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Pride 2007: Out Now: Queers Out of the Closet, U.S. Out of Iraq!

By Katrina Plotz

Minneapolis, MN – Thousands gathered in Minneapolis, June 23-24, celebrating Twin Cities Pride, an annual two-day festival for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBTQ) community and their allies. The Anti-War Committee participated by staffing a table and marching in the parade under the banner “Out now: Queers out of the closet, U.S. out of Iraq!” The Anti-War Committee has always sought to make connections between the people’s struggles and Pride 2007 was no exception. Like the GLBT community, the Iraqi people are engaged in a struggle for liberation. Though their circumstances differ widely, queer people have at least two things in common with Iraqis: The oppression of both groups is used by politicians to divide people and both groups are expected to wait for recognition of their rights.

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the anti-war movement has grown and the Bush administration’s popularity has faded. The right wing has answered this with attacks on the queer community. They use the gay marriage issue to mobilize anti-gay voters in support of unpopular candidates and an unpopular war. This divides people who should be allies in the struggle for human needs, not war and greed. Just as anti-gay sentiment is used to divide Americans, the U.S. war on Iraq divides Iraqis. It forces them to either collaborate with foreign occupation or to join the resistance. Either way, they are risking their lives. The U.S. military deliberately inflames sectarian tensions and falsely labels the conflict a sectarian civil war, when it is actually a struggle for national liberation.

The U.S. occupation of Iraq has been a disaster for Iraqis for over four years. 655,000 Iraqis have been killed. Nearly four million Iraqis have fled their homes to other parts of Iraq or to neighboring countries. 60% of Iraqis are unemployed and one third of Iraqi children are malnourished. 82% of Iraqis strongly oppose the occupation and over 60% consider the U.S. military to be legitimate targets for violence. Less than 1% of Iraqis think that U.S. forces are responsible for any improvements in security. And 80% of Iraqis believe that their country is worse off now than under Saddam Hussein.

Just as gay Americans are told to wait for recognition of their civil rights, Iraqis are told to wait for justice as well. They have already endured over four years of war and occupation, but the Bush administration plans to perpetuate the war indefinitely. Even Democrats who claim to be against the war debate nonbinding timelines that would continue the war for 12 months or 18 months, while Iraqis and Americans are dying every day.

The Anti-War Committee believes the only just solution is, “Out now.” In confronting injustice, timelines are not acceptable. Should gay people have to wait for the right to marry the partner they love? Should they have to wait to benefit from all the privileges straight people enjoy? Should they wait to visit a dying loved one in the hospital? Queers deserve justice now just as Iraqis deserve self-determination now.

Waiting is familiar to all oppressed peoples who have struggled for liberation. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. had the following response to those who said the Civil Rights Movement should be more patient: “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’”

The Anti-War Committee plans to continue working with the broader peace movement to end the war and bring the troops out of Iraq now. “We will respond with unity in the face of division and exert a sense of urgency in demanding self-determination for the people of Iraq and equality for the queer community,” said the Anti-War Committee’s Tracy Molm. “Hollow promises and timelines aren’t enough. We need justice now.”

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