GLAAD, Revisited

by Stephen H. Miller on January 26, 2013

Some 20 years ago, I was a spokesman for the then newly formed Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). There are still a few news articles archived online that quote me from those days, such as here, here and here.

In the years since, GLAAD has had an array of executive leaders, and too often has seemed most interested in raising money by partying with Hollywood friends. While the religious right and social conservatives have been used endlessly in fundraising appeals, they were rarely, if ever, publicly engaged and debated (IGF-affiliated John Corvino and Jonathan Rauch have done far more in this regard, with little or no budget). Instead, trendy political correctness and ideologically lock-step “diversity,” along with echo-chamber “coalition building” with those on the political left, have been the order of the day.

So I was pleased to read in the Washington Post that GLAAD is taking on NatGeo over the cable channel’s promotional programming with the anti-gay Boy Scouts of America. The BSA is far past the point where it should enjoy free media rides (which it wouldn’t, of course, if it excluded boys and scout masters who were African-American or Jewish), but NatGeo seems clueless about its latest programming being in any way controversial. It’s not a matter that government should weigh into, but it is an issue that should be confronted within the bounds of civil society. So, good for GLAAD.

More. Suddenly, it looks like the BSA’s gay ban could fall, at least as national policy. The Washinfgton Post reports:

Southern Baptist leaders…were furious about the possible change and said its approval might encourage Southern Baptist churches to support other boys’ organizations instead of the BSA.

Well, that’s their right. And they could always revive the Hitler Youth.

{ 20 comments }

Doug January 26, 2013 at 4:37 pm

” While the religious right and social conservatives have been used endlessly in fundraising appeals. . . ”

And of course the GOP never ever does such a thing, only the left does that. Talk about the Pervasive Partisanship you were just complaining about. Do you ever look in the mirror?

Houndentenor January 26, 2013 at 7:38 pm

“…trendy political correctness and ideologically lock-step “diversity,” along with echo-chamber “coalition building” with those on the political left, have been the order of the day. ”

Yes, they should have spent millions of dollars reaching out the GOP instead because Log Cabin Republicans have been so successful in winning single-digit support among Republicans in Congress and zero support from Republican presidents. These posts grow increasingly baffling. What would you have had GLAAD do instead that wouldn’t have been a complete waste of time and money?

Tom Scharbach January 26, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I don’t know about GLAAD’s origins, or the internal conflicts regarding the organization’s mission and politics that led Stephen to leave the organization, but GLAAD’s more recent and current work — including, specifically, the Commentator Accountability Project and GLAAD’s ongoing efforts to push entertainment media toward realistic portrayals of gays and lesbians — seems to me to be valuable work.

Tom Scharbach January 27, 2013 at 7:10 am

While the religious right and social conservatives have been used endlessly in fundraising appeals, they were rarely, if ever, publicly engaged and debated (IGF-affiliated John Corvino and Jonathan Rauch have done far more in this regard, with little or no budget).

I thought about this overnight, and it doesn’t seem to me that it has been GLAAD’s role or intent to “publicly engage and debate” the religious right or social conservatives.

GLAAD seems to have been modeled after the ADL, focused on changing language descriptors and images, and calling out negative and defamatory commentary and media coverage, and acting as a resource for gays and lesbians confronting local media defamation against gays and lesbians. GLAAD seems to be focused on that single task.

In my view, that’s as it should be. Our struggle for equal treatment under the law has always been characterized by its multifaceted nature. We have moved forward as quickly as we have, it seems to me, because we have fought for equality on many fronts and with many strategies, and because many groups, each focused on a particular set of issues employing strategies addressing that set of issues.

We have never been a “one size fits all” movement, and that seems to me to have been critical to the speed with which we’ve won over the American people.

In Wisconsin, for example, Lambda Legal is fighting the lawsuit brought by Wisconsin Family Action to declare our domestic partnership law unconstitutional, Fair Wisconsin is lobbying both sides of the aisle in the legislature and working with local governments to enact equal-benefits ordinances, the DPW LGBT Caucus is focused internally within the DPW, working on platform planks and and funding 100% pro-equality Democrats, GLSEN has been building GSA’s in our schools, GLAAD got involved in defamation issues in the Fox Valley a couples years ago, the Victory Fund helped a couple of the five LGBT Assembly candidates we fielded this year, and so on. I wish we had a Republican equivalent of the DPW LGBT Caucus in Wisconsin, but LCR never established a chapter in Wisconsin, so we don’t.

