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Monday, December 20, 2010

Media Matters to Launch Equality "War Room"

Richard Socarides

On December 19, the New York Times reported that Media Matters for America is lauching Equality Matters, a new media and communications initiative in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality.

The Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote:
As gay people around the country reveled on Sunday in the historic Senate vote to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a liberal media watchdog group said it planned to announce on Monday that it was setting up a "communications war room for gay equality" in an effort to win the movement's next and biggest battle: for a right to same-sex marriage.
The new group, Equality Matters, grew out of Media Matters, an organization backed by wealthy liberal donors -- including prominent gay philanthropists -- that has staked its claim in Washington punditry with aggressive attacks on Fox News and conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.
It will be run by Richard Socarides, a former domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton who has been deeply critical of President Obama's record on gay rights. A well-known gay journalist, Kerry Eleveld, the Washington correspondent for The Advocate, will leave that newspaper in January to edit the new group's Web site,, which is to go online Monday morning.
"Yesterday was a very important breakthrough," Mr. Socarides said in an interview on Sunday, "and President Obama's comments, especially following the vote, were very significant, where he for the first time connected race and gender to sexual orientation under the banner of civil rights.
"But we will celebrate this important victory for five minutes, and then we have to move on, because we are the last group of Americans who are discriminated against in federal law and there is a lot of work to do."

Mr. Obama signed the hate crimes bill into law last year, and he is expected to sign the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal before he leaves for Hawaii this week, although he and military leaders face additional steps before the actual reversal of the policy.
But the nondiscrimination and marriage bills are stalled on Capitol Hill, and now that Republicans are about to take over the House and increase their numbers in the Senate, it is widely agreed that the political climate for gay rights in Washington is about to worsen.
For the gay rights movement, the right to marry is the holy grail, because so many other benefits -- including Social Security and health benefits for gay partners, adoption rights, tax benefits and others -- flow from it.

While a range of groups are working to advance gay rights, the movement has lacked a national rapid-response war room of the sort that can push back against homophobic messages in the media and the political arena and keep the pressure on elected officials, said David Mixner, a gay author and activist.
"I think the lesson we have learned over the last two years is that you've got to be tough," Mr. Mixner said, "and you've got to keep people's feet to the fire."
The organizers of Equality Matters say that is their intent. Mr. Socarides and the founder of Media Matters, David Brock, said they began planning Equality Matters several months ago. They quickly persuaded Ms. Eleveld, who covered the Obama campaign and has covered Washington for the last two years, to join them.
"I've spent the past two years with a front-row seat to history, and the longer I sat there the more I felt drawn to participating," Ms. Eleveld said in an interview.

Equality Matters, Mr. Brock said, should "expose right-wing bigotry and homophobia wherever we find it" and "stiffen the spines of progressives." That, he said, did not change with the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."


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