Westhampton, MA – October 11, 2009
Richard Ammon – GlobalGayz.com
Last night President Obama gave a speech at a Human Rights Campaign fund-raising dinner in DC. This is remarkable in itself since no other president has ever given specific attention to a gay organization in a public forum. The press were there and captured his speech on paper and tape and video and YouTube. (Also see the controversial graffiti incident that followed.)
His attendance at this event, the night before a mass LGBT-rights rally in the city on National Coming Out Day, was partly motivated by the disgruntled noise LGBT leaders have made over the past few months in response to DADT, DOMA and gay marriage issues. His speech was an effort to assuage the aggravation felt in our community, by some, that he was not moving fast enough to rid these discriminatory statutes from our country.
The arguments against these laws are clearly justified—but the timing is not. The ‘homosexual agenda’ for equality has taken giant steps in the past five years, especially given how recently we banged down the doors at Stonewall and given how far backward we were treated as citizens (and still are in many places).
Hardly a month goes by that I don’t read of an important two-step forward and one backward across the fifty states. From the egregious Prop 8 in CA last November to the startling marriage decision in Iowa and quiet passage in New Hampshire a few months ago. We are making remarkable progress with our campaigns, money and high-school coming out (and middle-school as well. (See this NYT Cover story) Last week the House approved the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd hate crimes bill (attached to an obscenely bloated defense bill). The bill is also named for James Byrd Jr., a black man killed in a race-based attack in Texas the same year.
But for some that’s not enough. We seem to want it all, now: Obama should have eliminated DADT by now and pushed to change DOMA to include gay marriage!
To my mind this smacks of privilege and entitlement. We have collected some genuine goodies and we want more, now, and this president should let us move to the head of the line to get them.
This does not sit well with my queer mind.
The other night I went to a benefit dinner for a local marine sergeant here in rural Massachusetts who came home from Afghanistan with one leg, a shattered spine, fractured arm and a thousand bits of shrapnel under his skin. If you ask me who I want to see taken care of first, the sergeant or a lesbian spouse, the choice is hardly that. I want our young people taken out of harm’s way before I want to get married. I don’t want any more coffins hidden from TV cameras to help sanitize these horrid wars that Bush-Cheney started for delusional reasons.
I am willing to let these broken and dead soldiers take the front of the line before I can say ‘I Do’ or before queers get to serve openly in the military – much as they deserve to. (How ironic that we want to destroy DADT that sends people out of the service and out of harm’s way and instead insist that gay personnel be allowed to go into harm’s way with the possibility of coming home in a body bag! Is that some form of queer patriotic suicide?)
Not to mention the worst economic cramps for decades. I’d rather have my unemployed neighbor father-of-three get a job than me get married this year.
Have we lost our sense of place and proportion? Gay marriage will happen. DADT will fall. Lobbying works—for better or worse. Military leaders are being leaned on to re-evaluate the policy. They are softening. The public and even straight recruits are changing their minds.
We need to see the change that’s happening before our eyes, in the courts, in state legislatures and stop vilifying a president who is clearly on our side of the issues and wants to see justice and equality in the military and among partnerships.
Get in line for change. Send messages to the Pentagon and Congress. Makes phone calls. Support HRC – or not. Lean forward but don’t jump the queue.
Also see: DOMA Repeal Gains 100th Sponsor