Messy and somewhat disorganized, to be sure. But as ad hoc and patched together as our movement has been over the years, we’ve been successful.

I’ve sensed a yearning on Stephen’s part over the years for a top-down umbrella organization step in and change the Republican Party. It isn’t going to happen. He and other pro-equality conservatives are going to have to get into the fight, focused and relentless, working at local, state and national levels to build power within the Republican Party and bring the Republican Party around to reality.

Houndentenor January 27, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Miller continues to operate under the misconception that groups like HRC and GLAAD exist for any purpose other than to allow A-List gays to rub shoulders with celebrities and liberal politicians and pat themselves on the back. Everything that has been accomplished for gay rights has been accomplished by individuals engaging in the dialogue he expects these groups to have at the grassroots level. The change in public opinion has happened not because of lobbying in DC but because individual Americans want equal protection for their gay friends, relatives and co-workers. DC lacks horribly behind and it’s shameful that we still can’t pass ENDA in spite of the fact that it’s a common policy these days in most big companies, even in industries that we wouldn’t exactly consider to be “liberal”. I don’t know where this idea comes from that HRC or GLAAD are effective or relevant. They just happen to be high profile. The mainstream media loves them, of course, especially GLAAD, because celebrities love getting awards. Other than that, I don’t see how they have much, if any, impact on our culture or our politics.

Tom Scharbach January 27, 2013 at 8:13 pm

I think you are dead on, in part.

The driving force behind our progress toward equality has be accomplished by individual gays and lesbians coming out and becoming visible to family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, giving lie to the lies and winning over the American people, one straight at a time.

But I would be cautious about dismissing the power of organized groups in the struggle for equality.

Lambda Legal has won a lot of lawsuits, and the wins made a difference. GLAAD has kept pressure on the media, both news and entertainment. GLSEN has, through GSA’a, made high schools less dangerous. Lobbying groups like Fair Wisconsin have focused effort on specific ballot initiatives, legislation and ordinances.

All of it worked together.

When the history of the first 75 years of the post-Stonewall struggle toward equality is written, though, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised. In my view, the most critical change agent, perversely, has been the Republican Party and the Religious Right, which cravenly joined into a Faustian bargain for political power during the anti-marriage amendment period. When the forces of darkness went after the “quiet ones” (as John Rechy called them in his 1963 novel), gays and lesbians who had not been involved politically came out in droves. It is no coincidence that the number of self-reported LGBT couples rose dramatically in every state in which an anti-marriage amendment was passed.

If you and I are right about “coming out” as the driver of change, then our protagonists should be given credit where it is due, as well as out undying scorn.

Houndentenor January 27, 2013 at 9:41 pm

The problem from the beginning with most of these groups is that they attempted to do all of this from DC. Politics is not a top down affair, even if people inside the beltway like to think it is. Real change happens at the local level. There were groups that attempted that, but overall we got clobbered over and over by the religious right that did organize with local chapters and it worked for decades. It was horrible to watch and the gay “leadership” seemed incapable of figuring out the problem. There’s absolutely no reason we should have lost on Prop 8 except that the campaign against it was so tone-deaf and incompetent. I give credit to a few gay right-wing bloggers (who was the guy in California that also covered college football???) who pleaded for more fundraising and a better ad campaign. We deserve better than LCR and the like. We deserve better than organizations so insular and out of touch with gay and lesbian people who don’t live in Chelsea, DuPont Circle or WeHo. Seriously, this is ridiculous and it’s gone on for decades now. How can we not get ENDA passed with most Americans already think it’s the law anyway and over 70% favor it. That’s a sick joke and it is everything you need to know about the ineptitude of the “homosexual lobby”.

Tom Scharbach January 27, 2013 at 10:12 pm

We deserve better than LCR and the like. We deserve better than organizations so insular and out of touch with gay and lesbian people who don’t live in Chelsea, DuPont Circle or WeHo. Seriously, this is ridiculous and it’s gone on for decades now.

