Gay politicians debate tactics

Prominent members of the gay community talked about the effectiveness of efforts to legalize same-sex marriage at a forum in the Marvin Center Monday night.

The discussion, sponsored by GW Pride and the College Democrats, featured openly gay politicians Rep. Barney Frank and D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham along with Human Rights Campaign lobbyist Matthew McTighe.

During the two-hour discussion, speakers debated recent efforts by politicians to legalize gay marriage in the United States.

“I think we’re on the threshold of a whole new day,” said Graham, who supports the tactics of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who flouted California law earlier this year by issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

The California Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on the legality of gay marriages in the state in the next few months.

“The civil rights movement for gay people is galloping,” Graham said.

Responding to a question from a student in the audience, Frank (D-Mass.) said he did not agree with Newsom’s tactics and that those acts of protest would not likely have any effect on the gay marriage legislation.

“Civil disobedience is not an end to itself, it’s a tactic,” Frank said. “Pretending that you’re married doesn’t help. There’s no way that civil disobedience will work here.”

Graham said he believes there is a chance the California Supreme Court will recognize the legality of the San Francisco marriages in “a major step in human rights for all of us.”

“Gays and lesbians want to say something about their life partners and there’s no containing it. The fact of the matter is that this is an explosion of emotions that can’t be contained,” Graham said.

McTighe, who graduated from GW in 1999, said the Human Rights Commission, a political organization that works to secure equal rights for gays and lesbians, applauds the San Francisco Marriages.

“Twenty to 30 years from now kids are going to be studying this in their history books the same we study the civil rights movement,” he said.

Frank and Graham also discussed their experiences as openly gay politicians.

“When I got to Washington I thought I would live down here a kind of bi-closeted life, publicly neutral and privately gay,” said Frank, who has been a Congressman since 1981 and announced that he was gay six years later.

“After wrestling with that I decided to come out … Living a closeted life was making me crazy,” he added.

Frank said being gay has not prevented his re-election to Congress, and that he is thinking about running for senator in the near future.

“The loss in your private life if you are closeted far outweighs the loss in your public life if you are out,” he said.

An openly gay candidate for public office needs to develop a platform that caters to the entire community, Graham said.

“One of the things I realized when I ran was that in places other then West Hollywood you can be a councilmember who is gay or lesbian, but you can’t be a gay or lesbian councilmember,” he said.

The forum culminated “Out and About Week,” a series of events from April 4 to 12 designed to “bring a more diverse group of people to GW Pride and expose a greater proportion of the GW community to the GLBT population,” said GW Pride Executive chair Timothy Rice, referring to the acronym for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

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