Monday, October 12, 2009, and not one thing on this wintry morning has changed for one gay person in America in terms of equality. In fact, in some states in the country, it continues, without impediment, to get worse. Maine legalized same sex marriage, and now a fierce ballot battle is being waged to repeal it, much like the Prop 8 battle in CA (a battle civil rights advocates lost, fyi); and polls show the state as split. In New Hampshire Republican Rep. Dan Itse is planning to introduce a State Constitutional amendment to repeal the marriage equality their legislature and Gov. John Lynch signed in to law, to take effect Jan. 1. Itse wants the amendment on the 2010 ballot.
The days following Monday, October 12, 2009 were supposed to be glorious, given the hoopla of the weekend preceding this day. Most cable news channels and newspapers occupied their viewers with stories of the Gay Rights March in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, October 11, 2009 and President Barack Obama's "historic" big gay speech to the Human Rights Campaign dinner on Saturday, October 10, 2009. Democratic President speaking to the gays, history! Democratic Supermajority, finally equality! Well, not quite. As Barney Frank said the march was, "at best, a waste of time."
Unfortunately, he was proven right. It was a holiday weekend, most lawmakers were gone and it fell out of the news the next day. As for the speech, it was a great speech, a marvelous speech, a speech only one of the best orators of the 20th and 21st Century President Barack Obama could deliver. It was inspirational, stirring, and, like most performances not backed up by any action, meant nothing.
The President and pundits immediately praised the "victory" of the Hate Crime Legislation; but one pundit's "victory" is this gay man's insult. It is insulting to any thinking human being that you have to make a law that says you can't hurt or kill someone for being different, and if you do, we'll punish you, so leave those fags alone and if you do kill one, don't let anyone know that's why you did it. I'm one of those "self loathing" gays that disagrees with my "leaders" in the community. I don't need or want special protections. I don't care why you're attacking me, stop. Don't do it. And if you do, I want you punished, the same as if you hurt my neighbor or a stranger. I need equality under the law, all laws, including the law's protections. If I am attacked, punish my attacker the same as you would if they attacked a white straight male, a black woman, a Hispanic male, a Korean, Japanese, whatever. Stop trying to find the intent of the hate and acknowledge that hurting anyone for any reason is a hate crime. All crimes are hate crimes.
Also, the Hate Crime Legislation is a fringe victory. As is a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Of course it is the right thing to do, and yes, I will applaud the person or Congress that finally does it. It should have been done a long time ago, as most every other industrialized nation realized. We're a puritanical laughing stock in that department (well, many departments). But let's get real, a very small percent of gay men and lesbians want to serve in the military in the first place. We don't have some disproportionate amount of gay men and women sitting around just waiting for their chance to get in a REAL uniform and go off to war in Afghanistan or Iraq. As in the general population, it takes a certain kind of person to serve, and the gay community is not any more or less populated with those brave people. And as for hate crimes, we are not all victims-in-waiting. Every gay man or woman will not be bashed or killed for being so, nor does every single gay man or woman have to worry about such, any more than any other minority in this country. Blacks know where it's safe and isn't, White's know where it's safe and isn't, Hispanics know where it's safe and isn't...sad but true facts. As to Gays. None of those groups should have to have such knowledge, but ever since there were different tribes there's been conflict.
So passing rights for a fringe groups in the community is nice, it is, but hate crime legislation and a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell won't really affect the GLBT community of the United States of America.
Let's cut to the chase, the equality that could possibly effect the most gays and lesbians in this country is marriage equality; and this President, this Democrat, this Constitutional Scholar is against it. Here's exactly what he said to the HRC on October 7, 2009:
And that is why -- that's why I support ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country. (Applause.) I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples. I've required all agencies in the federal government to extend as many federal benefits as possible to LGBT families as the current law allows. And I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act. (Applause.) And we must all stand together against divisive and deceptive efforts to feed people's lingering fears for political and ideological gain.
That is not an endorsement for same sex marriage on a federal level. In fact, it's all but a black President standing up and saying that separate but equal is fine. Same benefits and rights, different institution. Separate, but equal. And as for DOMA his justice department has filed a brief to support it, to keep it in effect. They say it's just procedure, but please.
