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UNHCR must address suffering of LGBTI refugees in Kenya

Broader community remains largely indifferent to camp abuses

Ugandan refugees, gay news, Washington Blade
Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya (Photo by the E.U. Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations via Flickr)

LGBTI activists in the U.S., Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the U.K. and other countries are expressing a growing concern about the way in which a considerable group of African LGBTI refugees, or at least part of them, are being treated in Kenya. Whereas they appreciate the efforts of UNHCR (the U.N. Refugee Agency), they also deplore the continuous cries of despair coming out of Kenya, especially from LGBTI refugees in Kakuma Refugee Camp. We urge UNHCR to take these claims and problems more seriously and to open a serious dialogue with the aim of improving the situation considerably. This needs to happen in the short term.

Homosexuality is criminalized in all but a few countries in Africa, which means that LGBTI people live marginalized and often in terror of their lives. Even in the countries that do accept sexual diversity, such as South Africa, which goes as far as to recognize same-sex marriage, the power of disapproval by society is such that LGBTI people live in fear of exposure, loss of jobs, or rejection by their families to the extent of being killed in “honor killings.” Many LGBTI citizens in Africa are being excluded from their families or communities, which explains why many of them flee to other countries hoping to find a decent life there.

The situation has received evermore media attention over the past decade, fomented by the Ugandan government’s particularly hostile stance, which provoked an exodus by LGBTI people, one which is ongoing. The obvious destination for these persons of concern, asylum seekers and refugees is neighboring Kenya, where UNHCR is based in Nairobi. For some years, the resettlement of LGBTI refugees in third countries proceeded at a reasonable pace, but the refusal of the Kenyan government last year to decriminalize homosexuality, plus the obdurate stance of the U.S. administration not to accept more refugees from certain categories, has worsened the situation. We also see that other countries, for example those of the European Union, don’t do enough to accept LGBTI refugees from Kenya, where at least many hundreds of them have fled.

The Kenyan government insists that LGBTI refugees be kept in refugee camps, the largest and most notorious of these being Kakuma in Turkana County in the north of Kenya. There, some two hundred LGBTI refugees from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan, women, children and men, are kept without any protection, subject to attack by others living at the camp, mostly Sudanese, and the local Turkana people. Police protection is not provided, since Kenya insists that LGBTI people there are not refugees but “criminals.” A mercenary security company G4S is also complicit in the brutality towards LGBTI refugees. The medical facilities at Kakuma frequently refuse to treat LGBTI refugees.

Advocates from around the world have been lobbying UNHCR to act and remove these LGBTI refugees to a safe place, but these appeals fall on deaf ears. The stance of UNHCR is that the stories by LGBTI refugees of attacks are either fabricated or greatly exaggerated, but eyewitness accounts by the LGBTI refugees themselves provide evidence in videos, photographs and graphic emails. The attacks are extremely violent, involving knife and panga attacks and burning of living quarters, theft of food and mobile phones, and refusal of access to shops and water.

Trust in UNHCR is fast eroding, as no one can understand what the agency’s agenda is; it mostly maintains a deafening silence. The suspicion is that it is under the thumb of the Kenyan authorities, and does not have the moral stamina to confront Kenya on this abuse of human rights. One thing is certain: UNHCR, under High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, does not welcome outsiders’ emails, and other than bland assurances that all is well at the camp, or protestations (amounting to threats) that emails on behalf of individuals put them at further risk, there is no comment from Geneva, Nairobi or the Kakuma Refugee Camp itself. Social media access has been blocked, and the belief among LGBTI people is that this is on the direct orders of UNHCR, in collusion with the Kenyan authorities. Some clearly don’t like the LGBTI refugees to inform the international community about what they are undergoing!

While Black Lives Matter has taken the world by storm, Black LGBTI Lives in Africa do not get a look in, and the LGBTI world outside shows virtually no interest, preferring to concentrate on celebrating Pride month as though the battle has been fought and won. It never will be, but the very least that can be done is to remove all LGBTI refugees from Kakuma, as happened in December 2018, before the Kenyan authorities stepped in and ordered their return to Kakuma, with the evermore gory results that are being seen, harrowing videos and photographs of bodies hacked and bloodied, with minimal medical care and attention.

We would love serious NGOs like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others to step in and get involved. To our satisfaction, we notice a growing willingness within the NGO community to get involved and investigate the claims and worries of many LGBTI refugees in Kenya. The world cannot continue to look away. And we, as serious LGBTI activists, clearly refuse to look away and leave these fellow human beings to their (sad) fate.

