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November 24, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 47
 
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Task Force Executive Director delivers annual 'State of the Movement' speech
Task Force Executive Director delivers annual 'State of the Movement' speech
"Let's remember this moment of hope and optimism as the time that, with incredible pride in all we've accomplished, we lifted our heads up and re-embraced a vision and an agenda where equality is the floor and a transformed America is the ceiling."

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman presented his agenda for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendercommunity in annual "State of the Movement" address at the 19th annual Creating Change Conference Kansas City, Mo.

More than a thousand people packed into the morning plenary, so many that extra chairs had to be brought in. Foreman began his speech by spotlighting the significant advances made in Tuesday's midterm elections, where pro-LGBT candidates at every level defeated those aligned with the forces of political and religious intolerance.

"In fact, not a single pro-LGBT elected official lost to an opponent of equality, while plenty on the other side did," said Foreman, who also cited the defeats of anti-reproductive rights ballot initiatives in California, Oregon and South Dakota; the elections of Keith Ellison (Minnesota) as the first Muslim to serve in the U.S. Congress; and Kim Coco Iwamoto (Hawaii), who became the highest-ranking Transgenderelected official in the nation; and the courageous campaigns against eight state anti-marriage amendments, which included Arizona's historic defeat of its ballot initiative.

"As you will remember, in 2004 there were 11 of these immoral attacks on the ballot and in only two of them were we able to persuade more than 40 percent of the voters to oppose them. On Tuesday, there were eight on the ballot and our side got more than 40 percent in five of them. Overall, support for us went up from 33 percent in 2004 to nearly 40 percent on Tuesday - that, folks, is a sea change in public support in just two years," Foreman said.

He then highlighted all that has been accomplished to get to this point. For example, in 1970, not a single law protected Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people from discrimination. Today, 18 states - representing 40 percent of the U.S. population - protect LGB people from discrimination. In 1990, not a single state law protected Transgenderpeople from discrimination. Today, nine states - covering 22 percent of the U.S. population - protect Transgenderpeople.

Foreman also cited the progress made in the area of partner recognition in just six years: In 2000, Vermont became the first state to establish civil unions. In 2001, California expanded domestic partner rights. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to grant the freedom to marry. And also in 2004, Connecticut enacted civil unions. In 2005, California created civil unions in everything but name. And, with the court ruling three weeks ago, New Jersey will - in a matter of weeks or months - have civil unions or marriage.

"And how did all of this, and so much more, happen? I can assure you it wasn't legislators waking up one day and saying, 'Geez, let's do something good for the Gays,'" said Foreman. No, it was the grassroots work of activists and allies year in and year out.

"And what makes all of this so much more remarkable, astonishing and amazing is that this has been accomplished in spite of hundreds of years of prejudice injected into every fiber of society's DNA," he said, adding our movement has "accomplished more in a shorter period of time than any other social justice movement in the history of the world, and our momentum has been accelerating over the last six years in spite of the fact that so much of our government has been under the hard thumb of reactionary forces. And now, as Bette Davis would say, fasten your seatbelts."

Foreman called today's movement "strong, unbowed, unbeaten, vibrant, energized," but one that has a very long way to go. "If anyone thinks homophobia is receding as a staple of American and political life, you only need look at how the last few weeks of the campaign played out," he said, pointing to, among other examples, the "blame the Gays" tactic employed by the Republican leadership during the Mark Foley scandal.

He then offered an agenda in which we "see and think bigger and better." An agenda that will not allow a federal nondiscrimination or hate crimes bill that is not Transgenderinclusive. An agenda that unequivocally states that equality under the law is the floor, not the ceiling. One in which there is marriage equality and a woman's right to choose is inviolate. One in which everyone can serve openly in the military, and there is an end to the scapegoating of any group of people for political gain, including people of color and immigrants.

"This, folks, is a big agenda. It requires us reaching out and working with and for 'other' causes as never before. This is not only the right thing to do, it is critical we do it. It will make achieving the floor of our agenda and the vision of our movement possible," Foreman concluded. "So, let's remember this moment of hope and optimism as the time that, with incredible pride in all we've accomplished, we lifted our heads up and re-embraced a vision and an agenda where equality is the floor and a transformed America is the ceiling."

A Task Force press release

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