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Queer Talk: Which is Worse? Heckler Rudeness or POTUS Failure to Act


Considering the mixed reviews regarding LGBT protestor Ellen Sturtz interruption of Michelle Obama, as she spoke at a Democratic Party fundraiser, and considering the general focus of much of it, the question being asked initially was more about heckler rudeness than about a POTUS failure to act. More of the latter is showing up, and that’s a very good thing.

At AmericaBlogGay, John Aravosis adds another piece of information. The event at which the incident occurred was the home of a lesbian couple. From Aravosis:

In my piece about this (Wednesday) … , I admitted to being equivocal about the protest – mostly because it wasn’t clear to me that this approach was the smartest way to advance an executive order banning job discrimination by federal contractors against gay and trans people.

Now that I know that this fundraiser was at the home of a lesbian couple, the protest – a gay protest – becomes a lot more relevant. Though you still have the question of whether it’s appropriate to protest the First Lady, and whether it’s productive.

The questions are more complex than this, but as an observation of how the discussion has gone, it’s accurate. Which is more harmful: rude heckling or failure to act on promises of equality? The truth is, of course, there are overlapping concerns, largely around which tactics and strategies are most effective. “Rude heckling” is seen by lots of people as counter to efforts to get the promise kept. At the same time, though, relying on DC Insider methods hasn’t moved the president on his promise. To me, it really is as basic as this: different tactics and methods are generally necessary in making progress toward equality. That doesn’t require us to agree with all of them.

Ellen Sturtz had every right to do what she did. Michelle Obama had every right to do what she did. Critics and supporters of either or both have every right to voice their thoughts, and to choose their advocacy methods.

Does Barack Obama have every right to ignore a promise he made? At least practically speaking, as campaigner and Elected, our political system basically gives him just such a “right,” as in, unless forced to do so, most Electeds feel free to ignore promises.

We have people and organizations who play an Inside game, and we have people like Ellen Sturtz and organizations like GetEqual who play outside the pre-approved lines. And this is very important – we have people and organizations that do some of each; who recognize there is no “one size fits all” approach.

At LGBTQ Nation, Barbara Weicksel writes, The heckling lesbian — lending credence that we’re crazy gay activists pushing our gay agenda.

I understand that there are two ways of seeing this. There is the side who believe that the only way to make change for the LGBTQ community is to be loud and in the face of anyone who can help generating any sort of positive change.

Then there is the side who believe Ms. Sturtz’s behavior was rude and uncalled for.

My thoughts: there are more than two, either/or sides. It’s more complex than that.

Why Michelle Obama got heckled, by LZ Granderson.

Heckling Mrs. Obama wasn’t fair to her.

But taking the LGBT community for granted isn’t fair to us either.

At my earlier, related post regular TM commenter secularhumanizinevoluter offered this analysis: “They both were right.” Sec wasn’t alone in reaching that succinct but, I think, accurate conclusion.

Jonathan Capehart, at the Washington Post, wrote:

The heckler — and FLOTUS — were right

First lady Michelle Obama wasn’t having it — and I don’t blame her. Lesbian activist Ellen Sturtz wasn’t having it — and, well, I don’t blame her, either.

At AmericaBlogGay John Aravosis concludes his analysis:

Someone quite “decided” is Ian Welsh, who writes Heckling Mrs. Obama is entirely productive.

Why should Obama, or any politician, or any oligarch, give you anything if you can’t hurt them, or help them, and won’t make not hurting them, or helping them, conditional on them doing what you want? You think you can reason ethically with them?

LGBT actions toward pushing President Obama on things like the repeal of DADT and DOMA have included DC Insider efforts, including withholding campaign donations, as well as GetEqual efforts, like LGBT veterans chaining themselves to the fence in front of the White House.

Mr. Obama continues to reiterate his support of the broader, inclusive Employment Non-discrimination Act. But regarding the executive order Ellen Sturtz mentions; the order that would provide employment protections for LGBT federal contractors; the order candidate Obama promised he would act on … the Obama administration continues to speak in general support, minus any details or even indication it’s on his agenda.

My guess is that the actions of GetEqual and Sturtz both helped and hurt efforts toward equality. But of course, that’s often the case with every tactic or strategy. Working the Inside game has the same mixed results. It’s sort of an advocacy version of “good cop, bad cop.” It’s also much more complicated than that, and you can bet seasoned advocates know that.

One thing the “heckling” did was draw attention to ENDA and the executive order. One way to follow-up on that is through the efforts of Freedom to Work,

… a national organization committed to banning workplace harassment and career discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender Americans through public education, policy analysis, and legal work.

You can see and sign a petition – President Obama: Sign the Executive Order Adding LGBT Workplace Protections to Millions of American Jobs – here.

(Freedom To Work Obama Time Line Via FreedomToWorkFB)

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7 Responses to Queer Talk: Which is Worse? Heckler Rudeness or POTUS Failure to Act

  1. Cujo359 June 7, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    In a rather long reply to someone who apparently drove by to give us the benefit of her (?) wisdom, I said that anyone who knows how to get politicians to do things for us that they’re not inclined to do should tell us, and provide examples of that strategy working. Needless to say, we have yet to hear back.

    I don’t know how effective heckling is generally, and I also have problems with heckling people who aren’t officials of the government about government policy, but I don’t object because it’s rude. When politicians can safely ignore you they will. If you’re being ignored, you’re not going to get what you want. Heckling is one way of making sure you’re not ignored. Calling attention to one’s cause is often considered rude. But, as I wrote in that comment, politeness never got a public official to do something he was disinclined to do.

