Iraq veteran, Lt. Dan Choi, an Arabic-speaking specialist – dismissed for coming out
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
On Monday, 250 gay leaders are to join Mr. Obama in the East Room to commemorate publicly the 40th anniversary of the birth of the modern gay rights movement: a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York. By contrast, the first time gay leaders were invited to the White House, in March 1977, they met a midlevel aide on a Saturday when the press and President Jimmy Carter were nowhere in sight.
The conflicting signals from the White House about its commitment to gay issues reflect a broader paradox: even as cultural acceptance of homosexuality increases across the country, the politics of gay rights remains full of crosscurrents.
It is reflected in the surge of gay men and lesbians on television and in public office, and in polls measuring a steady rise in support for gay rights measures. Despite approval in California of a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage, it has been authorized in six states.
Yet if the culture is moving on, national politics is not, or at least not as rapidly. Mr. Obama has yet to fulfill a campaign promise to repeal the policy barring openly gay people from serving in the military. The prospects that Congress will ever send him a bill overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, appear dim. An effort to extend hate-crime legislation to include gay victims has produced a bitter backlash in some quarters: Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, sent a letter to clerics in his state arguing that it would be destructive to “faith, families and freedom.”
“America is changing more quickly than the government,” said Linda Ketner, a gay Democrat from South Carolina who came within four percentage points of winning a Congressional seat in November. “They are lagging behind the crowd. But if I remember my poli sci from college, isn’t that the way it always works?”
Of course it is. Doesn’t make the politicians smell any better.
You expect the party of the “Southern Strategy”, the deliberate decision by the Republican Party to become the official party of bigotry – to prate all the trite reactionary pap about faith, families and freedom. Even though their quota of sleazeballs more than qualifies them as the leading hypocrites this side of Jim Bakker.
You should not be surprised if the party of Harry Truman – who included universal health care in his platform – until he was elected, the party of LBJ who said “we shall overcome” while leaving the FBI alone to maintain a perfect record of zero prosecutions for racist murders for decades – you should not be surprised by Democrats joining other bigots in lame excuses directed mostly to the lobbyists holding open that big green trick bag.
Do I think Obama still might turn around the clock of history and lead the United States to a place of ethical leadership in the world? My answer is a resounding “uh, I hope so”. But, that’s what I said a year or so ago.