'shOUT Speaker First of Two on Gay Rights

by Greg Slisz '10

March 18, 2009

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Jon Hoadley, the Executive Director of National Stonewall Democrats, lectured Tuesday night about the necessity of a liberal political framework in order to achieve gay rights.  Tonight, radio talk show host Tammy Bruce will give a contrasting talk.

"I think that a liberal framework, coupled with partisanship, is the only way that [gay, lesbians and transgendered people] are going to be able to achieve the political gains that we need to have full equality under the law," Hoadley said.

Hoadley’s lecture, "The Only Way:  How Liberal Ideology and Collective Action Will Bring about Real Change and Equality for All," explained not only the necessity for a liberal political framework, but also outlined the crucial relationship between political partisanship and ideology.  "Throughout civil rights action, you need someone to force these ideologies into place, so we can’t clearly separate the ideology that occurs from the partisanship," Hoadley said. "The individual becomes an inappropriate actor to solve these social problems.  This is why we need a partisan actor to take care of them."

As the current Executive Director of the National Stonewall Democrats, a GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender) grassroots organization for change within the Democratic Party, Hoadley said anti-gay violence and legislation are still very present in society.  He mentioned that nine out of ten gay high school students reported getting harassed verbally or physically on a daily basis, and that in 30 states, there are no laws protecting employees from termination due to sexual orientation.  Hoadley explained that harassment and discrimination can have a substantial effect on a person’s right to equal opportunities.

 "When someone hates a group of people, or they feel like they are superior based on race, based on gender, based on sexual orientation, based on gender identity, those essentially are irrational thoughts. And so when you talk about what happens when people impose their stereotypes and beliefs on a  group of people, then that is transposed onto an individual. So when we talk about the ability for an individual to succeed or fail in American society, unfortunately you’re working against a set of stereotypes.  We’re not all starting in the same spot."

While explaining the close relationship between partisanship and ideology, Hoadley promoted a liberal ideology as the philosophy of an ever-evolving America. He presented a stark contrast, as he stated that conservative ideology was "based on myth," whereas liberal ideology was "based on contracts between humans and human behavior.

 "Idealized policies are not always in the best interest of what humans do, and how we as a social creature behave."

He even cited a specific example of previous conservative sex education that consisted only of abstinence.  That, he said, led to increases in STDs and teenage pregnancy.  "We had this goal of what we wanted to achieve in our policy [of sex education], but it wasn’t made for people’s behavior," said Hoadley.  "And a lot of teenagers, well, they apparently had a lot of behavior."

Hoadley emphasized that the liberal framework was necessary because it was the only one that would work to solve social problems and improve people’s lives, especially in terms of civil rights. "The goal is that we want to end violence against gay lesbian bisexual transgender people.  We want to make sure that we have full-circle protection under the law and in our culture and community. We need to be using government for good, and I think that the ideology of conservatism that tries to limit government point of view is inherently moving us in the wrong direction because unfortunately when people act out of bigotry or hatred, it’s not about an individual succeeding or failing, it’s about targeting a group of people.  Only if we tackle the problems as a group will we get where we want to go."

In addition to sharing his political views, Hoadley also was impressed with the open discourse present at Wabash. "I think having conversations about why we think the way we think and the values that we hold are really critical in terms of moving the political conversation forward so that we’re not stuck in the way that things have always been," Hoadley said.  "I think it’s great that Wabash encourages that kind of conversation."

Last night’s lecture will likely become part of an even bigger campus discussion.  Tonight, Tammy Bruce will give a contrasting lecture explaining how conservative ideology can empower gays.  The lecture is sponsored by the Wabash Conservative Union.  In the spirit of open discussion, several members of the Wabash Conservative Union attended Hoadley’s speech. 

Junior Adam Brasich, a member of the Conservative Union, found Hoadley’s talk informative, even if he didn’t agree with all of it. "I was very impressed with his talk. He was obviously a Democrat and he was partisan, but he didn’t spend all this time bashing Republicans talking about how we’re bigots or things like that," Brasich said. "He talked a lot about philosophy and how he thought his philosophy was the best option.  I still disagree with him, but I respect his position more."

Hoadley’s lecture was sponsored by the ‘shOUT Club.

 


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