Friday, August 18, 2006

Gay Friendlier Than Thou?

On the positive side, whether Deval Patrick or Chris Gabrieli is Democratic Party nominee for governor, the GLBT public wins. Both candidates are unequivocally for gay rights, same-sex marriage and other key issues.

The downside leading to the primary next month is the sniping in the GLBT community. It is certain to divide loyalties and split votes for the primary.

The latest weapon is Patrick's service on the board of United Airlines' parent company, UAL, Inc. Bay Windows fired first with a strong piece favoring those who support other candidates accusing Patrick of looking the other way on a key gay issue. Today's Boston Globe follow-up on that adds a little detail.

The basics are:
  • As a board member, Patrick joined in 1997, while UAL fought a City of San Francisco demand that it offer domestic-partner benefits, which would have benefited gay couples.
  • When it came to the board for action in 1999, Patrick agreed that financially troubled UAL should fight the demand to keep from having individual cities dictate personal policy in each.
  • UAL lost this issue in federal court.
  • Patrick led the effort to have UAL offer company-wide domestic-partner benefits in 1999, which it did.
Disclaimer: I endorsed Deval Patrick for governor nearly three months ago.

Cred Note: Corporate management is part of my background. This includes a management degree, being the editor of a large handbook for corporate directors, years of writing about management and business for magazines, and service on non-profit (but not large corporation) boards.

Understandably, Patrick supporters and others can say he was in the trenches fighting the fight. There was a short-term loss and long-term gain. The other candidates talk much and do little.

The other side is ready to worry this like a puppy with a sock. Grrrrr.

Reilly supporter, Rep. Cheryl Coakley Rivera said, "He is hiding behind the law to discriminate." She is a lesbian, a Democrat and from Reilly's hometown of Springfield.

Out West, Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, said, "People who feel passionately about things will resign from boards they disagree with." He was one of the authors of the San Francisco ordinance that UAL fought.

"I don't think Patrick can have it both ways, which is to tout his position on civil rights as a board member and duck this issue," stated Gabrieli support and gay-rights activist Mary Breslauer.

Besides the actual results he got, Patrick has been forced to speak out on this. From our view, this is good. He has not defended himself vigorously enough so far in this campaign. We don't believe that Massachusetts voters will distinguish between real criticisms and slander and rumor by themselves.

Patrick claimed that the UAL board had a "rigorous debate" about the ordinance and that he urged the company to change its view. He says that he "advocated for -- successfully -- that we provide these benefits companywide...The good thing about this whole controversy is it raised a serious policy question. And on the policy question the board got it right, and I'm proud about that."

So, we have to ask at what point do you put your marbles in the sack and go home? Voters have to judge for themselves whether it would have been better for Patrick to walk away from UAL over the ordinance fight or stick around and go for the infrastructure change.

Of course, because he won in the end, Patrick can say he did the right thing. Clearly there are people like Kors who can't forgive him for how he got there.

Oddly enough, the other two Dem candidates have had their shots at such battles. Reilly has largely pulled the Nuremberg (only following orders) defense on his inaction or malice on SSM cases and ballot initiatives. Gabrieli on the other hand has opened his checkbook for rights and SSM causes. Even though some legislators downplay his role, he did actively lobby in favor of SSM. He has some credentials and as a result standing in the GLBT political community.

In the next few weeks, this latest spat may be just more spit and spite. Patrick lovers say he was in the belly of the beast, fought the good fight and emerged with a gay-rights victory. His haters (or just lovers of another candidate) say he was hypocritical on rights.

Patrick folk can borrow Gabrieli's slogan, rights matter. If that's so, they should walk away quietly from this one. There are those who say and those who do.

Recommended Reading: After this post, I saw that Ryan's Take has a lengthy analysis of the Globe's hacking at Patrick, peppered with some of Ryan's best ranting. Good stuff.

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Mark D. Snyder said...

I am 100% deval supporter but...

Patrick does need to come out fighting stronger against all of these recent attacks.

I am also dissapointed by his ads. They are not strong enough nor do they have enough substance. Chris's ads seem more affective.

Anonymous said...

I've opined many times before, Deval has never told us what his roll was or wasn't in federal Defense of Marriage Act. Was he duking it out 'in the belly of th beast' that time only to lose? Or was he supportive of his friend Bill Clinton's move? Voters have the right to know.

Anonymous said...

I've opined many times before, Deval has never told us what his roll was or wasn't in federal Defense of Marriage Act. Was he duking it out 'in the belly of th beast' that time only to lose? Or was he supportive of his friend Bill Clinton's move? Voters have the right to know.

massmarrier said...

That's a better question, and more to the point considering his role in Willy's gang. I thought I was the only one who didn't forgive Clinton for that pandering move that has hurt so many and encouraged the Dark Side.

Good question. Maybe I can find out.

Ryan said...

Can I just say I'm sick of the Boston Globe printing this mud. He was on the board in 1999 - and they're just printing this trash now?

If they want an article criticing a "gay rights supporter," why don't they go print something on Tom Reilly... who both was late to the game in support of gay marriage and failed miserably in defending our ballot process from fraud by anti-gay rights groups.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ryan that the Globe's coverage is uneven. However, it is still fair and important to ask tight-lipped pols what they were doing when, and why.

Anonymous said...

I haven't decided yet between Patrick or Gabrieli, though I'm leaning toward the latter.

Patrick has seemed to me since the beginning of his campaign to be rather pie in the sky. I support his general vision, but it comes across at times as a checklist of progressive boilerplate without substance. So many people whose opinions I respect are fired up with enthusiasm for his candidacy, but it just hasn't caught fire with me.

So the UAL incident sort of hits at a sore spot. Where's the demonstrated leadership and passionate commitment that backs up the rhetoric? It may indeed be there somewhere, but I haven't seen it yet.

Ryan said...

Are you kidding, Worldcitizen? You just totally took the bait.

Where was the committment? HE GOT THE COMPANY TO CHANGE IT'S ENTIRE STANDARD. In great part because of Deval, United now gives *everyone* the same benifits - gay or straight.

When did the policy change? Almost as soon as the San Francisco case came to the board, in 1999. If anything, this story should have been a major positive one for Patrick - but the Globe twisted and distorted it to no end.

Anonymous said...

The policy changed only after UAL lost their federal court case--after fighting San Francisco for two years to avoid offering DP benefits. Patrick served on the board during this time and personally approved of the continued legal fight, according to his own quotes in the Globe.

So how exactly does he deserve credit for changing the policy? "He was only defending abstract legal principle, but he personally supported equal rights all along" is what Tom Reilly's supporters say about him, too, right?

Look, I like Patrick. I just haven't seen that he's quite the shining hero that some people want to believe he is. You're making me attack him in this case (when I have no particular desire to) by inisting on a really odd interpretation of the UAL story.

massmarrier said...

He was their affirmative-action guy. He says that he immediately campaigned for a companywide policy for partnership benefits. I have no reason not to believe it. UAL went his way and nobody says otherwise. It sounds to be like lose a battle, win a war. That's often the case with big boards of directors.

Nudging such elephants is not often easy. When I see a statement like if you don't agree with a single position, you need to quit the board, I wonder what kind of sheltered world the speaker inhabits.

This one is very believable to me.