03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Declaring America in Default on Promissory Note: LGBT Rights

When the architects of our democracy drafted the magnificent words in the constitution and Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note (something I am familiar with as a former bank CEO) to which every American would fall heir.

The note was a promise that all would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As gay man and member of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered) community, I am declaring America in default of that promissory note.

America is in default because my friend Trevor was nearly beaten to death with a baseball bat in the 1990's in LA. There are nearly 1,200 other Americans per year who have had hate crimes committed against them simply because of who they are-LGBT. At last, sexual orientation is included as a hate crime. Progress on the promise.

America is in default since there are nearly 13,000 Americans who have been denied or discharged from the military since the enactment of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

America is in default as many in this country are too afraid to be who they are at work for fear of being terminated (in 29 states including Missouri) simply because of their sexual orientation or identity. Studies show that 51% of the LGBT population is not comfortable being 'out' at work.

America is in default because gays and lesbians are unable to marry their partner and are denied the 1,146 rights and privileges married couples receive.

This is clearly an important time for our country as we attempt to resolve many issues that we have not successfully dealt with as a country. I heard President Obama state that we must win the hearts and minds of Americans to effect social change.

Each of us as citizens has a responsibility to ensure the promise made at our country's inception, that we would all be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The architects of our constitution clearly did not say some of us, they wrote all of us. I want to see that promise fulfilled and look forward to the day the country is no longer in default.

William A. Donius is the former Chairman and CEO of Pulaski Bank in St. Louis, Missouri. Under his twelve year leadership the bank grew from $168 million to $1.3 billion. Pulaski Bank was voted the Best Place to Work in St. Louis in 2007, received a Torch Award from the Better Business Bureau in 2008 and was ranked as one of the best performing smaller banks/thrifts by industry publication SNL in 2007. At 50, Donius retired from the CEO position in April of 2008, stayed on as Chairman of the bank through April 2009. This essay represents his personal view and may represent the view of the bank.

Donius was appointed to a two-year term on the U.S. Federal Reserve Board TIAC Council in 2008. In addition, Donius currently serves on a number of community boards in St. Louis. He is the winner awards from the NCCJ, Human Rights Campaign and National Association of Philanthropy.