It was typical of my generation, like others before and after, that the issue of gay civil rights wasn’t on our radar screen. Not least because gay people, fearful of harassment, violence and arrest, were often forced into the shadows. As David Carter writes in his book “Stonewall,” at the end of the 1960s homosexual sex was still illegal in every state but Illinois. It was a crime punishable by castration in seven states. No laws — federal, state or local — protected gay people from being denied jobs or housing. If a homosexual character appeared in a movie, his life ended with either murder or suicide.
Rich goes on to note the remarkable strides the GLBT community has made, culminating with the election of our self-described "fierce advocate" to the White House...and the resulting and unexpected "tin ear" on gay rights issues in the Obama White House.
In conversations with gay activists on both coasts last week, I heard several theories as to why Obama has seemed alternately clumsy and foot-dragging in honoring his campaign commitments to dismantle DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The most charitable take had it that he was following a deliberate strategy, given his habit of pursuing his goals through long-term game plans. ....Some speculated that the president is fearful of crossing preachers, especially black preachers, who are adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage. Still others said that the president was tone-deaf on the issue because his inner White House circle lacks any known gay people.Rich continues by noting the cultural changes and increased approval for gay rights. Yet, gay Americans have no further protection and rights federally now, than they did in 1969.
But the most prevalent theory is that Obama, surrounded by Clinton White House alumni with painful memories, doesn’t want to risk gay issues upending his presidency, as they did his predecessor’s in 1993.
But full gay citizenship is far from complete. .....As anger at White House missteps boiled over this month, the president abruptly staged a ceremony to offer some crumbs. The pretext was the signing of an executive memorandum bestowing benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees. But some of those benefits were already in force, and the most important of them all, health care, was not included because it is forbidden by DOMA.....
And today, there is supposed to be a hastily put-together event commemorating Stonewall attempts to stanch the bleeding. Rich concludes ,
Gay Americans aren’t just another political special interest group. They are Americans who are actively discriminated against by federal laws. If the president is to properly honor the memory of Stonewall, he should get up to speed on what happened there 40 years ago, when courageous kids who had nothing, not even a public acknowledgment of their existence, stood up to make history happen in the least likely of places.
Is anyone listening?
Make sure the read the whole thing!