Does 'Gay Inc.' Believe in Free Speech?

In the battle over gay rights, dissent during wartime isn't always tolerated

And if they're paying your bills, you can't go to Zuccotti Park and tell the 1 Percent to fuck themselves.

A major problem, Dobbs says, is that "too many people have bought into the 'equality myth.'"

"Once upon a time, we were for gay liberation," he explains many months later. "That's a big word. . . . Equality is a small word and a small concept. It's just accepting what little piece everyone else has," inadequate as it might be.

Pui Yan Fong
GLAAD, a nonprofit, launched its “Stand Up for Ellen” campaign on behalf of millionaire DeGeneres.
© Glenn Francis,
GLAAD, a nonprofit, launched its “Stand Up for Ellen” campaign on behalf of millionaire DeGeneres.

Goldman Sachs, Dobbs says, is a perfect example of how Occupy, Gay Inc., and equality intersected. "If you want equality on the job" as a gay person, Dobbs says, "you should work at Goldman Sachs." In February, HRC honored Goldman, one of the main targets of Occupy, with its Workplace Equality Innovation Award. But Dobbs thinks that keeps the question of "what Goldman is doing to the world, to the society at large" from even being asked by queer people. (At the same event, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the highest-elected lesbian in the city, who has a good shot at being the city's next mayor, presented an award to Morgan Stanley.)

But if equality for professional workers at banks is important to Gay Inc., it isn't for retail workers, according to Locke. "Working-class queers are walked all over by gay organizations," she says. "We are not treated as equals by the organizations that are supposed to be supporting us. It's as if they believe that all gay people are upwardly mobile professionals with a lot of disposable money to spend, when in fact most queer people in this city are poor, working class, or even homeless."

And if the point is just that someone queer "can be a soldier in the U.S. military," Dobbs says, it keeps people from questioning militarism and U.S. foreign policy. The "equality myth" can "put blinders on people," Dobbs says, even with the fight for marriage. The marriage debate sucks the oxygen, he thinks, out of bigger questions.

Take health care, for example, Dobbs says. Same-sex marriage is an answer to expanding health care for queer people in a limited way: Only those who don't have it and marry someone whose plan can cover a spouse may now get it. Meanwhile, a single-payer health-care option could provide health care for every queer person.

As Dobbs recalls, "When the health-care debate was happening, I don't remember any of the gay organizations, not one, supporting a single-payer option—not even any of the AIDS groups."

He's right.

On June 6, a historic press conference took place at the Stonewall Inn between black and gay civil rights groups. The majority of Gay Inc.—including HRC, the Empire State Pride Agenda, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal, GLAAD, and Gay Men's Health Crisis—joined unions, Reverend Al Sharpton, Speaker Quinn, and the NAACP to denounce the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk policy. They appeared together in a united stand against police profiling, which largely affects black and Hispanic young men in poor neighborhoods.

For a change, it was heartening to see Gay Inc. stand firmly on this. It was good policy (gays are black and brown, and vice versa, of course) and good politics, shortly after President Obama and the NAACP had endorsed same-sex marriage. In walking with the black community in last Sunday's Father's Day police profile march, Gay Inc. countered charges that it works only on behalf of rich white men. They all deserve a lot of credit for this, including GLAAD.

HRC's participation, however, begged some questions. Stop-and-frisk is Mayor Michael Bloomberg's policy, which he could rein in at any time.

Coincidentally, Bloomberg also happens to be the one person in all of America HRC honored with its National Ally Award last summer.

Does Gay Inc. believe in freedom against unreasonable searches and seizures?

The NYPD, which Bloomberg once called his "private army," used stop-and-frisk to search 685,724 gay and straight (mostly black and brown) New Yorkers last year.

Does Gay Inc. believe in the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievance?

J.P. Morgan Chase is a corporate partner of HRC's. Chase made a $4.6 million donation to the New York City Police Foundation last year, shortly before the NYPD evicted protesters from Zuccotti Park last fall.

Does Gay Inc. believe in free speech?

At the end of the hour-long press conference, when reporters were finally allowed to ask questions, I asked Marty Rouse, the HRC representative: "Your organization gave your National Ally Award to Mayor Bloomberg last year. Stop-and-frisk is essentially his policy. How do you respond to him about that?"

"I can't respond to that," Rouse said tersely with an icy look, and the press conference shortly came to an end.

Just like with Starbucks worker Locke, HRC did not respond to any messages from the Voice for this article.

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