Lane Hudson and Matt Foreman Discuss The State Of The Gay Movement

Lane Hudson and Matt Foreman know a little something something about the gay rights movement. As the outgoing leader of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Foreman has helped spearhead a number of movements in Washington, New York and throughout the rest of the United States. The activist tells us he caught the activist bug after witnessing the atrocities of West Virginia’s coal mining industry and only later got involved in the nascent gay rights movement. Foreman later got caught up in the more progressive, grass roots-oriented gay rights movement. Hudson, meanwhile, has been involved in activism since his wee years, when political active family members informed his social consciousness. The former Human Rights Campaign staffer gained notoriety after exposing Mark Foley’s inappropriate exchanges with congressional pages. He lost his job for his involvement in that scandal and now works as an independent gay rights activists and contributes to Huffington Post. Just in case you didn’t know…

The editorial union of these men counts as the first in a sporadic series called “Homo Encounters,” during which our editor moderates a conversation between two notable homos from various fields. Today’s one super Tuesday, so we thought Hudson and Foreman could offer some interesting thoughts on where the gay movement remains today – and where it’s meant to go tomorrow. We don’t want to give too much away, but be prepared for the pros and cons of incrementalism, how the Democrats can shape up (or ship out), why the federal level ain’t the shit and which political enemies should be our mentors – after the jump, naturally.

Matt Foreman: Hey Lane! How are you?

Lane Hudson: Good. Long time no chat!

MF: I know, but I see your name everywhere!

Andrew Belonsky: Lane, I understand you had some topics that you wanted to discuss, so why don’t you start?

LH: I want talk about the future of the movement. We’re at a crossroads: a time where more of our issues are in public discourse and are covered in the mainstream media. It seems like we’re almost ready to fast-forward. I just wanted to get your perspective, Matt, because you’ve been in the movement a long time.

MF: [Laughs] Before we had power, yes.

LH: Well, you’re seen as a progressive leader within the LGBT movement and I wanted to hear your thoughts on where we’re going.

MF: I actually think the movement has been on both fast-forward and backwards for the last six or seven years. On the positive side, this last 2007 legislative session was the most productive in our movement’s history: over half the population now lives in a jurisdiction that protects gay people from discrimination; a fifth of the population now lives in a state that offers broad-based recognition and protection for same-sex couples. We’ve seen a spike in those areas over the last three years, but particularly the last year, which was due in large measure to the flip of state legislatures from Republican to Democratic control.

AB: Definitely.

MF: The fast-backward part of it, of course, is the 29 anti-marriage, anti-family constitutional amendments that have been passed. But I think we – I think the struggle around ENDA really represented the tectonic plates underlying our movement. They shifted in a profound way. That struggle demonstrated both the grassroots strength of our movement on Capitol Hill and the grassroots values of our movement. Never again will one or two people or one organization on Capitol Hill speak for all of us – or be seen to speak for all of us. That is a very good thing. I think that means we are going to continue to make progress at state levels. The locus of activity is going to continue to be at the state and local level.

LH: Clearly almost all the progress that’s happening in our movement is going on at the local level, which, ironically, is not where the money is invested in our movement. We think at the federal level, but the only legislative victory we’ve had there is giving federal pension benefits, I think.

MF: And that wasn’t even a gay issue.

LH: Right. So, why aren’t we getting stuff done on the federal level?

MF: We have for way too long assumed a very top down notion. The way in which you win power federally is by building grassroots strength. The Right Wing did not seize power from a top down DC-based drive. They did it by working the ground up. Politicians care much more about their voters than a $5,000 PAC donation. We have not been able to demonstrate grassroots strength until very recently – not just form emails that go into a member of Congress, but getting LGBT people and our allies talk to that person. That’s how you get members to come along. It is absolutely not by having lobbyists go door to door up on Capitol Hill. Yeah, that’s helpful, but that’s not ultimately what moves a member. What moves a member is constituents.

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  • Charley

    They make a nice argument, but lesbians rule. Popular culture wants to see Brittany lick Paris, Ellen put her dildo in another woman, or any other attractive female.
    Gay men are despised, still………
    Bottom line, lesbians advance our (LGBT) cause in America.
    OK, didn’t it use to be GLBT in the days of Harvey Milk ?
    BTW, LGBT is the stock symbol for Planet Out that is facing bankruptsy. Perhaps they would have had better luck with GLBT.

  • Charley

    Can gay men advance the movement ? And we must refer to a movement rather than a community. The only thing really progressing is on the Internet with these blogs. People expressing themselves, telling their stories.

  • Charley

    So how did LGBT activism grow since the 1980’s ? It was because of AIDS and panic from those infected. “I am dying, the government is doing nothing and does not care” Larry Kramer was infected, so he made noise and got others angry as hell, juices flowing. Fast forward 2008 = He now has a new liver and no longer tests for HIV, according to his former lover, now head of the Gill Foundation.
    Activism today depends on the impetus of the gay marriage struggle, because middle class America thinks we are worthy enough to be married becaue we are not just one man fucking one woman to produce one baby.

  • Charley

    America thinks we are unworthy citizens.

  • Steve

    What a ridiculous, useless discussion! Matt Foreman, the failed former leader of NLGTF offering up the same spin and lies he used during United ENDA, and Lane Hudson, the failed HRC staffer and self-important gadfly. Both stroking each other while agreeing on just about everything. Some debate!

    BTW, Lane should get over his messiah complex. Elected officials in DC have been on board with marriage since he was still in diapers, and he’s done nothing in DC but bleet at people who’ve been aronud much longer and know exactly what they’re doing.

    These guys are so thoroughly pickled with left-wing ideological purity, they can’t accomplish anything. They seem to exist to complain bitterly at any hint of pragmatism and do their best to sabotage people who are actually trying to accomplish something that is achievable.

    Confronted with another bill in DC to dramatically expand domestic partnership and make them very much like civil unions, all Lane can do is bitch, moan, scream, and throw a tantrum because the bill doesn’t have the m-word in it. Confronted with the prospect that after 30 years Congress might pass ENDA, all Foreman can do is bitch, moan, scream, and throw a tantrum because the bill doesn’t include the brand-new transgender language that is utterly unpassable.

    If they so bemoan working pragmatically and realistically through the political process, I look forward to seeing them form their little left-wing queer army to overthrow the government. Yeah, right! All they want to do is bask in self-satisfied ideological purity and sabotage people who are actually trying to work within the system. Grow up or shut up, boys.

  • Steve

    Oh, and this “marriage as opening” bid rhetoric is the newest scam to come out of the ideological purist politburo. People who have enacted relationship-recognition laws around the country have succeeded by downplaying marriage, not storming the legislature screeching about marriage.

    Ask Washington State Representative Jamie Pederson, the out legislator leading the charge to enact comprehensive domestic partnerships in his state. His campaign – which has already succeeded in enacting basic relationship-recognition legislation – has studiously steered clear of marriage.

    But why would purists try to mislead people and get them to talk about marriage when we know that undermines efforts as passing civil union bills? Because the ideological purists WANT to sabotage civil union bills. They apparently deem them so personally offensive that they’d rather gay couple go without any protections or rights at all during the decades it will take in many places to enact marriage bills. They realized that their “marriage or nothing” mantra was too transparent, so now they’re trying to reach the same result by pretending to support civil unions but hawking a political strategy designed to sabotage attempts to pass civil union legislation.


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