THE BLOG
10/07/2011 11:13 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Obama's Gay Rights UN Speech: A Step in the Right Direction, But Is It Enough?

It's taken 65 years for a U.S. president to mention gay rights in a speech before the full U.N. General Assembly. President Barack Obama did just that last week. Whether it was motivated by his campaign for reelection, the long-awaited repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," or the horrific suicide of yet another bullied, gay teenager, I cannot say. What I do know is that during these past 65 years, hundreds of thousands in the LGBT community have found themselves bashed, ostracized, bullied and/or murdered without one United States president even uttering the call for equal rights in front of the U.N. Assembly. And I must purposely and earnestly say in a non-politically correct way that this pisses me off.

Now it's easy to make this a conservative-vs.-liberal ideological debate, especially when remembering that former President George W. Bush refused to join a United Nations statement calling on countries to decriminalize homosexual relations and relationships. However, I feel that it goes further than one's political ideology. My family has voted Democratic for years, yet their religious beliefs on homosexuality have proved to have a stronger influence than the box they checked in the voting booth. This is more than about standing on the right, in the middle, or on the left side of the political spectrum; it's about whether or not one views human rights as a privilege or as a right, as it so correctly includes in its very definition.

It is well known that my home state of Mississippi is hardly a steadfast advocate for human rights, especially when it comes to the LGBT community. You don't need to look any further than the well-known Constance McMillen incident. All the kid was trying to do was go to the prom with her girlfriend; I personally think she should've had the right to have the same sometimes-overrated prom experience that the rest of us had. Yet her courageous attempt to have the same rights as her classmates was enough for the members of the Westboro Baptist Church to trek from Kansas and purchase overpriced gas in order to protest her school's graduation, of all things.

Over the past eight years of visiting my home state, my partner and I have received quite a few hateful looks, and we genuinely fear for our safety when we're not around friends and family. Some might think we're exaggerating our fears or cowardly shying away from public displays of affection because we deeply loathe ourselves, but that's not the case. I've got to say, quite proudly, I might add, that we're hardly a couple who shies away from tastefully showing our love for one another in the presence of others. However, it's hard to feel safe in a place where in 2011 James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old African-American auto plant worker in the city of Jackson, Miss., was set upon by a group of white teenagers who savagely killed him while spewing racial epithets and yelling, "White power!" Now, this heinous encounter hardly represents the majority of white Mississippians (and it should not). I personally get enraged when the rogue actions of one person are wrongfully thrust upon everyone else who falls into the same ethnic or religious sector. Nevertheless, I can't help but think about what might happen to my partner and me if we were to encounter a similar group of hateful individuals. For goodness' sake, I've already lost a few high school Facebook friends just due to my relationship status.

So I ask myself: should we expect a state that constitutionally outlaws our relationship to defend our human rights, or should we continue to push for things to globally change? So, I must give President Obama a well-deserved applause for taking a big step in his speech. I can only hope that he goes beyond the U.N. assembly and takes larger steps by using his reelection campaign as an opportunity to echo his speech to each state he visits. Is this naïve to think? Possibly. Is it wrong to ask for? No. Because I'm going to continue to be hard to please, and -- don't forget -- pissed off, until my partner and I can cross every state line without nullifying our marriage.