It went mainly unnoticed during the campaign that Barack Obama was the first major party nominee to have an official LGBT rights platform. Not much was made of this by the campaign or by gay rights organizations. Perhaps because they didn’t want to risk a media storm. However, the Obama campaign did reach out to the LGBT community via e-mail.
Their message (also posted on the campaign website) outlined the candidate’s stance on several issues important to the gay community. True to his word, that same platform, nearly word for word was posted yesterday on the newly revamped whitehouse.gov.
Why am I bringing this up and why here?
Because this is an issue that CenLa NEEDS to deal with.
We are not a gay friendly community. Although we have been fortunate not to have any publicized cases of unabashed anti-gay violence, we are still by no means a tolerant place for our gay and lesbian neighbors. Tolerate seems to be the limit of what Central Louisiana has been willing to do so far. A simple look through any of the local blogs or forums will quickly turn up a plethora of homophobic and gay-hating posts. Even those who oppose such posts seem to do so within limits. That limit, as is the apparent norm in our region, is that being gay is fine, so long as no one knows about it, sees it, talks about it, or, for some, so long as gays are kept away from active community life as much as possible.
It’s time we grow up as both a nation and a community.
President Obama has chosen the bold political move of leading the way nationally. Locally, it’s time we embrace our WHOLE community and everyone in it. Our region has been suffering a brain drain for decades. Unwittingly, our collective intolerence is pushing many of our best and brightest to move to more open and tolerant societies. We must face our societal demons, deal with our bigotry, and grow up.
Listed below are the main points of the president’s agenda on gay rights:
Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.
Why is this even up for discussion? Hate-based crime is and always has been one of the most horrid manifestations of human nature. There is no difference between attacking someone because they are gay or black or Jewish or anything else. Hate is hate; we should do our best to deter such thinking, but when it exists it exists. Neo-nazis, Muslim extremists, firebrand preachers, and Klansmen all remind us entirely too often that hatred exists. It is a powerful tool to incite the ire of weak individuals and will probably always be a problem in some form. But, as a people, a nation, we have chosen a peaceful existence where attacking others is wrong. We have to have laws that punish those who choose to destroy that peace.
Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees’ domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The very fact that the Equal Rights Amendment didn’t pass in the 1970’s has never ceased to amaze me. Even after the triumphs of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, many of those people who attained protection and equality chose to deny extending the protections afforded for race to other groups. It’s quite an hypocrisy and one that continues to this day. Women, the original target of the ERA, have luckily gained many legal protections. Yet at the same time, they tend to make less than their male counterparts and gender discrimination itself is still painfully difficult to prosecute. But at least the feelings of the country have changed. It is no longer acceptable to discriminate against women. Now it’s time to extend anti-discrimination protection to all Americans.
Institutional and government-sanctioned discrimination is wrong and should be illegal. That’s it; nothing more really needs to be said. Black, white; male, female; young, old; gay, straight – it shouldn’t matter, and it should be illegal for it to matter, particularly when it affects the ways in which the government treats individuals.
Repeal Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
DADT is by far the single stupidest form of workplace discrimination against gays. At a time when we need qualified military personnel, the one thing we should not be doing is going out of our way to get rid of them. I think honestly that most people don’t fully comprehend the place of sexuality in the military.
The fact is, most soldiers DO NOT CARE who their fellow soldiers sleep with! They don’t care if they guy next to them is gay or bi or straight or purple. They care if he can shoot accurately enough to hit the enemy, do his part to protect his fellow soldiers, and effectively accomplish his individual job so that the mission can succeed. That’s what being a soldier is about. If more of the people who argue against gays in uniform had ever bothered to put one on themselves, they’d know that!
Soldiers can’t care. There are too many gays in the military to get rid of them all anyway. Many estimates place the numbers at 30-40% of active duty forces. My own experience in the Army would confirm those numbers. In my own experience the only people who actually cared whether soldiers were gay were the members of the overwhelmingly ultra-protestant upper echelons of the officer corps which, under both Bushes have been by purposeful selection filled with evangelicals and Republicans. Politics and the military don’t mix well and never should.
Let soldiers be soldiers.
Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
The very fact that this proposed amendment even came into serious discussion shows the sad condition our nation has been in morally — that we would waste years debating whether to curtail the rights of our citizens while so many other problems in our country were allowed to fester untreated. The US government has no right or responsibility to regulate or for that matter even recognize marriage of anyone. The government should not be regulating gay marriage because due to separation of church and state, the government should have nothing at all to do with straight marriage either! This is a religious rite, and as such, it is a matter for churches. If a person chooses to deny a sacrament of faith to another based on his personal bigotry, then that is a sin he will have to answer for when he meets his maker. Twisting religion to promote hate is a tragic bastardization of any higher power’s teaching but so be it…file that one away with snake charming, refusing healthcare, and magic kool-aide. It’s religion; let the religious sort it out.
Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
Just as government has no place regulating marriage, it has no place recognizing legal status based on the religious rite of marriage. All that government should recognize for anyone regardless of sexuality is legal classification – those being Civil Union and Joint Domicile. These have been historically awarded de facto to married straight couples and often to unmarried heterosexuals living together (called Common Law Marriage in many places). Can anyone really seriously come up with a single intelligent reason why government should deny this same recognition to gay couples?
