October 18, 1999
Issue No. 36
Post Office Box 33292
Washington, DC 20033
A Newsletter for Members and Friends of the
Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians
PLAGAL AND THE ANNUAL MARCH FOR LIFE
For several years now, organizers of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., held on or near the January 22 anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, have hinted of their intention to ban PLAGAL from participation in the March. They had never acted on this narrow-minded homophobia, however, until this past January of 1999. Then they apparently directed the District of Columbia police to threaten to arrest PLAGAL if we carried our banner and signs in the march. The PLAGAL members who had assembled for the march decided not to risk arrest.
I think this ban is both a travesty and a disservice to the pro-life movement.
Ever since PLAGAL began participating in the March for Life eight years ago, the reaction from the wonderfully diverse crowd of pro-lifers has been more and more appreciative and accommodating. At first we were a novelty and a mystery. Were we on the level? Were there really gays and lesbians who were pro-life? Not every one liked us, of course -- our gay visibility was somewhat jarring and entirely unprecedented in pro-life activism. Many said they would pray for us, and we graciously appreciated their sincerity. And, heck, we all need prayers, right?
Increasingly, though, our hearty bands of PLAGALites began hearing comments like, "wow, thanks for joining the pro-life cause" (as if we hadn't already been long-time pro-life activists in our individual capacities) and "you all are very brave to be out here, thanks." The younger marchers were the most supportive, but even the gray-haired veterans of countless cities and states began applauding us for standing up for the rights of the unborn children!!
The welcome we regularly receive now from the grassroots in the Marches for Life contrasts sharply with the reception we oftentimes received in the early years of our staffing PLAGAL literature tables in various gay and lesbian "Pride" festivals. But now, even at Gay Pride events, PLAGAL's visibility and participation is commonplace and accepted. We're gay, we're pro-life: count on seeing us.
Count on seeing us, that is, until our exclusion from the 1999 March for Life at the risk of arrest. Imagine the turnabout of events: it used to be just the pro-choicers (to use their euphemism) who threatened pro-lifers with arrest for pro-life activism. Of course, we were not wholly deterred -- once out of the closet, there's no going back -- and the hearty PLAGAL band simply marched ahead, took our place at the top of Capitol Hill, and, on the sidewalk, in front of the Supreme Court Building, unfurled our banner to face the wonderful thousands of marching pro-lifers as they streamed up the Hill. There we offered our PLAGAL pro-life literature to all those passing through.
It is a shame to be excluded, however. All throughout the marching crowds we could spot the clever pro-life signs and slogans of the grassroots pro-life movement, signs proudly proclaiming their organizations, their cities and states, colleges and high schools, religious denominations, political affiliations, ethnicities. There would be the usual groups -- parish and diocesan pro-lifers throughout the Atlantic seaboard -- and the somewhat counterintuitive groups of the non-traditional pro-life movement -- our friends in Feminists for Life, Vegans for Life, Libertarians for Life, even the occasional Atheists for Life!!
Why is it a travesty for the pro-life movement that PLAGAL is excluded, and not just a setback for PLAGAL specifically?
Because we need more pro-lifers, that's why! We won't succeed by excluding people from our ranks. We need to grow our movement among all walks of life, backgrounds, religious affiliations, and political viewpoints. We can't just preach to the choir. (Of course, the choir can be pretty darn inspirational -- giving inspiration to the grassroots to continue to fight the pro-life fight, find the unconvinced, and convince 'em to join the pro-life movement).
But the choir (at least our choir) is already pro-life. We need to find the people who are conflicted on abortion -- not yet with the program, so to speak -- and with whom the voices of our choir could swell into a chorus of millions!
There are many kinds of constituencies: they are based on gender, race, age, political affiliation, religion, geography, occupation, education, etc. Each of us, of course, has multiple, overlapping constituencies with which we identify. Think of the way advertising campaigns appeal to our core identities: "baby boomer," "generation X," senior citizen, westerner, southerner, urban, suburban, rural, ethnic, feminist, blue-collar worker, techie, "soccer mom," minority, idealist, etc.
