Gay Orgs Roll Over On Gillibrand’s Lackluster Gay Record

23gillibrand2_600Here’s why we’re frustrated with a lot of mainstream gay organizations. All it took was a hurried late-night phone call between Senator-Elect Kirsten Gillibrand and the Empire State Pride Agenda for that group to get on board with her appointment. And the Human Rights Campaign called her up too and she said to them, (“Oh, yeah, I totally support repealing Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell” (paraphrasing here), which was all it took for that group to get on board, despite their own study of her voting record indicating that when asked to co-sponsor legislation that would repeal Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell, she refused.

Gillibrand’s positions may have evolved. She may yet be a defender of LGBT rights, but what’s she’s saying today doesn’t square with her voting record. Why are these groups coming to her defense instead of asking the Senator-Elect why she didn’t support legislation that would help the gay community previously? HRC says that Gillibrand “supports repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, but by their own accounting, she doesn’t. She also claims to be in support of full marriage equality, a position she seems to have developed, literally, overnight. Can we get some skepticism instead of capitulation? If we don’t hold politicians responsible for their LGBT-rights votes (or lack thereof), who will?

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  • flightoftheseabird

    Have you done any research in the district in which she represents? It is a leans-republican and it was tough win for her. This kind of LGBT support would not have flown in her district. We have right to be skeptical, but I think there was some political posturing before.

    This is not a bad pick. She has two choices here over the next couple of years. Dramatically move to the left (which it looks like she is doing) or get beat in a primary by a more progressive NY Dem.

  • Hint

    Another point: It has been said that shes one of the most accessible congresspeople to her constituents, willing to change her views to fit with what the people of her district prefer. A true “representative” if you will.

    So i don’t even see it as cynical or calculating move in adjusting her positions to adapt the the broader state as a whole. Its just democracy at work.

  • Eric

    She could be simply airing views previously held silent, but there is absolutely no evidence that this is what is happening. What we do know is that she has never before expressed any support for gay rights and this support comes only when she has a need to appease the more progressive democratic groups. Compared to some of the other candidates, she is a step in the wrong direction for Democrats.

  • Matt

    Politicians need to know that if they don’t support us, they can’t expect our support in return. Otherwise, it will always be “next time,” or they will always feel that they have one or more get-out-of-jail-free cards. I’m only fine with this if they have gained firm commitments from Gillibrand and not just talk.

  • charles

    “Politicians need to know that if they don’t support us, they can’t expect our support in return.”

    I seriously doubt that gay support will be the make or break factor in her 2010 Senate run.

  • Shari

    I think the point here is that the gay groups shouldn’t have come to her defense so quickly. If she turns out to be the progressive senator on LGBT rights than great, send out all the press releases you want. But until I see some sort of voting record to go along with these suddenly evolved views, I don’t see why gay groups have to support her. This strikes me as HRC just wanting to be behind the inevitable candidate anyway to try and prove they have power.

  • Dave

    @Shari: Her *voting* record does support those views. On the HRC scorecard, she voted correctly on every bill that came up for a vote. The only points she lost were for failing to co-sponsor bills, which doesn’t mean she opposes them or wouldn’t vote for them when they came to a vote.

    This whole thing is a tempest in a teapot. This is the way we treat our allies with a proven voting record? Are we really freaking out because she didn’t co-sponsor four bills?


  • RobT

    I hardly think that the fact that she was not a co-sponsor of 4 bills is that important. What is important is how she actually votes, and according to the HRC, she’s voted 100% correctly as @Dave pointed out. So, it’s incorrect to say that what “she’s saying today doesn’t square with her voting record,” because it does. It just doesn’t square with her co-sponsoring record. And that’s a change we need to be on the lookout for if she wants the LGBT community’s continued support.

  • david

    Since she wasn’t elected, wouldn’t it be more correct to refer to her as “Senator-Designate” rather than “Senator-Elect?”

  • JM

    This reminds me of the scene in MILK when the publishers of some mainstream gay publication wants to hide behind the covers and support the safe straight politicians instead of Harvey. Fro too long the Gay electorate has been brianwashed to believing that picking the lesser of two evils is in our best interest. That is why we vote for Obama even when he’s against gay marriage. This is why we take one step forward and two steps back in every election.

  • GayGOP

    I am from Upstate NY, and I have to laud this pick, even if I don’t totally agree with her on LGBT issues. For the first time in nearly 80 years, Upstate NY has a real voice statewide.

  • silverkjk

    As an upstater, I am distressed at the behavior of those GLBT organizations that are suddenly trumpeting her. Her record does not show her as supportive of us (why vote against allowing low income HIV-positive people to have Medicaid prior to their receiving a diagnosis of AIDS?). This seems to be yet another example of organizations trying to show their “insider” status to cover up their inability to act in our interests. It would be really nice if NY were to have an organization that, unlike Empire State Pride Agenda, would advocate for us, rather than insisting that crumbs are a banquet.

  • Dave

    @silverkjk: “why vote against allowing low income HIV-positive people to have Medicaid”

    She didn’t. She chose not to cosponsor the bill. That does not mean she would have voted against it when it came to a vote.

    Co-sponsorship, while certainly a nice way of saying “I support this”, doesn’t really mean anything from a practical point of view. It looks nice on a campaign commercial–“I co-sponsored legislation to…”–and might persuade a colleague or to to join your side, but that’s about it.

    However, in a district that’s been Republican since the Carter administration, she probably wouldn’t have been too keen to use co-sponsorship of gay-friendly legislation in her campaign. Why give your opponent more fuel for the fire when you can simply *vote* correctly? In the long run, co-sponsorship doesn’t really matter much.

  • lyssa

    Toss her on her fat ass and get someone who truly supports folks with HIV. The community (can I legally say that as a trans woman?) needs backup, not backouts.

    @silverkjk: Well said.

  • Vanhattan

    There were other candidates that would have been a much better choice…..Carolyn Malony for one who has ALWAYS been supportive of the GLBTQ and underdog communities. I am sure that there are others as well.

    As far as HRC…need we say more? OK, just one: What a bunch of losers!

  • Bob

    I live in the district she represented in Congress (NY-20) and I’ve never liked her, but she’s the only kind of Democrat we could get in this district. Nevermind the fact that she really only won in the first place because the incumbent (Rep. John Sweeney) was absolutely corrupt and beat his wife.

    I hope that she’s just now openly expressing the more liberal views that she’s had all along, but she comes from a very republican family in a very republican district, so I don’t know how much to trust her.

  • Rob

    A lot of apologists here, and our gay “leaders” roll right over. Maybe because she looks like Hillary? Where is all the fire and brimstone that people have been spewing over Obama for the past 5 weeks? There is a pretty absurd double-standard here as to whose feet get held to the fire by our precious gay “leaders”.

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