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Letters to President-elect Obama: Evan Wolfson

Letters to President-elect Obama: Evan Wolfson

Wolfson

Open letters from 26 gay men and lesbians.

Dear Mr. President-elect,

Few presidents have taken office with greater challenges, and higher expectations, than you. Yet Americans, and many people around the world, already take pride in, and draw fresh hope from, your election, for few presidents have more embodied the American values of inclusion and equality that give our nation its admirable capacity for change.

With the many pressing problems confronting our country and the world, you certainly will not be able to address every injustice, every aspiration, equally in the first hundred days, or even in your first year. Gay and nongay alike, we all want to see our country back on track after the most deliberately divisive administration in history. We want an end to the Bush-Cheney abuses against the Constitution; responsible termination of a costly and misguided war; restoration of America's standing in the world and real attention to our true security needs; more jobs and a reinvigorated economy; movement toward energy independence and universal health care; and improved education to assure a better life and stronger future for all.

Gay Americans, who, like others, have endured discrimination and exclusion at the hands of the government, have additional priorities arising from those injustices. In campaigning for president you committed yourself to many of these priorities -- passage of an inclusive federal civil rights bill; ending the oppressive regime under which gay military personnel today serve our country in the armed forces; undoing current federal discrimination against legally married same-sex couples; and moving the nation toward equal protections and respect for our families, youths, and seniors. While pledging to work with Congress to repeal such oppressive measures as the federal anti-marriage law (the so-called Defense of Marriage Act), you also have committed to exerting presidential moral leadership to make the case for full inclusion, equality under the law, and human respect.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation, particularly government denial of fundamental rights such as the freedom to marry, is not a gay problem. It is an American problem. And the cause of equal rights for all must always hold a preeminent claim on any president.

At another defining moment of ferment, challenge, and choice, one of your predecessors stood before Congress and summoned the nation to a civil rights "program" with words most thought they would never hear from an American president. In his inspirational "We shall overcome" address, Lyndon Johnson told Americans, "There have been many pressures upon your president, and there will be others as the days come and go.... I never thought [as a young man] that I would be standing here in 1965. It never even occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of [my former] students, and to help people like them all over this country. But now I do have that chance. And I'll let you in on a secret -- I mean to use it. And I hope that you will use it with me." Like Dr. King, Johnson understood that the "time is always ripe to do right."

President-elect Obama, you have already made history, and are poised now, in Johnson's words, "to make good the promise of America." You, like these two great leaders and partners, have invoked "the fierce urgency of now."

We are ready for your leadership, and ready to do our part. Together, yes, indeed, we can.

Evan WolfsonExecutive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry

More Letters to the President-elect:Tammy Baldwin, Democratic member of Congress from Wisconsin

Daniel Tammet, author of Born on a Blue Day

Evan Wolfson, Executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry

Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign

Melissa Etheridge, singer-songwriter

Michelangelo Signorile, radio host and author of Queer in America

Tammy Bruce, radio talk-show host and author of The New American Revolution

Kenji Yoshino, professor at New York University School of Law and the author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights

Vestal McIntyre, author of You Are Not the One and the forthcoming Lake Overturn

Jarrett Lucas, codirector of the 2008 Soulface Q Equality Ride

Michael Lowenthal, author of Charity Girl and Avoidance

Suzanne Westenhoefer, comedian and star of the documentary A Bottom on Top

Jim Buzinski, CEO and cofounder of Outsports.com

Perez Hilton, blogger, radio host, and television personality

Carole Midgen, former California state senator

Pam Spaulding, Durham, N.C.-based blogger

Paris Barclay, Executive Producer/Director HBO's In Treatment

Lorri L. Jean, CEO, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center

Jeffrey Prang, Mayor of West Hollywood

Jorge Valencia, Executive director and CEO of Point Foundation

Mark Leno, California assemblyman

The Reverend Doctor Troy D. Perry, founder and moderator emeritus, Metropolitan Community Churches\

Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality

Donna Rose, transgender activist

Peter Tatchell, LGBT human rights campaigner and spokesman for OutRage!

Rachel B. Tiven, Executive Director, Immigration Equality

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