Tuesday, October 30, 2007

MassEquality's Future: Beyond Rediculous

It's beyond rediculous that people even have to read about MassEquality's future. Isn't the answer obvious? Unless Massachusetts suddenly and quietly reached full equality over the past 24 hours and I missed it, paying too much attention to the World Series, this discussion should be over: glbt people need help, let's do what's necessary to help them. Yet, I was perusing boston.com before I went to bed - and what do I read? Globe staff-writer Lisa Wangsness's article about MassEquality's future in yesterday's paper.

There isn't much in it that I didn't explore in my LeftAhead chat weeks ago with MassEquality's Executive Director, Marc Solomon. However, there's one annoying hiccup that's putting MassEquality's future at stake (and, by extension, glbt people across Massachusetts). Apparently, some MassEquality board members who also represent other glbt organizations are afraid (jealous?) of MassEquality working on a broader scope of issues - you know, their pet issues. I could rant about that line of thought for ages, but I'll keep it short: it's petty, stupid and will prevent key members of the movement from gaining important rights. Brilliant!

If GLBT organizations in Massachusetts are worried about having more than one non-profit working on similar issues, fine. While I think that's beyond silly (ever hear of the expression, 'don't put all your eggs in one basket?'), I can live with it. However, we have a MassEquality brand name that's become incredibly credible within Beacon Hill politics. They're able to get people into every legislator's office with plenty of stories, putting a human face to issues that matter. MassEquality can raise the cash necessary to run expensive, state-wide campaigns. In short, MassEquality can do things that literally no other state-wide glbt organization can do - and there are board members that want to kill it? Talk about shooting your own feet.

Let's get rational. There are lots of other great glbt organizations out there that can do different things that MassEquality perhaps shouldn't get involved in, but no organization (perhaps even outside of glbt politics) is better at doing what MassEquality clearly excels at in the Bay State: lobbying for civil rights. Doesn't it make sense to keep MassEquality around to work on legislative issues - to be the unofficial go-to guys when we need to lobby on important glbt rights and bills? MassEquality built relationships that will last. They know who to talk to. People can't buy that kind of expertise; it takes time and energy that may never be reproduced on glbt issues again (what else will galvanize the community in Massachusetts like marriage equality did?). At the very least, MassEquality can help other organizations help themselves by showing them the legislative ropes and working with other organizations as allies.

Smaller organizations need not concern themselves about stepping on each other's feet. It almost sounds like they're worried about a wide stance. They should open up their bathroom stalls and realize that we need more organizations demanding all of the protections necessary to bring us to equality, not less or the same. In other states across the country, large, state-wide organizations excel at working together with smaller, sister and brother non-profits, helping them succeed in ways they otherwise wouldn't. Perhaps Massachusetts is different - more petty, divisive, uncooperative, afraid and jealous? That certainly sounds like Beacon Hill.

The status quo clearly isn't working beyond marriage equality. Trying to push aside the one organization that was more successful in changing our status than any other in this state would be a severe waste of time, counterproductive and unacceptable to the tens of thousands that are counting on equal rights and protections. MassEquality's role may be different in the future, but the glbt movement inside Massachusetts can't afford to live without them, at least on Beacon Hill.

There's plenty more on this issue that I'll tackle later in the day, especially Arline Isaacson's role in all of this (sadly, her view doesn't jive with mine), as well as Susan Ryan-Vollmer's excellent open letter to the MassEquality Board, illustrating just how MassEquality and all of the state's glbt organizations could work together and achieve widespread results that would otherwise be improbable, at best. However, that'll have to wait until the morning.


Mark D. Snyder said...

I worry that all the "expertise" this organization has is being over hyped, and the idea that we "need them" is overhyped too.

W shouldn't forget they are a really new organization and there are lobbyists and orgs who have been here long before massequality.

We should also not forget that massequality's own coalition is very frustrated with them.

And we should not forget that the organization is spending 100,000 a month while at the same time asking "what should we do, what should we do" instead of having a plan in place, and actually asking what the community's needs are.

Something is wrong about the picture to me. But I certainly dont have the answers.

Ryan Adams said...

Well, what I think MassEquality has proven good at is dealing with Beacon Hill. They've gained necessary trust with legislators and constituents that exists as something we can build off of. I see it as the "nice guys" who represent our carrots.

We don't really have a large, state-wide stick, to complete the metaphor. It would be nice if we could create a larger, more daring movement that was a little more organized than what exists now. Employing different types of methods has worked well in the past (ie SNCC vs. SLCL) and I'm sure would work well in the future.

Furthermore, I recognize there are plenty of other, great organizations out there - ones that existed before them, even. However, none of them managed to become what MassEquality succeeded in being: the unofficial go-to guys that were capable of leading a fight. We need that type of thing, just like we need other, smaller organizations too. Just because MassEquality was extremely important in the marriage equality fight, doesn't mean there weren't other groups that, collectively, were perhaps even more essential. The more, the merrier.

Mark D. Snyder said...

What if the queer community is united behind a really progressive candidate but MEQ feels they owe it to a pro-marriage, anti-choice, anti-immigrant, pro-war candidate to support them for their previous support of marriage?

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