March to Fight the Right's Hate NOW

by Diane Minor

The Fight the Right March will be an unprecedented moment in U.S. politics. For the first time ever, women, people of color, lesbians, gays and bisexuals, labor activists and the poor are uniting to say that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.

And the most violent of those attacks are sure to shock anyone out of their complacency:

"We face common enemies who use common tactics to try to make us forget not only our common history and daily reality, but our common vision for the future," said NOW President Patricia Ireland.

Most visible among those enemies in recent months is the crop of Republican presidential candidates. One columnist calls the moderates among them "yellow" for their refusal to take a principled stand against the religious right wing, which exerts tremendous power in the party's primaries.

Extremist Pat Buchanan is selling a seductive message of protecting jobs while at the same time vowing to be "the most pro-life president in the history of the United States."

Buchanan and two other candidates appeared in person in front of 3,000 people at a right wing church to take a pledge to oppose same-sex marriages. Every other candidate except Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., sent letters of support for the pledge.

Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., in his capacity as Senate majority leader, is second only to California Gov. Pete Wilson in leading the charge against affirmative action. He is co-sponsor of a bill that would deprive women and people of color of a shot at lucrative federal contracts. One Boston carpenter said the only union jobs she's gotten have been due to affirmative action under federal contracts.

Right wingers in Congress used an analogy comparing poor women to alligators and wolves. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said eah welfare mother should have her own laptop computer. "Great, I can sell it to pay this month's rent," one welfare right's ally said.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, says a Congress with only 10 percent women members has gotten "too fem-centric." And who can forget when Armey referred to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. -- one of only three out gay men in Congress -- as "Barney Fag," then tried to excuse it as a slip of the tongue.

Candidates and members of Congress are playing up to our fiercest opponents -- the radical right's leaders and groups: the two Pats, Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson; their offspring, Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition; the right wing think (sic) tanks; and the well-heeled anti-feminists.

While their rhetoric incites the violence we face, their own deeds impose another form of brutality.

Congress also has voted to ban a rare abortion procedure that may be the safest, most effective procedure for some women who face threats to their life and health late in a pregnancy.

And in the most under-handed attack of all, Congress passed a sweeping new telecommunications law that would, among other things, criminalize the dissemination of some abortion-related information over the Internet or via courier services.

(Even though the Justice Department promises not to enforce the provision, NOW may join a lawsuit challenging it. Meanwhile, Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., plans to try to repeal it.)

Congress is not alone in chipping away at equal opportunities for people without access to traditional forms of political power. Two recent decisions by a Supreme Court stacked with Reagan-Bush appointees have broadsided affirmative action. The court will soon issue other major decisions on cases dealing with lesbian and gay rights and women's access to state-funded military education.

At the state level, fears that Hawaii's Supreme Court will approve of same-sex marriages are spurring 18 states to draft laws refusing to recognize those marriages. Despite NOW's strong role in defeating an anti-lesbian and gay ballot measure in Maine last fall, two other states -- Idaho and Oregon -- may try to pass similar measures this year.

Anti-affirmative action ballot measures are threatened in six states, with California paving the way by already eliminating programs in its university system.

"It's obvious that we need to stand together for pragmatic reasons -- because we need our combined strength to fend off the attacks against us by the same forces," said NOW President Patricia Ireland. "They don't want us to look up the economic ladder to realize where the true disparities in wealth and income lie, but rather to look across and scapegoat each other.

"We will also stand together out of a sense of principled idealism," she said, "because it is the right thing to do, as we have asserted each time we have stood together before for one of our individual issues. In fact, the vehemence and viciousness we face is an ironic measure of our progress."

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