Originally published on Advocate.com June 29 2011 8:05 AM ET
Can President Obama have it both ways on the marriage issue? Can he rally support and dollars from the LGBT community yet assert that marriage rights are an issue for the states to decide? As the president hosts a National Pride Month reception Wednesday at the White House, a growing number of activists and pundits say no — including Academy Award-winning Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.
"I prefer President Obama to the alternative. That is true," Black said during recent remarks at the San Francisco Pride festival. "But I cannot and we should not hide our disappointment with his response to our historic victory in New York. In his response he wrongly claimed that marriage equality should be left up to individual states to decide.
"President Obama, with all due respect, you know the proud history of civil rights in this nation and you understand that the ultimate responsibility of protecting our minorities falls on the federal government, on our courts and on your desk, Mr. President -- not on each individual state’s legislature or ballot box,” Black said.
Stay tuned to Advocate.com for updates on the President’s Wednesday news conference, the first he has held since March, as well as his Pride Month remarks later this afternoon at the White House.
Black’s full speech text for San Francisco Pride:
It is my great honor to announce that a few weeks ago, inside of Harvey Milk’s old camera shop right down on Castro street, we opened the Harvey Milk Call Center, finally turning the Trevor Project into a fully self sufficient 24-7, nationwide crisis help line for LGBTQ youth.
After all, that was Harvey Milk’s mission, to be there to answer the call from that young person in Altoona, Pennsylvania who had lost hope -- giving hope to the hopeless, and not just here in SF but nationwide.
But that was not Milk’s end goal, and it’s certainly not our common dream today. Our dream today is to one day have no Altoona, Pennsylvanias, no more places in this country where children are told by their government that they are second class or less than. No more places where children are robbed of their self-esteems by their own leaders and communities.
And yes, winning marriage equality in New York was one of our greatest victories, and we must celebrate that victory and all of the men and women who have fought so hard to create that watershed moment, because it paves the way to our end goal, to our larger dream, a dream of full equality in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states across this great nation.
And yes, I prefer President Obama to the alternative. That is true. But I cannot and we should not hide our disappointment with his response to our historic victory in New York. In his response he wrongly claimed that marriage equality should be left up to individual states to decide.
President Obama, with all due respect, you know the proud history of civil rights in this nation and you understand that the ultimate responsibility of protecting our minorities falls on the federal government, on our courts and on your desk, Mr. President -- not on each individual state’s legislature or ballot box.
Mr. President, consider the LGBTQ children living in Mississippi, Arkansas and in my home state of Texas. Are their lives less worthy of protection than those in New York, Massachusetts and Iowa?
If the civil rights of this country’s minorities are left to the states, then this will become a checkerboard nation where some areas are free and some areas are not free. Where children in some states are told to lift their heads high and others are told they are second class citizens, less than, and that their love and their future families are not worthy of this nation’s protection and admiration.
A state-by-state solution sends a government sanctioned message to the bigots and bullies that in some states in this nation it is okay to treat LGBT people as unequal -- as less than human.
Mr. President. This is a civil rights issue, a minority rights issue, a federal issue. How many more lives must we see taken, how many more bullies must be emboldened before you complete what you’ve called your “evolution” toward equality, and protect all of your citizens, old and young, black and brown and white, gay and straight?
No more, Mr. President. You must speak up for all of us, and speak up now.
And right here in California. What can we do?
The truth is, we are mere breaths away from marriage equality right here in California. We won in Federal court. Federal judge Vaughn Walker declared unequivocally that proposition 8 is in fact unconstitutional. That the 14th amendment indeed applies to all people. Every single one of you here today. Gay or straight.
Yet we wait. Because the CA Supreme court has yet to answer the one technical question asked by the 9th circuit Federal Court of appeals, so that we may finally put an end to the prejudice and hate that has plagued this city and this state for generations.
So please, enjoy this day of Pride, but follow in the great tradition of San Francisco and demand our President take responsibility for all his citizens – nationwide -- and demand that the CA Supreme Court do their duty now. Not after more lives are lost, more bullies are emboldened and more self-esteems are robbed. So that we may join with NY State in this country’s greatest tradition -- the tradition of spreading freedom and equality to all… and that we may make those calls from Altoona, Pennsylvania a thing of the past.
I believe in you San Francisco. And I leave this vital work to your strong voices and in your mighty hands.