The pro-life movement must reach out the same way. After all, as we know, everyone ought to be pro-life, gays especially! And we can't afford to write off any group or constituency in our fight to restore full protection to the least among us: unborn babies!!
But we are in kind of a rut as a movement, aren't we? The media portrays us as a narrow segment of ultra-religious conservatives who want to impose our values on others. We know better. We know the diversity of the pro-life movement. And we know our goal is utterly unselfish and humanitarian: To help women and protect the fundamental right to life of unborn children.
We just need more success in showing our idealistic goal to the rest of the public.
That's why the pro-life movement needs to do more to show our diversity, to take pride in the multifarious constituencies that comprise our movement, especially the constituencies that are counterintuitive. In this way, we can broaden our appeal to reach all those who ought to be with us but don't identify with us yet.
Isn't it great that there are pro-life feminists, pro-life liberals, pro-life vegetarians, yes, even pro-life gays and lesbians!!
Indeed, the non-traditional pro-lifers are an invaluable wedge for our movement to gain entrée where the "pro-choicers" are supposedly entrenched, but actually deeply vulnerable. The authoritarian pro-abortion "political correctness" among feminists, gays, and liberals is a Berlin Wall just waiting to be torn down.
Instead of downplaying the non-traditional pro-life organizations within our movement, the pro-life movement should exult! Don't ban us from the March for Life. Welcome us. In fact, boast of us! The pro-life movement actually needs PLAGAL and the other non-traditional pro-lifers.
Thanks to the undaunted persistence of one of PLAGAL's grassroots leaders in Massachusetts, Joseph D'Amour, we obtained an opportunity to meet with the head of the March for Life and its national treasurer in Washington, D.C. this past summer. They were gracious, cordial, polite, and extraordinarily unyielding: PLAGAL was absolutely NOT WELCOME at the March for Life. As individuals, without signs, banners, or even t-shirts signifying who we are as an organization, we would be allowed to join in the march. But they would absolutely not countenance the visibility of a lesbian and gay organization among the ranks of the pro-life movement at the annual March for Life.
Now we are trying to assess the cost, propriety, and viability of legal action to reverse this ban, although as yet none of the gay and lesbian legal rights organizations has expressed an interest in helping us. We are pursuing an administrative complaint against the D.C. police under the District of Columbia's human rights/anti-discrimination ordinance. And we are trying to bring moral suasion to bear on the various organizations that provide the bulk of the troops for the March for Life.
What can our individual members and supporters do to help remedy this travesty? Contact your local pro-life leadership and ask them to write to the March for Life organizers and politely request rescinding this ban. Write or otherwise contact the U.S. Catholic bishops and diocesan leaders, and other religious denominational pro-life leaders, who have influence with the March for Life leadership.
PLAGAL is definitely going to be there for the 2000 March for Life. In what capacity, we don't know yet. Maybe we'll march with our banners anyhow and risk arrest (the media would love that). Certainly, we will be by the side of the Russell Building distributing our literature as the marchers storm Capitol Hill.
We're gay; we're pro-life; we won't sit at the back of the bus; and we won't give up on the unborn babies.
John S. Buckley
Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians
CLIPPINGS AND CONTACTS
Again, we would like to remind our readers that PLAGAL needs the names (and addresses and voice and fax numbers) of local gay and lesbian media, and when anything appears in the lesbian and gay media discussing the Pro-Life movement, or in any media discussing PLAGAL, PLEASE send it to us. We do not have -- and cannot afford -- a clipping service or subscriptions to the multitude of lesbian and gay media.
meanwhile. . .
The July 2, 1999, issue of The Front Page, out of North and South Carolina, published an article by William J. Mann (which also appeared in a number of other lesbian and gay publications). This article discussed the transition of queer consciousness from the previous mythical monolithic status to its current aggregation of many different viewpoints. Prominent among his several examples was PLAGAL.
The Summer 1999 issue of the Record, the newsletter of Evangelicals Concerned, of New York, New York, both discussed Norah Vincent's article, "Pro-Life Lesbians," published in both The New York Press and The Advocate, and reported that PLAGAL had been banned and welcomed by pro-life and gay pride march leaders. It also reprinted in full the letter from Cardinal O'Connor.
