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Monday, October 12, 2009

HAVING THE QUEERS TO TEA, PART II

Well, gangers, it’s official. President Obama is now on record that he is going to END DADT. Yuppers, I DO believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, IDOIDO.

President Obama told a gay rights group Saturday at a $250 a plate dinner that he will end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars openly homosexual people from U.S. military service. "I will end 'don't ask, don't tell'; that is my commitment," Obama said. "I'm here with you in that fight." The president added that there are "still laws to change and hearts to open." Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that he’s actually GOING to do anything. The Human Right Campaign hasn’t exactly been a friend of the B and T ends of that spectrum, either.

President Obama addressed 3,000 people at a Human Rights Campaign fundraising dinner in Washington, the Los Angeles Times reported. He also said he wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to withhold recognition of same-sex marriages contracted in states where they are legal. So, why isn’t he following in The Governator’s footsteps? California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill commemorating Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician elected to public office in the state, a spokesman for the governor said Monday. He also put into place recognition of gay marriages that have been performed in other states.

So, why isn’t the President doing more for us, the GLBT citizens of the United States?

President Obama patted himself on the back for his party’s passage earlier in the week of a hate-crimes bill that, for the first time, includes gay and transgender people. He also used the opportunity to tell gay critics who have expected so much of him to express what he expects of them. The hate-crimes bill, he said, had become law only because those who believed in it had thoroughly educated the public about why it was important. “Countless activists and organizers never gave up,” he said. “You held vigils. You spoke out year after year, Congress after Congress.” Well, President Obama is right, in a civics-class sort of way, because social change can’t occur if it’s forced from the top-down. Unfortunately, that’s also a convenient argument for him, since it defers responsibility from his office.
“Obama lost me,” said Zach Rosen, 28, who came to Washington from Philadelphia. “He took a lot of gay dollars and gay votes, and then it was like Clinton - unkept promises.” The difference here between the two Presidents, of course, is that Bill Clinton betrayed us all with DADT and DOMA, while smilingly insisting that “now isn’t the time”. President Obama hasn’t done that – yet. “I am disappointed, and I am frustrated,” said Cleve Jones, 54, a former aide to gay rights leader Harvey Milk, the San Francisco supervisor shot to death in City Hall in 1978. Jones, speaking before the president’s address, said he continues to support Obama, but “my sense is there is growing concern and apprehension that he is not going to deliver.”

He and others are disheartened not only by what they perceive as the President’s glacial pace, but by the one-step-forward, one-step-backward progress on the state level. Their Exhibit A is California’s Proposition 8, which halted same-sex marriages after they had been permitted by the state Supreme Court. Now activists promise to exert a new push for more rights with respect to marriage, adoption, the workplace, immigration and other realms.
To many gay rights activists, including me, President Obama has sent mixed signals since he took office in January. Blow hot, blow cold – and never, EVER upset the Religious Reichians©! NEVER upset the ReThugs! NEVER! And that big stick, the majorities that the Democratic Party enjoys in both houses of government? What GOOD are they if they aren’t utilized?

Activists were rankled when the conservative Rev. Rick Warren, a high-profile backer of Proposition 8 and founder of Orange County’s Saddleback Church, gave the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration. Eight months later, the president has gotten good marks for appointing gays and lesbians to administration posts, such as John Berry, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; and Fred Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank. He got the best people that he could for the jobs at hand, and that they are all GLBT citizens is good. No, it’s great – but is it enough?
On Thursday of last week, the House passed a bill that would broaden the federal hate-crime law to cover violence against gays. The measure is expected to go before the Senate within days. President Obama noted that the bill was named after Matthew Shepard, the young gay college student whose killing in Wyoming in 1998 galvanized the GLBT rights movement. “This bill will pass and I will sign it into law,” the president said to more cheers. Might I mention at this point that this is LONG overdue? New York City attorney Richard Socarides, Clinton’s former senior advisor on gay and lesbian issues, said he believes Obama is worried about “getting too far out front on some of these social issues” because he fears offending social conservatives.

Never, EVER upset the Religious Reichians©! NEVER NEVER NEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There have been symbolic events, including a White House reception in June to mark LGBT Pride Month; invitations to the White House Easter Egg Roll to gays, lesbians and their children; and a nod to same-sex parents in a late September proclamation heralding “Family Day” I understand that the president has a lot on his plate – really, I DO - but I also remember eight years of peace and prosperity under Bill Clinton, who came to our parties, took our campaign contributions, issued proclamations and THEN betrayed us with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and the Defense of Marriage Act. NONE of us want a repetition of THAT experience.
Pentagon figures released Friday of last week indicate 10,507 men and women have been discharged from the military under DADT in the 12 years ending in 2008. Defense Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith declined to release the number let go under President Obama, saying these figures would be available next spring. Pardon me, but BULLSHIT. They’ve got the numbers, and they’re afraid of telling anybody just how many MORE soldiers are being kicked out – because they’re queers. Remember 1st Lt. Choi? West Point graduate, highly decorated, universally liked? An openly gay man who served in Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division for 15 months ending in 2007, and is now with the New York Army National Guard? He’s been given his walking papers because of the policy and now awaits final discharge. He’s not the only one either. Look them all up sometime, you’ll be sickened with the waste of resources.

I for one am sick and DAMNED tired of incrementalism. Yes, I understand that we have to wait our turn, just like the African-Americans and the Latinos. I DO understand that health-care reform is a wee bit more urgent. Yes, I DO understand that a consensus has to be built for repeal. So, why hasn’t it been? Don’t we, the Democratic Party, have the votes to get this done?
I realize that other things have priority – and, for the most part, I agree with what the President is trying to do. Unfortunately, he’s squandering the good will, money and votes of, roughly, 20 – 25% of the country. No politician can do that for very long and expect to be re-elected. Not even this good, smart man, who is what we’ve needed for a very long time.

So, another show-and-tell. Having the queers to tea, just in another venue – and nothing else.

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