I don’t live on the coasts, and I live far away from the centers of American media and culture. I can really speak only to Wisconsin and (to some extent) to Chicago in terms of actual experience with the movement toward equality.

I think that much of what you have to say is correct. The Washington-New York-California axis is as much an echo chamber in its own way as the right wing echo chamber. The national lobbying groups are self-indulgent and have not done much good, in my opinion.

But other groups — groups with a purpose other than lobbying — have done a lot. Lambda Legal (at least in Wisconsin) has done a lot, enlisting the aid of local lawyers to fight discrimination. GLSEN has been effective in fostering GSA groups in our local high schools. GLAAD stepped into a nasty fight in the Fox Valley with resources and coaching, and the anti-gay groups lost the battle to control the language of the debate.

And, at least in Wisconsin, the state’s primary lobbying group, Fair Wisconsin, has been a very effective change agent, bringing public employee benefits equality to seven major (by Wisconsin standards) cities, most recently, of all places, Paul Ryan’s home town of Janesville.

So I don’t share your universally dim assessment of national or state groups. The groups that make the big noise (think HRC and LCR) are often worthless, but the groups that have a clear purpose and stick to doing what they do are, in general, getting valuable work done.

Houndentenor January 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Sorry, I didn’t mean to dismiss state and local groups who are obviously doing good work in several states as evidenced by state nondiscrimination and even marriage bills getting passed. I would also like to note that while the national Stonewall Democrats seems to be shutting down, the local chapters are still active. There’s a lot of work left to be done since over half the country still has no nondiscrimination protection or partnership benefits (marriage or otherwise).

Tom Scharbach January 28, 2013 at 1:59 pm

The National Stonewall organization was a concoction of Barney Frank’s. Local Stonewall organizations have been in operation since the 1970′s, and a number of those are going strong, acting as change agents where they are located. At state and national levels, the need for Stonewall never really existed since Howard Dean set up the caucus structure.

TomJeffersonIII January 28, 2013 at 7:50 am

Oddly enough, I do not think that the GLAAD has done much research into the video game industry. Maybe its a generational thing or something. Buts its certainly worthy of an examination, much like with films, tv shows, news programs, advertising, music, comic books etc.

Tom Scharbach January 28, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Southern Baptist leaders…were furious about the possible change and said its approval might encourage Southern Baptist churches to support other boys’ organizations instead of the BSA.

Note that the proposal the BSA is contemplating allows troops to accept gays if they choose. The proposed changes do not — repeat not — force any troop to accept gays if the troop decides that it does not want to do so.

It follows that the Southern Baptists object, accordingly, not because they or the troops they sponsor will be affected by the proposed change, but because they demand to force their religious intolerance on all others involved in the Scouting movement.

To my mind, the Southern Baptist response lays bare the hypocrisy of the “religious conscience objections” that social conservatives are demanding on marriage equality and many other issues involving gays and lesbians.

We’ve seen that no matter how far the law is bent to accommodate religious conservatives, they demand more. As far as
I am concerned, the so-called “religious conscience objections” are a smokescreen, as false a Judas, raised for the purpose of throwing a monkey wrench. For God’s sake, if these hypocrites can accept widespread adultery in the form of remarriage after divorce, and champion it as Jesus-sent, then all the talk about their delicate religious consciences is, well, talk.

Houndentenor January 28, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I’m not all that excited about the proposed change for BSA. It only means they won’t forbid gay scouts at the national level. It doesn’t mean that local troops can’t kick out scouts for being gay. How many actual troops will this actually affect? But this is a surprising move considering that scouting is basically run by the Mormons these days. There much be a problem with fundraising and the policy.

Aubrey Haltom January 29, 2013 at 9:53 am

Our local (Boston) weekly lgbt publication, Bay Windows, recently published a ranking of both local and national lgbt organizations.

It’s an interesting list (btw Tom Scharbach, Lambda Legal is ranked 1st in the national category). There are always issues with ‘lists’, and one can argue with both the criteria and the ‘experts’ who framed this list. But still, as a conversation starter, here it is.