The July-August issue of The Caleb Report, published by Life Decisions International, noted the following:
Some Kind of Battle. As homosexual organizations work toward setting up the Millennium March" in support of "gay rights," the National Organization for Women has agreed to endorse the event if and only if abortion rights are included as a goal. While March organizers have tentatively agreed, the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (you read that correctly!) is fighting the move.
TURN UP THE HEAT ON MMOW
PLAGAL has sounded the alarm on the MMOW organizer's temptation to include abortion rights in the MMOW agenda in order to get the endorsement of the National Organization for Women (NOW). We have written a press release, which was printed in the last issue of the Memorandum raising the awareness of this issue. We have forwarded to our members on the internet a poll sent out by the MMOW organizers on what issues should be included in the March agenda. Our members did a great job encouraging the MMOW organizers to respect the diversity of the GLBT community by leaving abortion out of the March agenda.
It's time to step up our efforts. We are asking that you write a letter to the editor of your local GLBT publication to continue raising the awareness of this issue. The letter should not be written from PLAGAL, a national organization, but from Joe or Jane Smith from the neighborhood.
Having a letter to the editor from a local resident has a better chance of being published than ten of our press releases are, because it shows local interest in the subject matter. Many publications will be happy to print a letter to the editor because they hardly ever get them. We have included a sample letter. Feel free to copy this letter and add you name as the author or write your own letter. Either way there are a few points we ask that you follow:
I recently learned from the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (PLAGAL) that the Millennium March On Washington (MMOW) is considering adding abortion rights to the MMOW agenda in order to get the approval of the National Organization for Women (NOW).
The MMOW is about GLBT persons coming together for who we are to take a stand and be counted in our right to be treated as equals. It is offensive that the MMOW organizers would weaken the strength of that simple message by including abortion in the March agenda.
Abortion is an emotional and divisive issue. There are many GLBT persons, be they pro-choice or pro-life who have serious reservations about unrestricted abortion-on-demand and the adverse effect it may have on women and society. By including abortion in the MMOW agenda they are excluding us. Isn't the MMOW supposed to be an inclusive event? Why are the MMOW organizers allowing themselves to be strong-armed by NOW? If NOW really cared about GLBT issues, they would endorse the MMOW without imposing abortion as a litmus test for their support.
Let's preserve the integrity and broad appeal of the MMOW by keeping our focus GLBT issue not abortion.
Another Example from PLAGALite Sharone Belt
Hi there. I just wanted to bring this to your attention. The Milennium March on Washington 2000 is working on their platform. There are factions of the gay/lesbian/bi/trans community who are working to get "choice" into the platform as an issue in which the March would advocate for abortion rights along with other "privacy" issues relating to our community. I have written at least three letters to the board of the march to express my displeasure at the possibility of this issue becoming a platform item. Here is the correspondence PLAGALite Sharone Belt sent and the response.
To: Millenium March 2000 Board of Directors
Good day! I am writing to address the leadership board for the Millennium March on Washington concerning possible abortion rights support being included in the March's agenda. I would like to briefly express my opinion in this regard.
I am a member of the Metropolitan Community Church of Northern Virginia. I love the diversity and strength that my gay/lesbian/bi/trans family show. I am looking forward to the March because I think it's an important step in helping Americans come to grips with the idea that gay/lesbian/bi/trans people can be, and are, spiritual people who love their God. I think it will also help to "out" gay families so that America can understand better that we are just people like everyone else and not the stereotypical raincoat-clad weirdos that they seem to think we are.
My reason for opposing abortion rights being included in the March agenda is that I do not feel that abortion is an absolute right. I feel that it is something that has been made a choice for women by the courts in error. Obviously, I am in a minority on that, but that's how I feel. When I was living a "straight" life, I saw what abortion did to several of my friends and acquaintances. I also saw what having a "crisis" pregnancy end in a birth did. It is like night and day. I'm not saying that ALL women who have abortions become miserable, shame-filled people or that ALL women who have their babies are happy campers. What I am saying is that I believe that life begins at the moment of conception and that abortion is used far too often as an end to that life because of convenience. Are there situations in which women should be able to choose? Of course.