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United Methodists use anti-LGBTQ+ law to stop Jewish couple adopting

Here we go again with taxpayer-funded bigotry- Denying state services because of religious affiliation is unquestionably unconstitutional

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Courtesy of Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram

By James Finn | DETROIT – A Christian adoption agency that’s part of a progressive denomination just used a Tennessee law to stop a Jewish couple from adopting a child, who now languishes in state care. The same agency had already used the law for its intended purpose — to refuse to work with prospective LGBTQ parents. The agency is partnering with one of most notorious anti-LGBTQ hate groups in the United States. How did a progressive Christian denomination end up in bed with extremist Evangelicals associated with the Trump movement? Depending on your perspective, that’s either a cautionary tale or a horror story.

Two years ago, responding to demands from Christian constituents, the Tennessee General Assembly passed House Bill 836, which “prohibits, to the extent allowed by federal law, a private licensed child-placing agency from being required to perform, assist, consent to, refer, or participate in any child placement for foster care or adoption that would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions.”

Lawmakers made clear during debate that the “convictions” they meant were Christian “convictions” that LGBTQ people are unfit to foster or adopt children.

Denying state services because of religious affiliation is unquestionably unconstitutional, a direct infringement on the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.

This year, Holston United Methodist Home for Children used that law to turn away Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram because they are Jewish. And now, a boy who should be part of a loving forever family is stuck in the “system.”

Anti-LGBTQ+ foster agency discriminates against married Jewish coupleLast month, some parents and other community members railed against creating a GSA at a Lakeland School Board meeting…www.losangelesblade.com

The couple were unable to adopt because Holston United Methodist was the only agency where they lived that could provide mandatory state-certification services. The couple just sued the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services in state court, alleging they are being denied services by a taxpayer-funded agency solely because of their religious affiliation. Click here for the full text of the legal brief.

Anti-semitism and anti-LGBTQ bigotry walk hand in hand

I don’t know what part of this story makes me more angry, that Tennessee passed a law designed to make it hard for LGBTQ people to foster or adopt, or that an agency affiliated with the mainline United Methodist Conference (UMC) stirred in anti-semitism to hurt a child.

Jaw-droppingly, this story is not about Evangelical Christians, but about a denomination widely viewed as on the cutting edge of progressive Christianity.

Apparently, the Christians at Holston United Methodist Home never got the progressive memo. The agency’s status within the UMC is unclear. A spokesperson for the Holston UMC Conference told knox news the home is “no longer an arm” of the Conference, but did not respond to questions asking if the home and affiliated church are members of the Conference. Neither the Holston Conference, the UMC, nor the adoption agency responded to my inquiries yesterday asking if the agency remains affiliated. Going by the agency’s web page, the answer is yes:

“Holston Home is proudly affiliated with the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church, an area that covers all of East Tennessee, the western-most 17 counties in Virginia, and a little bit of territory in North Georgia. In that area, more than 873 United Methodist Churches make up the Holston Conference.”

Holston Home United Methodist Home for ChildrenHolston United Methodist Home for Children provides hope and healing for a brighter future by sharing the love of Jesus…www.holstonhome.org

Holston UMC Home is partnering with a hate group

Last December, the Holston United Methodist Home sued the Biden administration over HHS rules that do not allow them (as the recipient of federal funds) to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

In both legal cases, Holston UMC Home is being represented by lawyers with Alliance Defending Freedom, certified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. ADF is notorious for championing extremist Christian hate, on the record claiming a “homosexual agenda” will destroy Christianity and society. Among other things, the Alliance pushes:

  • False notions that LGBTQ people are more likely to sexually abuse children.
  • The recriminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults in the U.S. and criminalization abroad.
  • State-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad.
  • “Religious liberty” legislation and case law to allow denial of goods and services to LGBTQ people in the U.S.

This isn’t the ADF’s first rodeo with anti-semitism

I’ve written before about the Miracle Hill adoption agency in South Carolina that fought successfully in 2019 for a federal waiver to allow them to turn away Jews, Catholics, Muslims, agnostics, and atheists. When Lydia Currie sued, saying she was turned away for being Jewish, ADF jumped into the thick of the fight, championing Miracle Hill’s right to discriminate against Jewish people.