The opening paragraph details the ranking process:

“Philanthropedia, a division of leading nonprofit information provider GuideStar, today announced new rankings of the top 12 nonprofits advancing the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals and supporting the issues that the LGBT community tackles – including discriminatory policies, violence against members of the community, and improving the health and well-being of those in the community – at the local level, and the top 19 nonprofits working in the same field nationally. The rankings are based on in-depth surveys and conversations with hundreds of experts, including academics, funders, grantmakers, policy makers, consultants, etc. ”

Following is the article with both local and national rankings:

http://www.baywindows.com/Local-non-profits-named-best-performers

Tom Scharbach January 29, 2013 at 10:23 am

I’m glad to see Lambda Legal and the ACLU at the top of the national list. I’ve been a long-time supporter of both (as a retired lawyer, I guess that’s no surprise).

Lambda focuses more on “movement” cases (e.g. defense of Wisconsin’s Domestic Partnership law) and the ACLU focuses more on individual rights cases, but together, each focusing on different aspects of the legal environment, the two have been a powerful change agent.

For those who are interested, dig down into the “learn more about each organization” links.

The descriptors demonstrate the multifaceted nature of our struggle for equality; although there is overlap (several groups advocating for identical issues) and distributed effort (similar advocacy groups in various states), the overall picture is of a relative large number of groups working on specific issues.

That’s a good thing, in my opinion. I’m a disbeliever in the “one size fits all” approach.

Jorge January 29, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Instead, trendy political correctness and ideologically lock-step “diversity,” along with echo-chamber “coalition building” with those on the political left, have been the order of the day.

So I was pleased to read in the Washington Post that GLAAD is taking on NatGeo over the cable channel’s promotional programming with the anti-gay Boy Scouts of America.

Wait, you berate GLAAD for trendy political correctness and demonizing social conservatives, and then you praise them for an act of trendy political correctness and demonizing social conservatives?

I’m not a very big fan of GLAAD, and this type of over-the-top, publicity-seeking shrillness is a big part of why. However I am happy to hear that BSA is quaking in its boots.

Don January 30, 2013 at 1:43 pm

While I doubt GLAAD could be credited directly, all the shoulder-rubbing in Hollywood has really paid off. When Tom Hanks’ Philadelphia came out, I saw it in Macon, GA. Two older women in Erik Erickson’s hometown walked out of the theater remarking “my, I never thought about it like that” or something to that effect. Those movies and television shows like today’s Glee have done more to change our culture and force the debate than any legal challenge. Because they put us in people’s living rooms. We came up at the water cooler. People were forced to think about their positions regarding our lives. It is as powerful as coming out.

As for demonizing social conservatives, I consider it a conservative value to emphatically state the obvious. They are demons, tormented by their own hate of others.

Jorge January 31, 2013 at 8:44 am

As for demonizing social conservatives, I consider it a conservative value to emphatically state the obvious. They are demons, tormented by their own hate of others.

Permit me to state the even more obvious: you are a bigot.

Don February 1, 2013 at 12:22 pm

why thank you, Jorge. but when someone is so overcome by fear of life that they feel compelled to control others in order to assuage their fears, it’s not faith in God at work. It is the opposite of faith.

as for the range of social conservatism, i find no problem with those who choose to live a pious life. the amish are quite admirable. they don’t need a law to make me live as they do to enjoy their religious liberty. why do nearly all social conservatives require it when they don’t?

if i qualify for your definition of bigot, then i think you will find life quite difficult. for such a narrow and inapt definition will cause much ideological frustration. trying to understand the world around you will be an unpleasant and frustrating task. but we are all free to pursue our unhappiness as well as our happiness.

ThomasJeffersonIII February 4, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I suspect that the “new” national policy will be to give local Scout units some lee-way or discretion on whether or not they want to exclude Scouts or Scout leaders for being gay.

I have no problem with their right to discriminate (I did agree with the Supreme Court on that) but the arguments for doing so always seemed to be incredibly lame.

(a) Scouts and Scout leaders of different religious and political views almost certainly work together with few, if any, serious problems. Which is odd, because the “religion” and “morality” arguments seem to imply that their is not much diversity within the Scouts about politics and spirituality.

(b) The worst argument — not always said but certainly implied is the idea that gay men only want to join the Scouts to be abusive and predatory.

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