All I'm saying is that I know many in the gay/lesbian/bi/trans community are on the side of abortion rights and there are many who are on the side of life for unborn babies and their mothers. Why use a divisive issue such as this in an agenda for a march which is supposed to be, at it's core, inclusive? If we are going to be united in the fight for equality in the way we are treated, then we should not be also fighting for something that is not an equally inclusive issue.
I'm afraid that if abortion rights are included in the agenda, I will have to sit this one out. I hate to do that, but I cannot march for something I don't believe strongly in. Yes, I would be happy to march for equality for all people and yes, that is the main focus of the march, but I cannot support something that is even a minor focus when I don't agree.
I hope that you will take my thoughts into consideration when planning the agenda. I hope to help plan the March on the local level.
Thank you for your time.
Response received from MMOW2000:
No, no decision has been made on the final Platform for the March. We are in the midst of the Platform process -- for the first time ever every single member of our community has the opportunity to vote for the issues to be featured in the Platform. This balloting will continue through November 30. Ballots will be tallied promptly after that and the results released at that time. It tentatively appears that Privacy/Choice may be featured as an issue. This will mean different things to different people. To most respondents, it means keeping the government out of our bedrooms, removing anti-sodomy laws, removing government interferrence from our sexuality, etc. For others, this will be individually interpreted as abortion rights. In any event, March organizers are committed to keeping the focus of this March primarily on GLBT equal rights -- and not a variety of other social issues. I hope this is helpful.
ACLU OPPOSES NEW PROTECTION FOR INFANTS
In a recent newsletter, the ACLU reported:
"Update on New Reproductive Freedom Battle." Anti-choice members of Congress pushed ahead with their new battle over reproductive freedom today as the House Judiciary Committee approved and sent to the House floor legislation that that would create a new, separate offense to punish anyone who injures or causes the death of a fetus during the commission of certain federal crimes.
(For those of you who did not take action on this issue last week, we urge you to read on and contact your representative today! For the thousands of you who did send a fax, thank you for helping protect reproductive rights!)
The new bill, H.R. 2436, the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act," was drafted with the assistance of the National Right to Life Committee and introduced in early July by three staunch anti-choice representatives: Lindsey Graham, R-SC, Chris Smith, R-NJ, and Charles Canady, R-FL.
This ACLU believes that the bill represents a dangerous attempt to separate a woman from her fetus in the eyes of the law. By attempting to do so, the sponsors are trying to take the first step toward eroding a woman's right to determine the fate of her own pregnancy and to direct the course of her own health care.
Act Now! You can find out more and send a FREE FAX to your Representative from our action alert at: http://www.aclu.org/action/antichoice106.html
The following response was made by libertarian pro-lifer Matthew Berry:
It seems to me that they are far more interested in the protection of one choice than the other. I would hope that most reasonable people would realize that it is worse to kill a mother AND her unborn child than to kill a woman. Some people may think the ratio is 2 lives to 1; others may think it closer to 1.5 to 1 or 1.25 to 1, etc., but it rather escapes me how one could think that the two acts are of the same moral consequence. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to give an individual an additional penalty for injuring or killing a fetus as well.
If abortion rights advocates wish to discourage public support for their cause, they have come up with an excellent strategy. First, say that if a fetus slips out of the womb during a partial birth abortion, a doctor should be able to kill it (a view that is tantamount to an endorsement of infanticide). And now, stand up for the rights of those who wish to injure or kill others' fetuses . . .
Use the ACLU's fax line to send a message supporting this salutary measure to your Representatives and Senators in Congress. And while you are at it, thank Lindsey Graham and Chris Smith for protecting unborn children from those who would kill them.
The Membership Form -- always the last page of the PLAGAL Memorandum -- now contains space to order PLAGAL buttons, bumper stickers, T-Shirts, and flyers. Order Now!!
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