June 29, 2009
HERE IS an obvious question — if somewhat tasteless in its phraseology: is the White House stonewalling on LGBT issues?
Well, yes and no. On one hand the LGTB community feels progress is not being made quickly enough:
[Obama's] relationship with the LGBT community still seems uneasy. On June 22, 77 members of the House signed a letter to President Obama asking him to sign an executive order to stop the military from any further discharges under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
On June 25, demonstrators picketed outside a pricey gay Democratic fundraiser to send a message to the keynote speaker, Vice President Joe Biden. According to a White House pool reporter on the scene, about 50 protesters held up signs saying, “No Money for DOMA,” “No Money for DADT,” and “Gay Uncle Toms.”
Video of the event showed that many demonstrators were holding signs with the number “265″ — representing the number of service members who have been discharged for being gay since President Obama took office. [...]
[P]rotests continued. On June 27, a group organized by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network marched to the White House to underscore its upset that the president has not exercised any executive authority to stop discharges under the Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell policy.
Read the full Bay Windows story
On the other hand
I pity the Obama administration because everyone wants a piece of progress promised. Preferably delivered yesterday or sooner.
And I imagine, given the current issues — flailing economy, Wall Street quakes, Iraq war fallout and strategy, war vets and the health and social security systems staggering in a very uncomforting manner — the concern is LGTB issues might end up too far down the list despite the intersection of the army Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell policy and general war-related shrapnel that has finally hit home.
The Commander-and-Politician-In-Chief is trying: the latest White House gesture to commemorate the Stonewall Riots (a first for the big house) could be seen as a step in the right direction. But it’s been a long, hard and nasty road for the members of the current generation of the community and a grand gesture isn’t nearly enough:
The Stonewall Riots of 1969 — when patrons at a New York city gay bar fought back against police brutality and harassment and set in motion a wave of activism — have been commemorated in various ways. There have been protests, rallies, academic lectures and parties. Today is the first time Stonewall will be remembered in the tony quarters of the White House. [...]
His campaign invited people like me and my husband Doug — gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans — into his aspirational vision of America the Possible. But, as President Obama, he has presided over an administration that has stumbled — sometimes symbolically, sometimes substantially — in its commitment to include us on the agenda.
Indeed, some gay community members advocated boycotting the White House’s Stonewall event. “Co-optation by Cocktails,” read one blog post. “Traitors,” blathered another. While my heart wasn’t filled with such animus, just disappointment, I could understand their anger.
Read the full Washington Post story
But in the end it, as always, the new generations, the kids of the souls who survived the worst will be the ones who can give a little more credit and help move attitudes and actions forward with a little less baggage. In this case, the writer of the above WP story, Jarrett Barrios — incoming president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and a former Massachusetts state senator — had his son to bring past and present into play for some perspective:
When I told my 17-year-old son Javier about the reception, he could sense that I was torn. From across the dinner table, he looked straight at me: “Papi, you need to go to the White House, and you need to take me. It’s the President.” Not persuaded by that one, kid. “It’s the President, and he needs to see our family, too. To remind him that we’re counting on him.” [...]
[A]s my son made me realize, commemorating the Stonewall Riots isn’t about, or just about, our own liberation. It is a call to action for each of us to change the world by telling our stories. Speaking up so that Stonewall can become no longer a part of our present, but truly a part of our history.