Why I'm Marching
BY Michelangelo Signorile
August 24 2009 12:00 AM ET
Obama gave a speech at the event that repeated the promises he'd made on the campaign trail -- about ending "don't ask, don't tell" once Congress sends him a bill, getting rid of the Defense of Marriage Act, stopping discrimination, and on and on. Everyone toasted him.
But just months later, the president is already back to his pre-cocktail party mode: quietly backing, if anything, the incrementalist approach -- as pushed by the Human Rights Campaign, Congressman Barney Frank, and others who are giving him cover -- in which we pass a hate-crimes bill, then eventually move on to the toothless Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which exempts small businesses and religious organizations and isn't needed by people who live in some of the country's most populous states (since they already have statewide protections) or work for almost any Fortune 500 company (since most already have corporate policies banning employment discrimination). Then maybe we'll slowly move on to some of these other things, like discrimination in housing, discrimination in public accommodations, serving openly in the military, marriage equality, and so forth. Of course, at this rate the Democrats might lose control of Congress-and Obama, the White House -- before any of this is ever achieved.
A lot of people are saying we need to think big -- real big -- and that we need to stop denigrating ourselves by settling for crumbs, which we never get anyway. Perhaps we need an omnibus LGBT rights bill that covers everything -- go for it all, and leave it at the feet of Congress. Maybe we should amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include us. What about going for the most urgent things rather than the easiest-like pushing hard for the president to issue a moratorium on "don't ask, don't tell" -- something he has disingenuously said he can't do and that gay groups more or less have given him a pass on -- rather than sitting idly by and watching careers be destroyed while we continue to investigate options for overturning the policy?
We should be inspired by the people around us who are taking different and refreshing approaches at winning full equality. People like those behind the group American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is backing the Ted Olson-David Boies federal legal challenge to California's Proposition 8 despite the tension that's created with gay legal groups petrified of taking the issue to federal court.