I won't go in to the marriage debate because as a gay man who was married to a woman for five years and now divorced, I'll tell you from experience, marriage in the United States as a federal institution is about one thing and one thing only: money. Period, end of story. It's contract law. That's it. Nowhere on the marriage license application do they ask about love, about commitment, about procreation or desires to, nothing. It asks if you've had any other spouses, what you do for a living and where you live. And when you go before the judge for the divorce, he doesn't ask about love, about saving the very foundation of our nation (if you listen to the anti-gay marriage advocates). Nope, he asks about, say it with me, money, property, kids, and if they'll need money or property. That's it. Marriage is a legal contract about binding two estates, about the rights of each in the marriage. It's about being able to bring your spouse in to your country. It's about thousands of things, each legal, and none about love or God. It's about money and property.
And having experienced a gay 11+ year relationship that I had to change California state law in order to have recognized after my partner's death and a non-gay marriage of five years, the fact that I could enter one and not the other, legally, is as absurd as having to explain the absurdity is. Not letting gays get married is gender discrimination in contract law, the founders were clear on that: equal means equal, same protections, same rights, get over it, move on.
But America can't, and won't, because of Religion. And that is why it is now the central battle to win or lose. There will be no true societal equality until that is rectified in each and every corner of this Union, and every thinking person knows it.
I used to agree with Obama, I used to believe in all the same rights but in calling it something different. But that ship has sailed. That would have worked under Bush. Now, with a supermajority of alleged Democrats, there should be same sex marriage right now, as we speak. Bush rammed war and domestic terror through the Congress, and we can't get a repeal of DOMA, end to Don't Ask, and marriage? Spineless Democrats.
And I don't mean we gays I mean We, the People. As an American first, I am outraged at institutionalized bigotry of any kind, especially bigotry based in religious zeal.
In July of 1948 President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which states, "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." By 1953 the army reported 95% integration. The change took one day, one signature. It took a President and a pen. Obama could have pulled out a pen and a pad, and as Commander in Chief, at the HRC Dinner, drafted a new order, that read exactly as Truman's but added the words "sexual orientation" and you're done. Never believe any one that tells you change takes time. They're either lazy, or have something to gain by waiting. All great change happens instantly. I kissed my mother's forehead and left the room to get a chair, I came back, and she was gone. Instantly. A baby comes out of the womb, opens its mouth, and starts life, immediately in the world. One minute you're single, the very next, you're not. The biggest changes in our lives take an instant, never forget.
The fact is, this presidency has exposed one ugly truth: the Democrats do not have the courage of their campaign convictions and that there's no where for gays, minorities, no party for those groups to go to and the Democrats know it. Truly, what chance to gays have other than Democrats? The Republicans? Most of them are doing all they can to make gays subhuman in America, truly second class citizens. Many would just as soon if gays left. No other group has any kind of real influence, and Democrats know it. So why bother changing things, really. Where are the queers going to go? Yet, when Dick Cheney is more progressive on gay issues...
The repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell does not help the gay community in any way specifically. It helps America. After all, the community could just legally choose to sit all these dirty little wars out and not play at all. Gays are actually asking to be included in the military, which only helps the military, which helps America. It does little for me as a gay man other than give me pride in those that serve, pride equal to the pride I feel about any other member of the armed forces.
Hate Crime legislation only helps those that have the misfortune of being beaten or killed for being different, and their families. I feel as outraged at those crimes as I do any crime against any American for being different in any way.
And both of those things only rectify long standing wrongs. The end of workplace discrimination for ANY American is the right thing to do for America and not ground breaking, just common sense.
Nope, the only battle now for gays is marriage in every state. Until we can legally say "I Do" the rest of the culture won't move towards more normalization. How that battle, a battle for a right again I may never use, became the central one is odd, but there it is. Obama knows it, the HRC should and the organized Right certainly does.
So spare me the fancy dinners and speeches, please. And spare me the talk about how we need to focus on more important issues, like the wars. War is supposed to be to protect the American way of life, American values and ideals. Well, if our values and ideals are totally screwed up and advocate discrimination then you might as well stop the wars because our ideals are not worth fighting for on any front. That goes for health care, by the way. If it's not an American value to value Americans enough to care for them from birth to death, then why fight wars? Not values worth saving. Greed. Bigotry.
Nope, Democrats, time to be Democrats again. Obama, pick up a pen, and sign an Executive Order as Commander in Chief halting all discharges under Don't Ask Don't Tell (mostly women by the way, almost 100% of all air force discharges are women, so gender and sexual orientation discrimination), period, done deal. Ten minutes. Pass all laws that equalize the playing field, and then advocate for national marriage equality.
Anything else isn't Democratic, and certainly isn't American.
To hear Karel on this topic and more visit his podcast at Radio KRL.