The inimitable Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), author of “Barney Frank: The Story of America’s Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman,” is perhaps the least likely U.S. politician to suffer the wrath of the American gay community. Yet that is precisely what happened just over two weeks ago when Frank derided the National Equality March as a worthless exercise doomed to futility. “The only thing they’re going to be putting pressure on,” Frank blared, “is the grass.” These comments are indicative of an emerging split in the leadership of the gay rights movement. Those in Frank’s camp cast themselves as wise pragmatists, who are cognizant of political realities and willing to work closely with President Obama’s administration to achieve realizable victories in the near term. For example, Frank has refused to add his name as a co-sponsor of a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. He sees this effort as a distraction because it has little chance of passing in the near future. The Human Rights Campaign, a lead gay rights organization that Obama addressed on the eve of the march, also leans toward this approach. On the other hand, many other LGTBQ leaders and activists, especially from the younger generation dubbed “Stonewall 2.0,” are frustrated by the lethargy in Washington and frightened by the prospect that Republican gains in the 2010 midterm elections could close a window of opportunity for progress. The overwhelming success of the National Equality March – 75,000 Americans marched from the White House to the Capitol – clearly demonstrated where the heart of the movement lies. But should the heart be trusted? Or is emotion perilously dictating strategy? The swift and unexpected advance of gay marriage this year in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine (pending voters’ approval on Nov. 3) and Iowa makes it possible to see issues like hate-crime legislation and employment nondiscrimination as relatively insignificant. But it was just this month that the House approved the first gay rights legislation in U.S. history. A repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and even a reversal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy still face tremendous political hurdles. It is far from clear, however, that pushing forcefully and visibly for a comprehensive gay-rights agenda imperils current legislative efforts. In fact, a more demanding agenda makes it more likely that Congress will act on these efforts. It would be one thing if the marchers utterly ignored hate crimes legislation and short-term victories. Without backup from progressives in the face of critics, some members of Congress might see only a downside in casting a yea vote. That said, the National Equality March agenda endorsed a platform demanding measures likely to be achieved soon and others with a more distant timeline. Furthermore, the march featured speakers who focused specifically on legislation like the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Some commentators believe that the administration is worried that, should it make a move on gay rights, the gay community would not be vocal enough in its praise to dispel the outcry from critics. If the president would truly ignite a fierce, extensive and influential wave of opposition after acting on, say, DADT – and polls show he probably wouldn’t – a forceful show of support from the LGTBQ community would be unlikely to mute the ferocity of the opposition. Regardless, the National Equality March and the approach it embodied put to rest this excuse for inaction and timidity. Another key reason not to adopt the quiet, behind-the-scenes approach is that it boxes in the movement as just another interest group. In Washington, interest groups are made to wait their turn, and this is the case more than ever today. With the arrival of the post-Bush Democratic majority, every progressive cause is clamoring to be first in line. But there is a marked difference between policy reform and fundamental human rights. If Congressional allies of the gay-rights case better understand this distinction, swift action would be more likely. Yet the importance of this approach is not limited to the realm of politics. Policymakers too easily forget that openly gay Americans do not constitute the entirety of the gay community. Closeted men and women represent a silent constituency desperately in need of reassurance and a foundation for courage. Persistent and visible activism is a key mechanism for meeting this need. The community of LGBTQ Americans and allies present at the National Equality March does not conform to Frank’s caricature of them as politically naïve simpletons. They understand the political climate, but they understand, too, that in the fight for equal rights, the role of the oppressed is not the diplomat or dealmaker. Rather, the role of the activist is to ensure that compromises in substance or timing, should they have to be made, are not made easy. Sam Harbourt is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at harbourtthehoya.com. The Pragmatic Progressive appears every other Monday at www.thehoya.com. *To send a letter to the editor on a recent campus issue or Hoya story or a viewpoint on any topic, contact [opinionthehoya.com](opinionthehoya.com). Letters should not exceed 300 words, and viewpoints should be between 600 to 800 words.*

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