Trump Trashes Adoption Equality Rule excludes LGBTQ parents as National Adoption Month begins medium.com

Lydia told reporters at the time that, “Boys with a history in the system are hard to place in families because of the assumption that they might be violent… We decided that we wanted to give one of them a home.”

Because of where she lived and the fact that Miracle Hill had a near lock on child-placement services, Lydia was unable to care for the hard-to-place boy she had already identified. She eventually fostered but was unable to help the child who needed her.

Elizabeth and Gabriel face exactly the same problem. They want to adopt a boy from Florida who desperately needs a home, a boy they identified and stepped forward to help, but they can’t, because Holston UMC Home won’t certify Jews, and the couple have no other local options for training and certification.

Let’s be clear about the true freedom interests in this case

The Alliance Defending Freedom say they are vigorously defending religious liberty, but is that true? Holston UMC Home bid for and won a state contract to train and certify foster and adoptive parents as an agent of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

This is the standard model for child placement in the United States, which in many ways is an historical accident. Before about the mid-twentieth century, most homeless children were cared for by private religious agencies funded mostly by church donations. Uneven levels of service that often led to neglect and abuse sparked reform, roughly coincident with President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiative.

Today, private agencies contract with the state to spend taxpayer dollars to provide the bulk of services to children in need. Many of the agencies remain religiously affiliated, but all of them are primarily or exclusively funded by the state, supervised by the state, and required to meet minimum state standards of care. They are, for all practical purposes, agents of the state.

Many of them, like Miracle Hill and Holston UMC Home, hold monopolies or near monopolies in the areas they serve.

So when they insist they must have the “religious liberty” to turn away prospective parents who don’t share their religious views, they are acting as agents of the state discriminating against people on sectarian religious grounds. This ought to be a no brainer. Denying state services because of religious affiliation is unquestionably unconstitutional, a direct infringement on the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The people having their freedom snatched away are Lydia, Elizabeth, and Gabriel. The people having their freedom snatched away are LGBTQ people, many of them practicing Christian. The people having their freedom snatched away are children denied loving parents.

Holston United Methodist Home has no liberty interest at stake, contrary to the ADF’s tortured arguments. Holston United Methodist Home is not a person with religious beliefs. It’s a legal entity that bid for and won a state contract to spend taxpayer dollars to perform state services.

If the people who run the agency believe LGBTQ people and Jews are unfit to be parents, they are perfectly free to step aside in favor of people who do not hold those views. They are perfectly free to not bid for state contracts in the first place, especially if their religious views preclude them from fulfilling their duties as agents of the state.

Some adoption agencies in the U.S. have closed for that reason, and in every case, neutral players have stepped forward to bid for and execute state contracts, to care for needy children without religious bias.

What’s happening in Tennessee violates American values and Christian values

Denying services to people because of their religious beliefs is antithetical to American values. We as a people have a sad and sometimes brutal history of racism and anti-semitism, a history with deep Christian roots. As a gay man, I’m far too personally aware of our history of oppressing LGBTQ people. But these sad facts stand in opposition to our ideals of liberty and individual freedom, ideals we most fight to advance.

As for Christianity, I’m certain I don’t need to quote any words of Jesus for Christians to understand that denying families and homes to children in need stands in direct opposition to the message of the gospel. Two children in this story lost the chance to join a loving family because Christians denied it to them. Two children ended up stuck in “the system” because Christians denied them love.

I have no idea how any member of the progressive United Methodist Conference can look a the name of the Holston United Methodist Home for Children and not feel great sadness and shame. Would Jesus deny a loving Jewish home to a child in need?

Of course not. But United Methodists are doing it right now, in his name.

If I were a United Methodist or a citizen of Tennessee, I’d be blasting out messages to my religious and political leaders. Since I’m neither, who can help me do that work?

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James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, a frequent columnist for the LA Blade, a contributor to other LGBTQ news outlets, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected]

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The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.

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Alana Chen’s suicide shows Canada did not outlaw Christianity

For as long as LGBTQ young people keep suffering and dying, laws against Christian conversion therapy will be critically needed

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Joyce Calvo (L) and her daughter Alana Chen, who killed herself following years of conversion therapy. (Screenshot: KMGH-TV ABC7 Denver )

Editor’s Note: Frank discussion of LGBTQ mental health crises and suicide follow. If you’re a young person in crisis, please reach out to Trevor Project, where trained counselors are waiting to help you around the clock. Or call the National Suicide Prevention LGBTQ Lifeline.