Currently, on average, gay couples pay higher taxes, have more difficulty buying property together, can not usually get insurance together, have more difficulty signing leases, pay higher car insurance, are unable to provide pension or burial benefits to their spouses, and in a final f*** you from society, often have their estates seized by the government upon death even though they may have a will leaving everything to their partner.
Legal rights, legal protections, legal status, and government privileges should be applied evenly, fairly and equitably – with Liberty, Justice, and Freedom for ALL.
Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
I have always thought of this particular facet of the anti-gay movement as being hideously inhumane. With all of the children in the world, not to mention those in our own country, and our own local communities without a family to call their own, how could anyone justify denying those children the love of a parent or family?
Sadly this denial (which is a legal prohibition here in Louisiana) is arguably justified by its supporters on moral grounds– primarily who zealots argue that children in homosexual families are unduly endangered because they are somehow more likely to be abused sexually. This, of course, is complete crap. Numerous medical, criminal, and psychological groups have conducted research establishing a connection between homosexuality and child abuse. Below are a few excerpts of their findings:
- Child Molesters are overwhelmingly heterosexuals.
- Dr. Carole Jenny reviewed 352 medical charts, representing all of the sexually abused children seen in the emergency room or child abuse clinic of a Denver children’s hospital during a one-year period (from July 1, 1991 to June 30, 1992). The molester was gay in only 2 of the 269 cases in which an adult molester could be identified, less than 1 percent of the cases. (Jenny et al., 1994).
- Groth and Birnbaum ( 1978 ) found that none of the 175 adult males in their sample – all of whom were convicted in Massachusetts of sexual assault against a child – had a homosexual adult sexual orientation.
2. The heterosexual partner of a relative is more likely to sexually abuse children than someone who is gay.
- A 1994 study found that “a child’s risk of being molested by his or her relative’s heterosexual partner is 100 times greater than by someone who might be identified as a homosexual. “(Carole Jenny et al., Are Children at Risk for Sexual Abuse by Homosexuals?; 94 Pediatrics)
3. Child Molesters are Child Molesters…regardless of whom they sleep with.
- “It is meaningless to speak of fixated molesters in these terms – as heterosexual or homosexuals – they are attracted to children, not to men or women. (Groth & Birnbaum, 1978 ).
Groth and Birnbaum sum it up best in the quote above – child molesters are attracted to children not men, not women. There are, in fact, numerous pages of studies on this topic. However, the ONLY “studies” to ever show that gays are more likely (or for that matter likely at all) to molest children were conducted and published by the American Family Foundation and its affiliated Christian conservative organizations. Not one respected scientist or medical professional will weigh in on their side. Perhaps Pat Robertson and his crew are who we really need to be protecting our children from.
I agree with President Obama that abridging someone’s parental rights based on sexuality is a horrible idea. It hurts otherwise stable, healthy couples. It hurts communities. And (don’t forget this) it hurts thousands of children every year who are denied a stable family home and instead left in deplorable state care rather than allowed to live with gays. Still not convinced? Go ask an orphaned or abandoned child if they would rather have a gay family or no family at all.
This is a lot to accomplish. It should have all already happened, but at least now there is a chance for progress. To me, the timeline will be the most interesting aspect of this. Obama will need to make politically sensitive changes early enough in his term that people will forget about them before the next campaign cycle begins. I predict we will see Don’t Ask Don’t Tell go away in the next few months. It just makes sense with the state of the military. Recognition of domestic partnerships for federal employees will be soon forthcoming as well. The rest, I don’t know,;we shall see.
Drew, thank you for the thorough and thoughtful post. Although I am not as convinced that Obama will swiftly repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or the Defense of Marriage Act, I agree with your overall impression of the issues.
Marriage is inherently a religious institution, an institution that happens to be recognized by the government as value-adding. The question is whether or not government should attempt to define the sanctity of marriage. And for those of us who agree with the separation of church and state, the answer is, obviously, no.
I agree with your construction, which is to treat marriage as a religious institution and civil unions as a government institution, made up of two consenting adults.
Also, I agree that any government policy that assumes gay couples in civil unions are inherently less morally capable of adopting a child than married heterosexual couples is obviously discriminatory. It makes a categorical moral assertion about a group of our fellow Americans.
As a straight guy, I obviously don’t always sense the same climate of intolerance in CenLa as my gay and lesbian friends; I’ve never had to confront it.
I personally believe that the more a community cares about its collective future, the less intolerant, bigoted, and small-minded it is. The more we talk to our neighbors, the less we fear our differences.
Im kind of in Lamars shoes. I mean i dont know what its like to have people give you strange looks because of who youre holding hands with in line at the movies. I know my sister is married to an african american man who treats her like a queen, and people still call her (beautiful) little girls “half breeds” and “mongrels”. Personally im a big fan of cross dressing. The few times ive ventured out into public in drag, i know i got alot of weird looks, and “coughfaggitcough”‘s from the closedminded redneck population of alexandria. i think its safe to assume that locally, yes, there are alot of closet (haha) gay bashers. But the truth is, convincing some of these people that homosexuality isnt contagious, is like trying to convince my grandmother that the bass player in my band (african american) doesnt answer to “boy”. I know im not going to like it all in all, because generally campaigning for gay rights and being anti racism means your a liberal. But this whole “openminded” generation thats coming up is going to Dramatically change our political landscape. So I know homosexuals are going to have their day, just like i know my sister isnt going to be made fun of by southerners forever. Personally i cant wait for the day. Because when it comes me and my cocktail dress are hitting bruisers for some (entirely straight) drinks.