Taking gay rights to Obama

All Politics Is Local
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  November 18, 2009


You might have seen Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll, seniors at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, around town in the days leading up to November 3. They and their videocamera comprise New Left Media, a young outfit that makes short documentaries about liberal issues around the country, and they came to Maine to record the final push for gay marriage. The result is a two-part YouTube documentary that shows the passion of the No On 1 campaign, and the community's reaction to defeat. It also places Maine's fight in a national context, suggesting that gay-rights advocates need to step up their hardball game.

We caught up with Whiteside (the man in front of the camera) via e-mail this week.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO COVER THE GAY-MARRIAGE CAMPAIGN IN MAINE? Because, in our view, it was the most important election taking place in the country — for the first time, a state might vote in favor of marriage equality. After being blindsided by Prop 8 in California, Maine became a point of hope for the gay community nationwide, which made Question 1's passage (which I believe was a result of fear-mongering and lies) especially upsetting.

WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE FILMING THE LAST FEW DAYS OF THE MARRIAGE CAMPAIGN HERE? It was both amazing, and of course, devastating. Portland is not only a beautiful city (with some of the best food we've ever eaten) but the people were kind and welcoming. Up until the election result became clear, making this documentary was a real pleasure.

ONE OF THE MAJOR POINTS OF YOUR NO ON ONE FILM IS THAT THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE AND THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR LACK OF SUPPORT HERE IN MAINE. WHAT WOULD SUCH ACCOUNTABILITY LOOK LIKE? It's troublesome not only that the DNC largely ignored this fight in Maine, refusing to mobilize its Organizing for America arm, which could have put thousands of organizers on the ground, but that they actually sent out an e-mail asking Mainers to help phone-bank for Jon Corzine's gubernatorial reelection in New Jersey, potentially diverting much-needed help in the final days of the campaign. They also neglected to contribute financially, even though the DNC reportedly raised over $1 million at a gay fundraiser in June. And while President Obama quietly opposed Question 1 through an elusive statement — he said he believes "strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away" — he never uttered a word about the No On 1 campaign.

If marriage is to be fought for on a state-by-state basis, then our national gay-rights organizations should hold the DNC and President Obama responsible for their inaction in these fights. I still trust that these organizations have good intentions, are thinking strategically, and that their current praise of national Democrats is finite. But we should start pressuring Democrats to live up to their promises now, before they enter re-election mode and it's too late.

John Aravosis and Joe Sudbay (a Portland native) of AMERICAblog have launched a donor boycott of the DNC, Organizing for America, and the Obama campaign until Congress and the President pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, all of which was promised during campaign season, when the gay community gave plenty and worked hard to get Democratic candidates elected. Supporters of equality can read more about it and sign the pledge atwww.DontAskDontGive.com.

  Topics: This Just In , Barack Obama, Barack Obama, U.S. Government,  More more >
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