    The “insider” strategy only works when either there are insiders with lots of power who want to make something happen, or when the insiders are motivated by outside events. Just being part of the process doesn’t do it on its own.

    • Joyce Arnold June 7, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

      I read, and appreciated, your earlier reply, Cujo.

      I think one of the key things here is what you say: “When politicians can safely ignore you they will.”

      The need for ENDA is huge, but very obviously it isn’t perceived that way by most Electeds.

  2. secularhumanizinevoluter June 7, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    Hecklers are frustrated powerless people. I am frankly all for heckling….have done some myself in the past. But the object of the heckling should have some connection other then sharing a marrital bed with the real target of the frustrated wailing and knashing of teeth. Under this President there has been more progress of rights equity then in the last 50 years combined. Is it enough? Until there is real equal protection under the constitution NO. But realistically what did this heckler think they were going to accomplish?

  3. newdealdem1 June 8, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    “Under this President there has been more progress of rights equity then in the last 50 years combined.” Sec

    You know I have lots of respect for you sec, but I just don’t agree with that observation of yours.

    Obama has been lucky, imo, sec, to live in a time when a lot of things have aligned to enable his support for marriage equality and doing away with DADT. I believe if he were POTUS when Clinton was POTUS it’s likely he would have done the same thing as Clinton because (1) they are alike inasmuch as the military is concerned inasmuch as both have cowed to the military for different reasons but each of these men have given in to the Joint Chiefs of Staff time and again and (2) they both want to be loved (in the case of Clinton: he wants to be loved by everyone and in the case of Obama, he wants to be loved by those who hate him and disses those who love him except for Michele and his kids and mother in law.

    I don’t agree that “”Under this President there has been more progress of rights equity then in the last 50 years combined.”

    In June 1941, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, which created the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC). It was the most important federal move in support of the rights of African-Americans between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    Granted Roosevelt didn’t go far enough before he died in 1945 and it was Truman who ordered the army integrated — a move brought about, in part, by the intense pressure of civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph.

    Under Kennedy, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was passed which after 50 years is still not enforced as women make about 77 cents for every dollar made by a man in the same position.

    Under Johnson, imho, the most far reaching reforms in civil rights were enacted (and I consider medicare and medicaid civil rights for seniors, the disabled and for the children of deceased parents) which included the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    All of these men supported enhanced rights for American citizens when it was unpopular to do so and paid the price in terms of popular support and losing the South forever as Johnson predicted would happen when his civil and voting rights bills passed. That took guts and all of these men had what it took to oversee long overdue sea changes in our country.

    Not so Obama. His support for gay rights came at a time that was mostly ripe for this type of change. He had little to lose. And, I have said the same of Hillary Clinton. Although she has been more strongly supportive of gay rights over the years and especially when she was SOS and changed policy regarding gay couples (and even gay American State Department personnel and their foreign born partners), she still never came out in support of gay marriage until it was safer to do so.

    Btw, I agree with Joyce, Sec and Jonathan Capehart that First Lady Michele Obama and the gay activist Ellen Sturtz were both right and wrong in their own way.

    Also, I am not of the opinion that just because the American public never voted for the spouse of a POTUS that that person (mostly women historically) should be held to a different standard than her husband. I would suggest if you adhere to that misguided and imho, paternalistic, outlook, you should acquaint yourself with the history of First Ladies and their not inconsiderable influence on their husbands by watching the CSPAN series on First Ladies

    • secularhumanizinevoluter June 8, 2013 at 7:56 am #

      Sorry….I miss typed…I meant to type GAY(and by that I mean al nonheterosexuality family) rights…but it was great reading your listing.

      As for President Obama…..he is no Harry Truman who integrated the US Military because as he said “their blood was as red as mine” and it was the right…though HUGELY unpopular thing with the electorate at the time thing to do.

      Or Johnson who had the BAD luck to be President when the Viet Nam debacle was unwinding at the same time he signed the voting rights act into law.

      Sometimes it pays to be lucky….and this President has been…although he could very well have simply sat back and allowed these issues to be bone crushingly slowely been drug out in the courts. He DID do the right thing. And he hasn’t left office yet.

      I am predicting that by the end of his term there will be full marriage equity recognized by the SCOTUS and a symphony of wailing and cries of dispare from the bigots gallery.

      • Joyce Arnold June 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

        Sec, I’m very glad to have someone else admit to typing errors :)

    • Joyce Arnold June 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

      As always, I appreciate your thoughts, newdeal. One thing I want to highlight, simply because I think it’s very important: “(Obama’s) support for gay rights came at a time that was mostly ripe for this type of change. He had little to lose. And, I have said the same of Hillary Clinton.”

      That’s the standard, or measure, or whatever — at this point, Dem Electeds and appointees all have a great deal of “cover” in openly supporting LGBT equality. That’s a good thing, naturally. And when Obama, or whoever, takes steps toward equality. that’s also a good thing, one I appreciate. But this is not the kind of bold, courageous leadership that steps out when the “cover” is mostly missing. Among other things, I think this is an important recognition because, quite bluntly, we are far from full equality, and I think it’s a very safe guess that advocates, mostly definitely including those of grassroots, local and state levels, will need to continue creating the “cover.”

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and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong