After more than five months of no action on his agenda for the LGBT community, expectations are high for President Obama in the month of June. Pride month, rumor has it, is when the White House will unveil a "major announcement." How major and by whose standard remains to be seen.
One of the special celebrations this year will be the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which gave birth to our modern social movement. For me, however, and you must forgive my pessimism, instead of celebrating, I am still wondering why life and limb were risked for so little progress over those 40 years.
My perspective on this is as a Gen X'er, so I understand when many of those who came before me gasp with horror when I suggest that little progress has been made. After all, going from being harassed in our bars to hosting political candidates in our bars who desperately seek our votes and our money qualifies as great progress. Even during the span of my political consciousness I have seen much improvement in public perception and respect from the political establishment.
But for too long that respect has been limited. While most Republicans have used the LGBT community as a lightning rod for electoral gain over the past two decades, most Democrats have responded in kind with acquiescence. In the Congress, that is still very much the case. Even the easy lift of hate-crimes legislation seems insurmountable for Harry Reid's Senate and a Democratic caucus busting at the seams with 59 members. Although polling shows the legislation supported by an overwhelming majority of the public, Senator Reid can't wrangle the necessary votes for passage of a stand-alone bill.
There is one Democrat who shed the usual pattern of candidates beyond any before him. Tears came to my eyes when he took the oath of office as president of the United States because I knew that everything was about to change. Throughout the campaign candidate Obama promised to be a fierce advocate for the LGBT community, and the political climate of the nation was ripe for major progress.
Obama quickly appointed LGB people (no T's) to positions in the government in unprecedented numbers. However, including hate-crimes legislation passing the House, there has been no progress on achieving civil rights for the LGBT community beyond progress that hadn't already been achieved.
So, we stand at a moment where expectations are high -- and Obama's administration has set this as a time when he will surprise us. Let's hope their beginning effort is just that -- only a beginning. On June 1 the White House issued its LGBT Pride Month Proclamation. While some laud it, I don't. It's nothing we haven't heard before. More important, it is without substance. Proclamations aren't legislation and don't do anything to achieve full civil rights.
What is forthcoming, I have no idea. Over the past two months we've seen amazing progress on the state level in marriage equality, with more to come. Yet, on the federal level, it's not only been zilch, but the White House keeps stumbling over itself on our issues. Nearly ever person at the Pentagon has flubbed "don't ask, don't tell" -- from the secretary to a junior press guy. The White House press secretary is increasingly pummeled with questions on our issues and he has yet to deliver an answer that reflects honesty, transparency, and candidness.
Many in our community have asked others to give President Obama time to get in office and get settled before we hold him accountable for his promises. Some have also suggested that the economic crisis and the wars should take precedence over our civil rights.
Excuses for waiting are running out.
What the White House does this month will set the tone for whether Barack Obama's administration will be one of proclamations or progress. While I have been consistently pushing him and his administration to do what every one of us knows is right, I remain inspired by his message and philosophy. Yet, I need reason to believe that he will be the fierce advocate he has claimed to be. Now is the time to show it.