By James Finn | DETROIT – Canada just outlawed conversion “therapy,” making it a crime to “provide or promote services intended to change or repress a person’s sexual orientation or gender expression.”

The law is probably the toughest on the globe, much tougher than any state ban in the U.S. It leaves little wiggle room for religious exemptions, and many Christians are furious. Thousands of pastors across Canada and the U.S. spoke from pulpits last Sunday in a coordinated condemnation of Canada’s new law.

Canada outlawed Christianity and nobody noticed,” screams the headline of a popular podcast on iHeartRadio . . . As if engaging in counseling and pastoral practices guaranteed to produce severe mental health crises and suicide are a necessary or desired part of Christianity.

Let’s talk about Alana Chen, a young woman dead by suicide

I’ve followed Alana’s tragic story since her death in Colorado in 2019, but her family made headlines again last week as Christian leaders lined up to condemn Canada’s conversion therapy ban. Alana’s mother, Joyce Calvo, just shared portions of her daughter’s journal in a wrenching column for the National Catholic Reporter as she works to shed light on the tragedy, point out that similar tragedies are unfolding right now, and urge Catholic Church leaders to leave LGBTQ adolescents alone.

Joyce makes several important points:

  1. Contrary to popular belief, Catholic dioceses in the U.S. often promote conversion therapy and even sponsor conversion therapy organizations like Desert Streams Ministries. She writes, “My goal for this essay is twofold. I hope it will alert Catholic parents to beware the devastating impact the church can have on their LGBTQ+ children. And I hope it will persuade people speaking for the church to abandon their misguided and dangerous attempts to alter what God has made.”
  2. Nuns and priests encouraged Alana for years to use conversion therapy techniques to suppress or eliminate her attraction to other teenage girls. These nuns and priests met with and counseled Alana in secret, subjecting Alana to what her mother calls, “rules and regulations, spiritual/mental abuse … shaming and degrading her.”
  3. Nuns and priests urged Alana to hide the counseling from her parents. When Alana was 14 and first admitted to a priest that she believed she was a lesbian, he urged her not to tell her parents because he was afraid they would affirm her. Instead, he counseled her for years to confess and suppress or eliminate her attractions.
  4. Nuns and priests continued to urge Alana to suppress or eliminate her attraction to women after she was hospitalized over plans to kill herself in church. Alana told her sister then that she felt “defiled” and “impure,” terms she learned in her pastoral counseling, during which she was instructed to confess any particular incidents of attraction to women before receiving the sacrament of communion.
  5. Nuns and priests referred Alana to conversion therapy programs like Desert Streams and to a licensed psychologist who specialized in conversion therapy.
  6. The Catholic Church in Colorado continues to promote and practice conversion therapy for adolescents, in spite of a state law banning it. They deny their efforts to change/eliminate “unwanted same-sex attraction” amount to conversion therapy and they claim pastoral counseling is not subject to the law.

Of course pastoral counseling is conversion therapy

Desert Streams Ministries, whose staff provide training to Protestant and Catholic clergy and lay people across North America, say they, “help Christians suppress or extinguish sexual/romantic attraction to people of the same sex.” That is the definition of conversion therapy, and the results are as tragic as they are predictable.

As Alana’s private journal reveals, the counseling she received, to extinguish her same-sex attraction or suppress it to the point she no longer noticed it, is the definition of conversion therapy. The fact that she received the toxic counseling from nuns and priests doesn’t make her any less dead.

This old, toxic story just won’t go away

For decades, ever since we LGBTQ people started standing up and telling the world we no longer consent to being silenced, shamed, suppressed or oppressed, Christian organizations have insisted we’re “choosing” our attractions, have insisted we can un-choose them through counseling, prayer and faith practices.

For decades, the Christian organizations making these claims have collapsed, closed up shop, and even apologized for misleading people. The only verifiable outcomes of services organizations like Desert Streams offer are severe mental health problems and a high suicide rate.

Alana Chen is not the exception, she’s the rule.

The harder LGBTQ people sincerely try to eliminate “unwanted same-sex attraction,” the more likely they are to try to end their lives. Data show that teens forced into conversion therapy are actually more likely to emerge mentally healthy than teens who enter programs because they want to. Neither subset of teens emerges with any change in how they experience sexual attraction.

