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The DeMaio conundrum: supporting all methods of equality advancement

Posted: September 6th, 2012 | Featured, Political Spectrum | 5 Comments

Allan Acevedo | Political Spectrum

Allan Acevedo

A large portion of the mayor’s race is a debate on who is best to lead our city to financial stability and future prosperity. Lately, however, it has become an embittered fight between larger-than-life personalities.

Carl DeMaio has been portrayed as a traitor to the LGBT community because he does not engage in the community organizing or the conservative demonizing the left has relied on to advance equality. He has also openly accepted money from donors who have backed anti-LGBT initiatives and organizations.

While I disagree with these donors on the issue of LGBT equality, I am sure people are not giving money to DeMaio solely under the guise that he does not support equality. People like Charles LiMandri, Roger Hedgecock and Brian Caster are surely giving DeMaio money primarily because they support his fiscal and economic policies, and are looking beyond his sexual orientation in deciding to support him.

Isn’t that what we’ve always wanted, for conservatives to look beyond our sexual orientation and judge our worth based on experience, substance and character?

A few weeks ago, I ran into DeMaio at a community rally. While he was waiting to speak, we caught up on his race and I lamented the bitter vitriol that has become a staple of the race.

I reminded DeMaio he did not have my vote, but that I appreciated his running and standing up for his views, however different they are from my own. I told him I wished more people focused on the policy disagreements they had with candidates rather than relying heavily on the candidates’ demographic and personal characteristics.

During our conversation, I saw something happen I would not have believed unless I saw it for myself. A self-described “right-leaning conservative Christian” came up to DeMaio, shook his hand and told DeMaio he was voting for him.

As the supporter walked away, I reflected on the fact that this social conservative looked beyond DeMaio’s sexual orientation and supported him because of his policy beliefs on financial issues. This is the exact individual the progressive left has been outreaching to for years. We have so far not been able to change his views on LGBT individuals, but now DeMaio has garnered this man’s vote and, by doing so, has made sexual orientation a non-issue.

While DeMaio may not be standing on the pulpit demanding equal rights for the LGBT community, he is making an impact by asserting himself among individuals who would likely not have given a LGBT person a second thought beforehand. This is a long way from supporting equality, but it is a first step.

If DeMaio’s conservative politics and specific avoidance of social issues begins the process of opening the hearts and minds of conservatives to the LGBT community, we must recognize his tactics as a part of a larger movement to assert our role in the public spheres of society.

A movement for equality which stresses uniformity of tactics does itself a disservice by not allowing for the individuality needed to reach masses of people who have pre-formed opinions about a community that is still fighting for representation. DeMaio’s tactics may be subtle and passive, but that alone does not give credence to the argument that he is a detriment to our community or our movement for equality.

I may organize for equality in a visible and collective manner while DeMaio choses to simply allow for his sexual orientation to serve as a “de facto” argument for the irrelevance of one’s sexual orientation. Neither one method will get us full equality by itself. We must recognize the equal and significant work to do within conservative circles to open minds to the idea that sexual orientation does not define what rights we should be afforded.

Indeed, to define the proper ways through which the fight for equality should be handled defeats the very spirit of the movement. The diversity we are fighting for should also be embraced by the tactics we engage to arrive at the desired outcome.

I disagree with DeMaio on many issues, but I am confident both he and I would like LGBT people to be treated as equal citizens. I will not be voting for DeMaio because I disagree with his environmental record, his record on labor and his belief in the proper role of government: all issues that look beyond his sexual orientation.

If we want conservatives to look beyond our sexual orientation, we need to also look beyond the sexual orientation of those in our conservative LGBT community.

—Allan Acevedo is co-founder and president emeritus of Stonewall Young Democrats of San Diego. He has worked on multiple political campaigns and served on numerous boards including the San Diego Democratic Club, California Young Democrats, Gay-Straight Alliant Network and Equality California PAC. Follow @allanacevedo on Twitter

5 Comments

  1. cecelia moreno says:

    A thoughtful and well written piece. We should be able to disagree with civility and grace.

  2. Stan Lewis says:

    Allan: I find your view of Mayoral candidate Carl Demaio somewhat naive. The ultra right wing zealots, like Hedgecock and Li Mandri are not just supporting Demaio because his views are similar to theirs, but because he has pledged to them, it has been reported, that if elected Mayor he will not do anything to further civil rights for the LGBT community.

    How can any self respecting gay man sign such a pledge? It seems that power is his over-arching goal in llife and that he has no understanding of the work that has gone into making it possible for him to run as an “out” candidate.

    I acknowledge his “right” to run for office but he does not deserve our support or respect, when he supports the positions of those who battle all our efforts to realize our basic human rights.

  3. Allan says:

    I believe having Carl in elected office has already done something to advance the way LGBT people are perceived among conservatives. There is nothing naive about that. It is a fact. That one supporter I saw at this rally stands as an example to that.

    This column has nothing to do with whether we should support Carl’s candidacy. I in fact believe we should support Bob Filner. This is about recognizing the role conservatives have in moving the discourse of LGBT people forward among their peers.

  4. Tyler says:

    In order to forward the discourse, wouldn’t he have to engage in the discourse? Having accepted money from people, some of whom believe gays and lesbians already have too many rights, one can safely assume he did not address these views with them. So, I’m not sure he is engaged in the discussion at all.
    An inability to criticize those people and to accept money from them as long as they advance his desires is an important character issue.

  5. Allan says:

    Tyler: I already addressed that issue: “DeMaio choses to simply allow for his sexual orientation to serve as a “de facto” argument for the irrelevance of one’s sexual orientation.”

    One way or another conservatives have to examine his sexual orientation before choosing to support him. Carl has been open about his sexual orientation and chooses to let that speak for itself rather than involve himself pushing the issue forward.

    Would I like a more proactive conservative? Of course I would. Do I think Carl should be our next mayor? No. But is Carl reaching people whom I could never convince to re-examine their view of LGBT people. I believe the answer yes.

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