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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
November 18, 2005

Reclaim the moral high ground, LGBT conference is told

Oakland, Calif.--�We must say over and over and over again, simply, directly and unambiguously, that anti-gay, anti-lesbian, anti-bisexual and anti-transgender discrimination in all its forms is immoral,� said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, at the group�s Creating Change conference.

The annual LGBT activists� convention was held November 9 to 13 in Oakland, California. It moves to a different city each year.

Covering an array of topics related to LGBT equality, the event started off with a pre-conference �faith institute� organized by the National Religious Leadership Roundtable program of the NGLTF.

�Empowering People of Faith to Create Change� began the recurring theme of the conference, retaking the moral high ground on LGBT issues from the religious conservatives.

One of the workshops held at the conference, for instance, dealt with conservatives using the issue of same-sex marriage to pit African Americans against the LGBT community.

�One of the seeds of oppression is to accept the values of the oppressor,� said Rev. Phil Lawson, a United Methodist minister and activist whose efforts date back to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

�The civil rights movement of the 1960s was not about �rights,� which are individual, but about the creation of a beloved community, which benefits everyone,� he said.

While Lawson urged dialogue and personal relationships with conservatives to create a �transformation,� Foreman also said that the tactics many on the far right are using must be countered.

�The sad and appalling reality is that they wield enormous influence over public policy, with Karl Rove in the White House vetting through them everything from HIV prevention policies to the nomination of Supreme Court Justices,� he said in his keynote speech. �The sad and appalling reality is that the president caters to them, and prays with them.�

�They together have the gall to wrap all of this in �moral values.� And we can�t pretend like their tactics and this unholy alliance are not working,� he noted.

Foreman also stressed the need to stop viewing referenda as simple political contests that can be won or lost.

�This--putting the rights of a minority up for a popular vote--is always wrong. This is not democracy. This is the tyranny of the majority, and it�s immoral,� he said.

Helen Zia, an Asian-American author and activist, criticized the far right�s tendency to denounce its detractors as evil.

�Ever since the great fundamentalist unleashing of �evil� calling and �evil� naming, I�ve known that I must be �evil� too,� she said. �I�m against war, against torture, against the demonization of immigrant and queer communities. I think government secrecy is a form of tyranny. I�m for human rights and full personhood for all without the threat of violence or repression from the state.�

�I�m a queer person of color who got married to my partner last year in San Francisco and now the Christian right wants the Constitution to ban us,� she continued. �So I am very �evil�.�

Seeing first-hand the intersection of racism and heterosexism, Zia urged, �Our struggles are all connected, and the harder it is to see the link, the more the state wants to keep us separate - and so we must work even harder at making that link.�

�Creating change doesn�t always happen in a straight line. There are zigs and zags, so we must take good care of each other,� she concluded.



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