Conversion therapy is like snake handling

When I was a kid in rural Alabama, my Baptist preacher dad met a family who attended a fringe Pentecostal church where people didn’t just “speak in tongues” and engage in “faith healing,” they brought live rattlesnakes to church and passed them around in a show of faith.

Dad took me to visit one of the families, who for Christian reasons refused to allow their kids to be treated with antibiotics or blood transfusions. They believed if people got sick, they should have enough faith to pray for healing, and if they didn’t heal, then their death must be God’s will.

Dad’s voice shook with emotion on the ride back home. He told me, “If any of those kids die, from a snake bite or because they got sick and their parents wouldn’t take them to the doctor, watch me do everything in my power to see the parents put in prison. You don’t hurt kids. You just don’t.”

Generally, in the U.S., the law has come to mostly agree with Dad. Christian faith does not excuse putting kids at risk. If you take your kid to a snake-handling service and they get bit, you’re in big trouble and your faith won’t legally extricate you. Ditto if you deny medical treatment to your child on Christian grounds, like the Pennsylvania parents whose two-year-old died in 2018 of an easily treatable bacterial pneumonia.

Hurting people on Christian grounds doesn’t make the hurt acceptable

We have enough data to be certain the kind of conversion therapy nuns and priests subjected Alana Chen to is as dangerous as snake handling, with outcomes as predictable as withholding antibiotics from a sick toddler.

That’s why Canada’s federal government passed a criminal ban on conversion therapy ban so tight some Christian pastors are afraid it will criminalize pastoral counseling.

News flash: it’s supposed to.

Pastor James Coates, a Canadian pastor jailed last year for refusing to comply with covid-19 public health guidelines, told Fox News that the Canadian ban is “anything but loving,” claiming it will “shut the LGBT community off from the saving and transforming message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Coates doesn’t get it. Like thousands of other Christian pastors last week, he apparently refuses to look at data that shows Jesus’s transforming message has zero track record of changing sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s almost like Jesus is telling people they don’t understand his message. Coates could open up his eyes and see if he chose to. So could the nuns and priests in Colorado who falsely insist they can help teens like Alana Chen stop being gay.

For as long as LGBTQ young people keep suffering and dying, laws against Christian conversion therapy will be critically needed. But that doesn’t mean Christianity has been outlawed, just like laws criminalizing Christians for withholding medical care from their children do not outlaw Christianity.

As a matter of fact, contrary to Coates’s assertion, the U.S. and Canada are bursting with Christian churches that share Jesus’s love without condemning LGBTQ people, without falsely claiming that faith can change or suppress same-sex attraction. Want to find a church like that? Check out Church Clarity, a crowd-sourced database of thousands of LGBTQ-affirming Christian congregations: https://www.churchclarity.org/

Christian practices that cause severe mental health crises and death deserve no respect or protection at law. You don’t hurt kids. You just don’t.

Christian conversion therapy is as dangerous as snake handling. Pass it on.

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James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, a frequent columnist for the LA Blade, a contributor to other LGBTQ news outlets, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected]

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The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.

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Biden: Empty political theater on LGBTQ equality & Black voter protection

The president’s speech in Atlanta this week offered little substance and no action

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President Joseph Biden, caricature by DonkeyHotey. (CC BY 2.0)

By James Finn | DETROIT – Shortly before Joe Biden was inaugurated, LGBTQ Nation leaked a conference call between mainstream LGBTQ advocates and the president-elect in which he backed off repeated, forcible campaign promises to make passage of the Equality Act a top priority during his administration’s first 100 days.

I wrote an article criticizing him for reneging on his pledge. The LA Blade picked up my piece as an op-ed, and it went viral, the Blade’s most-read story for the month.

President Biden began his presidency by abandoning a major campaign pledge to LGBTQ voters. Is he abandoning Black voters too?

I got a tremendous amount of feedback, much of it negative, more of it counseling patience, but now that a year has passed, let’s take a look at how things worked out.

In the first days of his presidency, Biden did vital work with pro-LGBTQ executive orders — redirecting the federal bureaucracy, which had become overtly homo/transphobic under Trump, and working to fix transgender military policy — but he never pushed for the Equality Act, which would have finally offered LGBTQ people status as free people in our own nation, protected at law from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, education, etc.

Without the Act, his executive orders won’t be worth the paper they’re written on when the next Republican president takes office.

Not only did President Biden fail to spend political capital to make the Act a top priority in his first 100 days, he never made it a priority of any kind.

