Edward Snowden and the NSA.  Or fighting to strengthen the Voting Rights Act.  Or getting guns off the street.  Or immigration reform (how is that going to help some poor lesbian couple in Appalachia find a job?)  Or being outraged over the Zimmerman verdict, for that matter – a righteous cause if there was one, but sadly one that is not going to help a minority lesbian couple pay their bills.

According to these folks, we should all give up any battle we’re fighting, and dismantle any organization fighting that battle, and redirect all of our energies to fighting poverty.

Or to put it more succinctly: Please stop working on your pet issue, so you can work on their pet issue instead.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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308 Responses to “Gay groups criticized for pursuing marriage equality when people are poor”

  1. Bill_Perdue says:

    Only by people unwilling to defend their ideas.

  2. caphillprof says:

    It’s called being rude.

  3. Bill_Perdue says:

    I comment as I see fit. It’s called free speech.

  4. caphillprof says:

    Different directions do not follow my thought. Take your directions elsewhere

  5. Wilberforce says:

    For me, it’s not about economics vs. gay rights. It’s about refining gay strategy itself: enda and stopping hiv instead of marriage.
    But the lowest common denominator has always gotten their way, since the 80s when they were telling us to ignore hiv, to the 90s when they were trashing anyone who talked about prevention, to today when they’re forcing marriage on us. This while many of us have to spend their working days in the closet for fear of being fired, and 20 somethings are humping irresponsibly and adding zillions to the federal budget in drug costs.

  6. Bill_Perdue says:

    Sure it does, you’re just in denial.

  7. caphillprof says:

    Your thought does not follow my comment.

  8. karmanot says:

    Is that why ‘4yesu’ is part of your graffiti name?

  9. karmanot says:

    Ah, the old ‘yo momma’ meme . That’s all you’ve got? Your momma would be ashamed of you.

  10. rmthunter says:

    The “New Left” was a movement that started in the 1960s that was marked by a broadly marxist agenda, prevalent among college students, and characterized by such groups as the Students for a Democratic Society. The agenda was fairly vague, essentially concerned with “social justice,” but the movement never seemed to be able to formulate any specific goals — it was a matter of “end poverty, end war, end racism,” etc. They became, by and large, dogmatic, fairly authoritarian, and, in their eyes, at least, all-inclusive. Their remnants can be seen in the extreme politically correct left — such as those who criticize us for fighting for marriage equality when there are people starving somewhere. In my judgment at least — and I suspect I’m not alone in this — they were most successful at co-opting other movements and pulling their teeth. Happily, they seem to have migrated to the fringes, where they belong, while the rest of us concentrate on actually doing something.

  11. karmanot says:

    Get some self esteem and then capitalize your ‘i’s”

  12. karmanot says:

    It was crisp wasn’t it. Thank you for the complement.

  13. karmanot says:

    Please, DC do not stamp on that flaming paper sack lil’ Eban left on your doorstep!

  14. karmanot says:

    What is the ‘new Left”? Explain in detail. Who leads it. I’ve never heard of it.

  15. karmanot says:

    I have no idea why you were tagged as a guest. The moderator probably appreciated your eloquence and clever turn of phrase.

  16. karmanot says:

    ‘geht’? Ah, so you live in the Tenderloin?

  17. karmanot says:

    Is that your Uncle Fester laugh?

  18. karmanot says:

    “this is a class struggle” Ain’t that the truth. And as soon as you get some you can join the grownups—-Isn’t that cool, or what? Hey, stopping hanging out in gay bars that reject you. Work on that miniscule self-esteem and join the real class warriors.

  19. karmanot says:

    Send a donation to America Blog. Anything over a $100 would be nice. Please make sure that it is real money.

  20. karmanot says:

    Hate women don’t you lil’ Iban?

  21. karmanot says:

    Wash, rinse, repeat: STFU—-you mean that STFU? No, that’s not a secret, but ‘They’ are talking about you—-those voices in (as you are fond of writing) In ‘U’ ‘R’ head

  22. karmanot says:

    I don’t claim to be a lesbian, but would be proud to be one! “as u seemed” to believe I possessed a “well traveled vagina” I assumed a third persona to engage that interesting concept.

  23. karmanot says:

    In all the years I’ve lived in S.F. I don’t think I ever met anyone so foul mouthed, hateful and ill willed—-so not S.F.

