Thursday, December 31, 2009

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

We have made some great strides as a community this last year, and had some heart-breaking disappointments.

We won marriage in unexpected places (Iowa?) and lost it in others (Maine)

For a couple of looks back, and looks forward, check out these:

Kerry Eleveld is the savvy political correspondent to The Advocate. She has a year-end review about the View from Washington
The White House has made progress on some gay rights fronts this year to be sure, such as enactment of an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes law, Obama recommitting himself as president to end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and pushing for Congress to pass a law that would provide benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers.

But by and large, the administration has shown a reticence bordering on negligence for using the power of the executive to honor the commitments of LGBT couples with real, full and equal treatment. ....

Obama campaigned on equality among other things. And while you can make the case that as president he is making pragmatic decisions about our security concerns abroad or about sacrificing the public option in health reform as a guard against letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, not allowing a federal agency to provide health benefits to a federal worker because of an ideology that willfully emphasizes DOMA over a law on federal employee benefits is essentially a form of reasoned discrimination.

Just maybe the inner circle of the White House will wake up one day and realize that their political calculations might not only cost their president the moral high ground on human dignity, but their ability to package Obama as a moderate, let alone a progressive. After all, there’s nothing moderate about erring on the side of inequality.

And, over at the Huffington Post, Lisa Linsky writes a longer view of the whole decade, in Out And About: LGBT Legal -- The Call of the New Decade
These examples of violence, discrimination and human rights violations underscore the view that the glass remains half empty for LGBT people worldwide...Fortunately, we have also seen progress in the past ten years and these advances must not be undervalued.

In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas, finding a constitutional due process right of sexual privacy for consenting adults regardless of sexual orientation. The Lawrence decision resulted in the crumbling of criminal sodomy laws throughout the country leading legal scholar Lawrence Tribe to describe it as the "Brown v. Board of Education of gay and lesbian America."

This was the decade that saw gay people raised as religious leaders....

LGBT people continued to emerge as political leaders during this decade.....

Which brings me to marriage equality. Despite continued resistance to same-sex relationships by many Christian conservatives and other opponents, we have witnessed marriage equality for LGBT people in jurisdictions all over the world.

In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to recognize the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry. Same-sex couples may now marry in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire (as of January 1, 2010), Vermont and the District of Columbia. Marriage equality was won in California in 2008, when the state's supreme court recognized the constitutional right of marriage for LGBT people. The controversial voter referendum known as "Prop 8" subsequently eliminated this right, but 18,000 same-sex marriages already performed were upheld.

In May 2009, Maine's governor signed a freedom to marry law that permitted same-sex couples to marry in that state which was later overturned by a Prop 8-like voter referendum.....

We are making progress toward LGBT equality. But we have not yet evolved as a society to the point where we have implemented a compassionate, non-judgmental, "live and let live" mindset that will lead to full recognition of the civil rights of LGBT people and those in other marginalized groups.....

As this decade ticks to its close, I am left thinking about fear. Racism, heterosexism, misogyny and xenophobia are still fueling our lives and shaping our world, and the common denominator is fear. This fear, says Bishop Gene Robinson, has driven us to stop listening to one another. "Fear is a terrible is the opposite of faith", writes Robinson in his book, In the Eye of the Storm. Perhaps the call of the new decade will give us the strength to push beyond this fear, listen generously to those we perceive as "the other", and come together to create something extraordinary. Surely Coretta Scott King's wisdom applies to our time: hate is too great a burden to bear.
Andrew Sullivan also reviews progress with a long view. He gives the male conservatives in the GLBT community more credit than I think he should, but it is typically a provocative post. But the lead is heart-felt, and I think, correct:
This first decade of the 21st century has been an astonishing thing. I'm now legally married in both places I reside: in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Five states now recognize marriage equality and many countries. My home country offers all the rights of civil marriage to my husband. The cynical use of homophobia by the GOP worked for a while, but has since faded. Meanwhile, the dialogue has deepened and widened, and, as it has done so, attitudes have shifted more profoundly than at any previous point. Ted Olson is now one of the faces of gay equality. The next generation gets the fact that gays are human beings, have relationships as valid as straight ones, and have love as deep.

It can be hard to recognize it, but we have come an enormously long distance, even past the narrow defeats in Maine and California. We have overcome. And we shall again.

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