GLAA Receives Board of Directors Award from Capital Area Log Cabin
Former President, GLAA
The Cosmos Club
February 24, 2000
Thank you, Paul. Thanks to Carol Schwartz for hosting us again. And congratulations to Julie.
On the eve of Lincoln's birthday this year, Congressman Barney Frank said, "We are making great strides. The best plan for everyone gay and lesbian or not is to fully participate in the political process." Barney is exactly right. Our gathering here this evening is a useful demonstration of the fact that not all of those voters are Democrats.
Thank you for this honor. We in GLAA believe very strongly in our 29-year tradition of non-partisan advocacy, and we accept this award as a vindication of that. Now, to keep things fair and balanced, we expect a similar award from the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club.
Our current president, Bob Summersgill, graciously asked me to do the honors this evening. I would like to start by recognizing those GLAA regulars whose work and wisdom are most responsible for our recent success. Craig Howell, Barrett Brick, and Frank Kameny are simply the best: sensible, clear-eyed, and fair-minded activists with the toughness and perseverance that our work requires. (Craig, unfortunately, is home with the flu this evening, but his seat is paid for.) I am indebted to my predecessors, Mindy Daniels and Jeff Coudriet; they were a tough act to follow. In the past few years, in addition to Bob, who has returned to us from New Mexico, we have found new stalwarts in Lukas Malek, Kevin Davis, and John Butler. Most recently, Barrett turned over our checkbook to another Republican treasurer, Betsy Koontz. We have a sizable GLAA contingent here this evening. We want to invite all of you to GLAA's 29th Anniversary celebration at the Doyle Washington Hotel on April 27, when we'll honor Frank Kameny for his 75th birthday and present this year's Distinguished Service Awards.
One of Frank's renowned skills is his ability to outshout anyone. I don't wish to compete with Frank, but I have my own admirers. Listen to this testimonial: A few weeks ago I sent a friendly note to Kevin Ivers at Log Cabin's national office, and he wrote to me, "There are not too many others in the local community that remind me more of John McCain than you do. You both have pretty fearless tongues, and where would we be in this generally dumbed-down democracy without some irascible folks like you two?" I know Kevin meant that as a compliment, despite McCain's having joined the Clinton Administration's opposition to gay marriage. But the comparison does help explain the whispering campaign that's been going around about my being mentally unstable.
I don't mean to suggest that hanging around One Judiciary Square is in any way comparable to being tortured in the Hanoi Hilton. I can only testify to my own experience, and sitting through DC Council hearings especially in the old days could be a real test of character.
GLAA's Elections Project is another endurance test. The last time around, we had about sixty multi-page questionnaires to plow through, and we read all of them sober though we may have been a bit goofy by the time we were finished. Trust me, there are not sixty local candidates who are ready for prime time. In any case, our policy of not endorsing in partisan races means never having to say we're sorry.
Out of that seething mass of municipal ambition, one young hell-raiser has emerged as a leading voice demanding accountability from our public servants. This reformer also happens to be the first openly gay member of the DC Council, and we are awfully proud of David Catania. I love watching public officials sweat when David gets the microphone at a hearing. This guy does his homework and isn't afraid to call people out on their lies or to go check for himself. What a breath of fresh air he has been.
In GLAA we pride ourselves in being honest brokers, knowing our stuff, building relationships with public officials, and helping put together the coalitions necessary to get things done. In the past four years the Internet has brought a new dimension to our activism. I happen to be GLAA's Internet administrator, and these days in our mailbox at glaa.org we are getting more and more inquiries. I'm beginning to think I should set up an FAQ entitled "GLAA 101": We're non-partisan; we only cover the District of Columbia; we don't provide legal services. On Lincoln's Birthday I got an email complaining about the notorious website godhatesfags.com and telling me, "That website is a violation of our civil rights!" I said no, and offered a brief lecture on the First Amendment. We are often urged to participate in a Day of Silence to protest some injustice. Needless to say, silence is not my approach to activism. I am tempted to suggest to these people that they pick 365 different issues and protest all of them with consecutive Days of Silence. However, most of the people we hear from including a lot of students simply need information. We have responded by making our website a comprehensive online resource.
Whatever the medium or the venue, the most important thing that we do as advocates is simply to stand up for what we believe. Once, during the 1994 mayor's race, a call came in to Carol's campaign office from some obviously hostile person who demanded to know Carol's definition of a family. Carol happened to be right there, so she took the phone and without hesitation said, "Love makes a family." She didn't check the polls, she didn't triangulate, she followed her instincts. It's no surprise that someone with that kind of instinct won GLAA's Distinguished Service Award last year.
Self esteem and mutual respect make a good foundation for a community. We won't always agree. But if we set high standards for ourselves and our city, and we keep watch against encroachments on our liberty, our efforts will bear fruit for those who come after us. Right now, before the budget hearings, before the DC election heats up, it's a good time to pause and count our blessings. Having allies like Capital Area Log Cabin is certainly one of those blessings. On behalf of all my colleagues in the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, thank you so much.