After a prominent gay-rights organization hinted that they would back the Bush Administration’s privatization policy for Social Security, dozens of LGBT activists wrote letters to every member of Congress denouncing the statement and swearing that they will not negotiate for their rights:
Dozens of prominent advocates for gay rights sent a letter to every member of Congress yesterday stating that they would reject any plan to bargain for equal rights, and specifically decried a report that the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay political organization, was planning to “moderate” its positions and would possibly support President Bush’s plan to create private Social Security accounts.
The letter, titled “Where We Stand,” was released by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) in response to an article in yesterday’s New York Times. The article quoted officials from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as saying that, in light of defeats for gay rights in the Nov. 2 election (including the bans on same-sex marriage passed in 11 states), the organization decided to place less emphasis on same-sex marriage and more on “strengthening personal relationships.” One HRC official was paraphrased as saying that the group would consider supporting Bush’s efforts to partially privatize Social Security in exchange for the right of gay partners to receive benefits under the federal retirement program.
I’m mystified by the linkage of Social Security privatization and suppression of gay rights. If anything, privatization — as HRC points out — would allow Social Security recipients to name their own beneficiaries, an elegant work-around for the lack of domestic partnership recognition. Beyond that, it would appear that the LGBT activists in question put much more effort into knee-jerk reactions against Republicans and the Bush administration than in pursuing policy positions specific to their cause.
How does privatization of Social Security impact gays any more or less than it does any other person in the pension system? It doesn’t, at least not negatively. This reaction highlights a trend among single-issue political advocates to lose focus and try to spread their impact across many different debates. The end result transforms LGBT activists (or others, just name an issue) into nothing more than proxies for a political party — usually the Democrats, as they resemble more of a coalition of special-interest groups than a focused philosophical group anyway.
As such, the impact of their letter-writing campaign will likely only be felt amongst Democrats, who take their votes for granted anyway. The HRC actually has the right idea — taking the partisanship out of the campaign and opening up to new ideas and new alliances that could boost their central cause: helping gays and lesbians.