  24. Iban4yesu says:

    U don’t live in San Francisco, you have no idea what it’s like having to put up with so much blatant corruption. So sit down your sanctimonious, busybody candy ass. WB has been raided by Feds, not once but twice! That is criminal enuff for me.

  25. Iban4yesu says:

    Is that last question some kind of secret handshake or something? A magic potion of words which makes you bulletproof, supposedly immortal, perhaps?

  26. Iban4yesu says:

    So child, how long have u had this symtom? you see things that simply are not there !! is it accompanied by a spell of dizziness? A brief black out? Only during the menstruation, which must be right now…?

  27. Iban4yesu says:

    um, ghet on with the program?

  28. Iban4yesu says:

    sucker up , baby!

  29. karmanot says:

    “we can talk your vagina .” I’ve never met a talking Vagina before, but imagine she might have a lot to say about you.

  30. karmanot says:

    Racist too….that’s attractive.

  31. UncleBucky says:

    Yay! (that is a positive yay!)

  32. Iban4yesu says:

    u have been entertained enuff for a offensive single issue groupie. it wasn’t free.let me know where i should send the bill. upon the payment you might get some more of that….

  33. Bill_Perdue says:

    I wasn’t suggesting anyone has to thank him, only that it’s OK to thank Democrats on those passingly rare occasions when they do something that doesn’t hurt us. In any case, we owe them nothing since they’re the enemy.

  34. karmanot says:

    Hard to understand Iban, are you translating from your native language?

  35. karmanot says:

    Actually, kissing John is a charming thought.

  36. Iban4yesu says:

    uhe word, grave, scares u the three Mosquiteers?(sic).Get over yourselves.

  37. rmthunter says:

    First, you’re changing the subject — the issue was reporting on Detroit, not on working class and poor GLBTs. My take on the insistence on coverage of poor and working-class gays is that it’s just another attempt to co-opt our movement for the far-Left agenda — we start working on poverty and the gays magically disappear. I’ve seen that happen too often. There are blogs and news sources working overtime on the plight of the poor, the victims of fraudulent foreclosures, the horrible results of fracking, the mess that is what’s left of the Gulf of Mexico and what it’s done to those who relied on the Gulf for their livelihoods. I read those, too.

    As for ENDA, it’s been the top priority of HRC for the past ten years. We all know how successful they’ve been. On the other hand, the couples who have been suing to overturn DOMA (Edie Windsor’s was not the only case) and Prop 8 have for the most part been nice middle-class couples of not particularly generous means who were able to enlist powerful support and financial backing, including donations from the rest of us. The rule is, you fight the fight you’ve got, not the one Urvashi Vaid says you should be fighting.

  38. rmthunter says:

    Actually, I did — I worked with and for a number of them for better than 25 years, was a guest in their homes, became a friend to some, had many discussions with them on all sorts of issues, and most important, I saw what they did with their time.

    You should dispose of the log on your shoulder before you fall over.

  39. Iban4yesu says:

    doll, isn’t that g stain your bff? and she want s to pass off as a fraud savior for the ghey ghetto gaggles, she better have an appropriate only sounds fair!
    And also he prances around in China for his even more corrupt hood boss, the Biatch Brownie, some old and tired and CLUELESS orientalism might well be her cup of … Jasmine tea?

  40. karmanot says:


  41. Iban4yesu says:

    Bwahahaha…..! i was talking about you, of course! Book some more therapy sessions, darl!

  42. Iban4yesu says:

    Talk about projection! And transference, too!
    Your therapist should work overtime!

  43. Iban4yesu says:

    Since u r not what u r not, we can talk your vagina some more then!
    So doll, tell me, is it because you lack your natural sweet tender spot, you have to insist on having that G-stain as a crutch?

  44. karmanot says:

    Your Illegitimate birth is not your fault.

  45. karmanot says:

    Changing you name to guest doesn’t work troll. UR a very sad and pathetic.

  46. karmanot says:

    “were meticulously engineered” I was quoting you rat and entering your projection. And, indeed it was your bad. But to get back to the subject. Gavin Newsom is a major supporter of GLTBQ rights. What have you lately, except blow bile.

  47. Iban4yesu says:

    how come this post was tagged as a guest? were you kissing John to make me an actual troll? Nice try. lol

  48. Iban4yesu says:

    Are you both down voters of the illegimate births, too? ;-)