You may remember the great and terrible brouhaha that came down regarding the Romance Writers of America Oklahoma chapter Romance Writers Ink singling out LGBT entries as no longer accepted in their More Than Magic contest, a contest LGBT romances had won and placed well in during previous years. You may also remember RWA being uncomfortably quiet and cagey during the confusion.
They are quiet no longer. In the minutes from their March board meeting, RWA included are two items of particular note:
4. The Board approved adding anti-discrimination language to the Policies and Procedures Manual as follows: Membership shall not be denied to adults because of race, color, gender, age, religion, national origin, marital status, sexual preference, disability, or political affiliation.
5. The Board urges our chapters to make every effort to ensure that their contests and other services are inclusive. While RWA chapters are affiliated as individual corporations, and RWA Staff and Board are not involved in overseeing chapter contests and other programs, both Staff and Board are available to support and advise chapters on best practices.
Let me begin by making clear this is a huge step forward for RWA. An organization this large never moves with haste, and RWA has a long history of being conservative, not in political flavor particularly but in its desire to embrace change. The fact that this statement came so quickly and easily quite probably is in large part to the public attention the RWI/MTM issue received.
Would I like to see the definition go further? Oh yes. To start, I hope they change the word “preference” to “orientation” as it should be. I’d love to see RWA and everywhere else in the world put down in black and white that discrimination in any form will not be tolerated. I’d love to see equality protection emblazoned everywhere. But I also understand that organizations like RWA have legal entanglements that give new depth to the word “snarl.” I don’t know this for certain, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that RWA can’t legally constrain its chapters any further than the above two paragraphs, this might actually be as far as they can go. I can see the legal slippery slope, because that’s always how this goes. One clause nailed down doesn’t just open the door you wanted but thousands of others you didn’t know where there. Or maybe they could be that specific, but this is as far as they’re willing to go for now. We’ll likely never know any further details than those two paragraphs provide.
What I do know is that a lot of chapters and individuals will be upset by this, and not just RWI. Some will be upset that RWA made any nod towards accepting all orientations at all. Some will be upset they didn’t go far enough.
No matter what the background stories are, I know one thing for certain: this new language is a great step in the right direction. I’m grateful for swift action on the part of the national board and hope there is never need for any further discussion on the matter, that inclusion will be the new norm for all RWA chapters. I’m proud of RWA for exceeding my expectations and covering a great deal of my hopes on this issue and with an alacrity I did not anticipate. RWA, I am impressed, and I am grateful, and I am pleased.
Just as I did a few months ago, I encourage you to write the board and blog, only this time I hope you are writing in thanks. If you aren’t able to because in your mind RWA didn’t go far enough, I fully understand the deep and personal cuts on this issue. But I hope no matter what you are able to see that if nothing else this is a gigantic first step for a large, complicated, and I repeat, conservative organization. And as far as my chapter, Rainbow Romance Writers is concerned, this is a victory and an important one.
I hope with all my heart we never have to deal with this again, that this truly is some quiet new dawn. If not, we’ll be ready. But I’m going to enjoy this Pollyanna moment as much as possible. I hope you can too.