Beltway insiders tell me the president did nothing behind the scenes to honor the pledge he made repeatedly to LGBTQ people in exchange for our votes. He did nothing publicly either. No national speeches. No fireside chats. No appeals to the better angels of the American people. He just stopped talking about the Equality Act, like if he never mentioned it again, we’d forget he promised to prioritize it.

The House passed the Act again this year, but it stalled in the face of Senate filibuster rules, which require 60 out of 100 votes for most legislation to pass. Progressive Democrats have been calling for ending or changing the filibuster since the day Biden took office, but not until Tuesday did he announce support for changes. Which brings us to the second half of today’s grievance.

Biden is betraying Black voters, and Black leaders are calling him out

In recent days, pressure has been intensifying on President Biden to lead on passing meaningful protections to counter strict new state-level laws that Republicans have been enacting to make voting more difficult, especially for Black voters.

Two federal laws proposed by Democrats, — the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — would protect voter rights by (among other things) creating national standards for mail-in voting and restoring stripped-out elements of the Voting Rights Act. Republicans know the only way they can stay in power in many states is to suppress votes, especially the votes of Black people and other people of color. Republican senators fiercely oppose voter protection and will filibuster.

Stacey Abrams, former member of the Georgia House of Representatives, voting rights activist, and gubernatorial candidate. Photo by Gage Skidmore. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

President Biden traveled to Atlanta on Tuesday to make a speech about supporting voter protection. Finally, after nearly a year in office, he indicated he might support changing the filibuster custom. The nation yawned. Black voters blinked. LGBTQ voters sighed in dismay.

A number of influential Black political activists in Georgia snubbed Biden’s speech, saying in advance they would not bother attending an event they called a “waste of time.” Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams was notably absent, which she and Biden both claimed was due to a scheduling conflict, but Georgia political insiders say she was sending the president a powerful message: Get serious. Take action. Stop with meaningless political theater, especially on my turf, where I’ve been doing the kind of real work you won’t do.

Biden has been painfully slow to move on filibuster reform

Obviously, the 50/50 Dem/Rep split in the Senate is not the president’s fault. Nor is he responsible for the recalcitrance of Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. They have each refused to consider filibuster reform, and without their votes it can’t happen.

But does Biden even want filibuster change?

He has consistently served up weak tea on the issue, calling himself an “institutionalist” and an “incrementalist,” which Democratic leaders have taken to mean he either doesn’t support overhauling Senate rules, or that he won’t get tough on Democratic senators who vote against overhauls.

If Biden has tried even half-heartedly to strong-arm Manchin and Sinema, he has not done so in public. Beltway insiders say he hasn’t done anything, just like he hasn’t prioritized the Equality Act.

Meanwhile, while the Democratic Party led by Joe Biden waffles and drifts, the Republicans maintain tight party discipline and look set to take the House back this year. They will continue to push agendas cementing themselves in power, putting democracy itself in grave danger, and making life for minorities increasingly unequal, painful, and difficult.

Member of those minorities have a message for the president

We don’t care about your institutions, Joe. We don’t value Senate customs and traditions, which mean nothing to us beyond what they can or can’t accomplish. We care about action. We demand results. You promised to deliver, and you’re failing us. Now you choose to go to Atlanta and say some pretty words? Nobody wants pretty words, Joe. You can keep them.

Look, we know your heart is in the right place, but we want your muscle to be in the right place. We want you to take charge, to LEAD, to exercise some of the awesome power of your office.

We expect you to play to win, to twist arms, to name and shame, to do whatever it takes to keep the promises you made to us when you needed our votes.

You need to get serious, Mr. President. If you don’t start kicking ass and taking names, don’t count on us to vote for you again. I mean that. There’s a REASON you’re dropping precipitously in the polls. It’s us, man. It’s Democratic members of minorities fed up with your milquetoast, do-nothing, business-as-usual approach to crises we see as EXISTENTIAL. While Republican rank-and-file are telling pollsters they believe armed violence against the government may be desirable, and while they’re demonizing Black people, immigrants, and queer people, you’re acting like everything is relatively fine.

It’s not.

We voted for a champion, but we got you instead, a very nice man who evidently lacks the gonads to fight for us. Please turn that around. Please get real. Please get tough. Please start fighting to win.

Today would be an excellent day to start keeping your promises.

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James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, a frequent columnist for the LA Blade, a contributor to other LGBTQ news outlets, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected]

**********************

The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.

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