Wednesday, June 17, 2009
by Wayne Besen
A debate is raging on whether to have a national gay March on Washington
in October. Most leaders I have spoken with are against the idea, preferring to keep scarce financial and human resources in the states. Others, such as myself, are largely ambivalent. A galvanizing force, however, is giving new life to this idea and his name is Barack Obama.
The President is in serious danger
of motivating a huge mass of gay people to stream into Washington for the simple joy of standing in front of the White House and giving him a piece of their minds. This frustration
may lead to an embarrassing situation for the President, where former supporters mount the largest anti-Obama pep rally not fronted by Sarah Palin.
Today, an array of GLBT leaders expressed their dismay
with the President by pulling out of
a Democratic National Committee fundraiser. The action is in protest of a noxious legal brief submitted by the Department of Justice. It implausibly defended the heinous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by using anti-gay arguments that likely drew a standing ovation from Rev. Pat Robertson.
DOJ's paper included a comparison of gay relationships to incest and opposed same-sex relationships on the absurd basis that it would cost taxpayers money (Don't gay people pay taxes?). HRC also sent
a pointed letter to Obama
highlighting the betrayal felt by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
"I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument, presented in federal court, implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones," wrote HRC's President, Joe Solmonese.
The deteriorating situation is exacerbated by confusion about who will push for equality. The Obama administration claims to be awaiting congressional action on a number of issues, including ending employment discrimination, eliminating DOMA and repealing Don't Ask/Don't Tell. Meanwhile, Senate majority leader Harry Reid
is waiting for Obama to act, as well as the House of Representatives. The GLBT community has become a hot potato that the Democrats do not seem to want to touch.
Aggravating matters was John Berry, the highest-ranking gay official in the administration. In an interview
with The Advocate, he said that Obama's timetable to enact his pro-gay campaign promises is "before the sun sets on this administration." So, now we have to wait 4-8 years, while watching him suck up to Rick Warren on Day 1?
For what seemed like forever, Democrats told us that when the big bad Republicans went away, our lives would improve. Well, the Republican nightmare is over, so why do I still feel like I'm in the middle of a political Friday the 13th movie?
The Democrats took our money, our votes and our volunteer hours and now they tell us to wait patiently, like good little gays. As far as I'm concerned, if the donkeys can't deliver now, they can kiss my ass. The Democrats run the show in Washington and if they will not act like a majority party, then they do not deserve to be one.
This is not about making unreasonable policy demands, but about the Democrats recognizing the daily struggles faced by gay people. A new report
by The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs said, "violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people increased 2% from 2007 to 2008, continuing the trend of a 24% total increase in 2007."
Yesterday, I read about
a lesbian who was barred from visiting her partner in a Fresno hospital, and as a result her partner received the wrong medication. Last week, I was in conservative Western Michigan where I spoke to young people who were nearly driven to suicide as a result of anti-gay attitudes.
We need a president who recognizes these evils and demonstrates the courage and leadership to enact the change he so eloquently promised during his campaign.
If Obama continues down the current path it will come at a steep price. When Bill Clinton settled for Don't Ask/Don't Tell, it solidified the growing perception that he was "Slick Willie." By turning his back on the gay community, Obama will play into the idea, stoked by Hillary Clinton and exploited by John McCain, that he is a man of beautiful, yet empty words.
What Obama fails to understand is that when poetry does not translate into policy, and hope turns hollow, the American people will begin to tune him out.
I'm still undecided about the wisdom of a march on Washington, but I am decidedly fed up with my political "friends" marching all over my dignity and taking my support for granted. If the majority party does not cough up the votes to protect our families, we should close down our generous coffers.Update:
Today, Obama will sign
a presidential memorandum to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, but he will stop short of pledging full health insurance coverage.
This is a good start. Of course, the health care thing is perplexing, as gay people have been known to come down with colds too. However, let's not be ungrateful. Thank you Mr. President
for this wise step. We do appreciate it and your action today has not gone unnoticed.
That said, we are not satisfied. If you agree that we are human beings and American citizens - than why should we not share in equal rights and be able to protect our families - just like anyone else? Why must we have any laws on the books that single out GLBT people and discriminate? Why not work in a swift manner to end discrimination and have it be your legacy? Why must another day pass where we are second class citizens?
Mr. President, we know you are capable of greatness. You are already an historic figure and a man of enormous achievements. We want to celebrate your administration and help reelect you.
But, the time has come to move beyond the campaign trail and do what is moral and just. We are watching and waiting and we hope we can celebrate you as the fierce advocate that you portrayed yourself as to gain our support.
There is still much work to be done.