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Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News: HRC issues state of emergency but forgets to ask us to vote

HRC President Kelley Robinson declared HRC’s first-ever national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans. The Human Rights Campaign issued a “National Warning and Guidebook” to Ensure Safety for LGBTQ+ Residents and Travelers. I congratulate them for doing this. We are certainly in dangerous times for the community. It is unfortunate we join the African-American community, women, and the Jewish community, as well as other minorities, all under fire from the right-wing in our country and around the world.

In the declaration, HRC said, “The sharp rise in anti-LGBTQ+ measures have spawned a dizzying patchwork of discriminatory state laws that have created increasingly hostile and dangerous environments,” the reason for this emergency declaration. It issued a downloadable guidebook for the LGBTQ+ community, including health and safety resources, a summary of state-by-state laws, “know your rights” information, and resources designed to support LGBTQ+ travelers, as well as those already living in hostile states. This is all good. But in my opinion, they left out talking about the most powerful tool we have if we are to have any hope of turning all this around: the vote.  

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Robinson at an event where the book “ SMAHTGUY, The Life and Times of Barney Frank,” author Eric Orner, and Barney spoke. Also there supporting Barney and our community were gay Congressman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and brilliant Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), among others. After listening to Barney, who still has a very positive view of the future based on where the LGBTQ community has come over the years, I asked Robinson about the one thing I felt was left out of her important emergency declaration. While she didn’t disagree, she told me that was intentionally left out of this declaration. She talked about young people, some of the people this was directed at, needed to be brought along before we talked to them about voting. 

She and I will disagree on this. I think anytime we send anything out that we expect to go viral, as they expect this to do, whether it’s to our friends, allies, or members of the community, we need to tell them in a loud and clear voice, we only win with our VOTE! It cannot wait as there are elections across the nation in 2023 and then of course the presidential and congressional elections in 2024. In the same way Republicans are taking away a woman’s right to control her own body, Republicans are taking away the right to live in safety for the LGBTQ+ community, to live as who we are born to be.  

We can and should protest, and take to the streets. But if we don’t vote we will lose. We had a million-women’s march in Washington, D.C. on January 21, 2017 and still Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court. A court Donald Trump appointed. We had 800,000 in the streets of Washington demanding gun control after the Parkland shooting, and yet we cannot get real gun control through Congress. 

What we must do anytime we declare an emergency, is explain to people, especially young people, who are the future, what voting means and can do for them. How all our judges are either appointed by the people we elect, or elected directly by us. How state legislatures passing all these abhorrent bills are elected. Without legislators who support us, or judges who will support our freedoms, we will continue to lose and suffer. 

HRC ends the emergency declaration with the words, “It’s also incumbent on our allies across the country to stand with us and make it clear that they will not sit idly by while extremists attack and malign LGBTQ+ people and our families. We’ll fight tooth and nail to ensure the safety and dignity of every LGBTQ+ person is respected and protected, without exception.” I agree, but the way our allies will most effectively stand with us is not just joining us in the streets, or writing letters, or calling legislators, but in the voting booth. That is the same way we will support women, African Americans, and other minorities. We need to have massive voter registration drives across the nation. We need to make it clear to all who still care about decency and personal freedom; the only way to ensure those things is with your VOTE!

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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