6 APRIL 8, 2005
www.houstonvoice.com HOUSTON VOICE
NLGTF honors Dean's record
By LOU CNIBBARO JR.
WASHINGTON — The National Gay &
Lesbian Task Force has been among the gay
community's strongest advocates for legalizing same-sex marriage. So its decision to present its annual Lifetime Achievement Award
this week to a same-sex marriage opponent
drew attention to what many activists consider a vexing and complex issue that must be
addressed cautiously and creatively
The Task Force was scheduled to present
its Lifetime Achievement Award to former
Vermont Governor and Democratic Party
Chair Howard Dean on Thursday at a
fundraising ceremony at the Omni
Shoreham Hotel here. Kate Michelman. former president of NARAL-Pro-Choice
America, and Adam Ebbin, an openly gay
member of the Virginia House of
Delegates, were scheduled to join NLGTF
Executive Director Matt Foreman in presenting the award to Dean. The event was
expected to attract about 400 people and
raise more than $75,000 for NGLTF.
Dean emerged as one of the nation's most
gay-supportive politicians in 2000 when, as
governor, he played a key role in shepherding
through the Vermont legislature the nation's
first bill to legalize same-sex civil unions.
While remaining popular among gay
activists. Dean disappointed many in the gay
community during his 2004 campaign for
president when he said he opposed same-sex
marriage because he believes, on religious
grounds, that marriage should remain an
institution only between a man and a woman.
He said full equal rights and benefits for samesex couples should be pursued through federal recognition of civil unions.
Josh Earnest, a spokesperson for the DNC,
said Dean fully supports the Democratic Party
platform planks on gay rights. He said that in
his role as DNC chair. Dean would not be
speaking on specific policy issues but would
instead concentrate on building the party's
infrastructure and financial support.
Foreman said NLGTF selected Dean for its
Lifetime Achievement Award because of
Dean's "extraordinary" support for both gay
civil rights and non-gay progressive causes.
"Dr. Dean has been an ally for the gay community for decades," Foreman said. "He also
has advocated other causes that the Task
Force holds dear."
Although he opposed same-sex marriage.
Dean's decision to make his overall support
for gay rights a central part of his presidential
campaign "moved" the other Democratic
presidential contenders to a more supportive
position on gay rights. Foreman said.
Foreman noted that Dean also spoke out
against a proposed constitutional amendment
to ban same-sex marriage.
Robin Tyler, co-founder of the national
group DontAmend.com, disagrees with the
selection of Dean for the award. "What civil
rights movement has ever given an award to
someone who doesn't believe in total civil
rights for that movement?" Tyler asked.
Tyler noted that Dean's push for civil
unions in Vermont came after the Vermont
Supreme Court ordered the state to adopt
either a civil union or gay marriage bill.
Although some gay activists wanted the legislature to pass a marriage bill, Dean and state
legislators chose the civil unions option at a
time when opposition to both was fierce
among many Vermont voters.
"OK, that was years ago," Tyler said.
"However, he keeps saying over and over that
he still believes that marriage is between and
man and a woman. In other words, he still
believes in 'separate and unequal' or marriage segregation," Tyler said.
Added Tyler, "NGLTF should have given
this award to a courageous, outstanding
Democrat who is an absolute friend of the
LGBT community — San Francisco Mayor
Gavin Newsome. Instead, like abused children, we continue to grovel at the feet of those
who continue to reject full equal rights for us."
Eric Stern, the DNC's former outreach
director for the gay community and current
executive director of National Stonewall
Democrats, said Dean's record in support of
gay rights offsets his position on gay marriage "We must push for full GLBT marriage
equality" Stern said. "But we would not move
as fast in our efforts if we did not have someone as boldly progressive as Howard Dean."
Stern said Dean mentioned gay issues in
Howard Dean, the chairperson of the Democratic
National Committee, was scheduled to be honored
on Thursday by the Task Force despite his opposition to gay marriage. (Photo by Rudy K. Lawidjaja)
his campaign speeches last year and continues to raise gay rights issues in his appearances across the country as DNC chair, including his appearances in conservative
Republican or "red" states. "Having someone
like Dean go to red states to address our issues
is a big advantage for us," Stern said.
Jeff Soref, chair of the DNC's Gay &
Lesbian Americans Caucus, said Dean has yet
to name a replacement for Stern as the DNC's
new gay outreach director, but he expects
Dean to fill the position. The gay caucus
issued a statement at the DNC's winter meeting in February calling for the post to be filled.
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