Does anybody else
feel like they are in an abusive relationship?
It seems like
every time lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people
start feeling a sense of hope, President-elect Obama,
America's single greatest civil rights
advancement in a century, manages to deal a blow to
the one group in this country that was unable to fully
share in the unadulterated bliss of our national achievement
on November 4, will now be deprived of that joy again
on January 20.
Rick Warren -- the evangelical pastor who has equated
same-sex marriage with incest and pedophilia and strongly
supported California's gay marriage ban -- to
give the invocation at his inauguration on the heels
of the community's gut-wrenching Proposition 8
setback pushes past a simple insensitivity to
seeming downright cruel.
How many times is
the president-elect going to gouge this gaping wound
before it even has a chance to scab over? He says he
doesn't play interest group politics --
that he's trying to rise above the fray of
pitting one constituency against another. And yet, a sense
of basic fair play dictates that you don't
kick a group when they're down. No LGBT
person expected the incoming president to choose a gay
pastor to bless his inauguration, but neither did they
in their darkest moments dream that he would be so
tone-deaf to our misery as to choose a man who
compares our love to criminal offense.
Does he not
remember that we can still be fired in 30 states simply for
being gay without having any legal recourse?
Does he not
realize that we have never had a single piece of major
federal legislation protecting our rights signed into law?
Does he forget
that we are still beaten and killed on America's
streets -- that 10 years after a young man was strung
to a fence and left to die, neither federal statute
nor Wyoming law extends hate-crimes protections to us?
I am not prone to
keeping score politically. True to my profession, I try
to report the relevant facts back to the interest group I
serve without a constant accounting of where we stand.
You win some, you lose some, I figure. But reviewing a
few points at this juncture may prove instructive.
transition team has praised the LGBT
community's Presidential Appointments Project
spearheaded by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund for
its professionalism. More than 1,400 resumes were
collected and candidates screened for key White House
and cabinet positions. The community's great
aspiration was to have an openly gay person proudly
serving our country as secretary of take-your-pick. But with
yesterday's news that Sen. Ken Salazar had
been chosen to head the Department of Interior instead
of the openly gay John Berry, people in the D.C. know
began quietly worrying that our last best chance for a
cabinet member had been dashed. More appointments
await to be sure, but the prospects are worsening.
Progress appears to be coming on
"don't ask, don't tell," a
policy that Americans regularly disagree with at a rate of
70%-plus (yes, these are the kind of numbers that
embolden even the flimsiest politicians). Nonetheless,
allowing gays to defend their country's freedom
and in some cases die for it without denying their own
personal truth in the process would be a monumental
shift -- and one that has preceded marriage rights in
nearly every Western country to date. Comments made in
the last week by both Gen. Colin Powell and Joint Chiefs
chairman Adm. Mike Mullen do appear to be laying the
groundwork for repeal and some believe they would
never be doing so without the blessing of the
handling of Proposition 8 was politically pragmatic. No one
in their right mind really believed that he was going
to take a high-profile stance on that measure in the
middle of his campaign. Instead, he issued a low-key
statement to an LGBT Democratic club in San Francisco during
annual pride festivities that stressed he did not endorse
writing discrimination into a constitution. What was
more unfortunate was his reversion to using the
Christian right's favorite phrase, "I believe
marriage is between a man and a woman," during the
general election after he had not uttered the words
once during the primary. The "one-man, one-woman"
construction could have easily been avoided, and using it
made his views all too accessible to the proponents of Prop.
8 -- who did ultimately repurpose the historic
candidate's own words to promote their cause in
a final round of robo-calls before Election Day.
Finally, I can
still hear our friends in South Carolina saying, "We
told you so," but absent even a smidge of glee.
After "ex-gay" gospel singer Donnie McClurkin's
homophobic comments came to light, Barack Obama told
me in an interview that McClurkin was
"not vetted to the extent that people were
aware of his attitudes with respect to gay and
lesbians, LGBT issues -- at least not vetted as well as I
would have liked to see." LGBT activists in
S.C. hoped that McClurkin would be bumped from the
campaign's gospel tour lineup, but short of that,
they at the very least wanted some conciliatory note
to be sounded by then-candidate Obama. They are still
waiting. Beyond expressing his disappointment in the
vetting process, President-elect Obama never intimated
any hint of regret about the debacle.
All this is to
say, watch your back. Our new commander in chief may well
sign into law more pro-gay legislation than any other
president in history, but it appears those
advances will not come without heartache.
new president has risen so far above constituency group
politics that he is beyond earshot of our cries for mercy.