TAG | Gay Rights
Although Obama’s State of the Union address did not have much substance for gay rights, the swift response to the proclamation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been reassuring. Senate held a hearing this week to consider the ramifications of repeal and it has been in the news ever since.
Admiral Mike Mullen has spoken and written with conviction. Colin Powell, who was one of the reasons we even have DADT, now thinks the law should be repealed. John McCain, who in 2006 said he would defer to the military leaders advice on the issue, is now ignoring it— Stephen Colbert had a field day with this flip-flop.
My favorite response this week has to be Lt. Dan Choi’s article, “When our Honor Code becomes a Jilted Lover, it wants revenge,” posted on The Bilerico Project. As a prestigious West Point graduate, armed with a skill set in linguistics that few in the world possess and a commitment to this country, his pending discharge under DADT is reprehensible.
He writes candidly on the conflict between DADT, which promotes hiding, lying, and deception, and the honesty, integrity, and courage taught at West Point and throughout the military ranks: “The reason why Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is repugnant is clear: it enforces lying, hiding, and closeted paranoia.”
He also points out that countries around the world have reason to laugh at us for our unsubstantiated stance: “Our allies laugh at us with patronizing glare that is earned by our cowardice to follow our own doctrines and values. Our doctrine must begin with our perennial goal: Win the War. Our values must begin with cold hard truth telling. Kicking out Arabic, Farsi, Pashto and Urdu linguists who tell the truth about their orientation and love relationships validates neither our doctrines nor our values.”
Choi closes by quoting directly from the West Point honor code: “A cadet will not lie… nor tolerate those who do.” Choi then writes, “Until I am allowed to follow West Point’s Honor Code, I am not satisfied.”
Bravo. He is the type of courageous and loyal soldier that this country has always loved. He is a hero in my book, and I’m sure the history books will say the same when this silly debate is behind us.
If you want to read more responses to the DADT hearing, David Mixner has compiled a list of some excellent ones.
On this 25th celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the words that he spoke continue to reverberate, especially within the gay community still seeking its own equality. Although there are certainly differences between the groups, the comparisons in the struggle for equal rights are remarkable. When I speak of an athlete coming out to break down the “gay barrier,” I often say that we need our own Jackie Robinson.
Anyway, in our Legislation course at Moritz we’ve started the semester by dissecting the various political components that came together for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The words being uttered today in opposition of gay rights are the exact same as they were in those days against the African American community. Even the political atmosphere and the presidential election of Kennedy share many similarities to today: campaign promises losing momentum upon election, disappointment from those who voted the President to office, hurdles in the political spectrum, etc. Here are some of the excerpts from the book that stood out specifically to me in these regards (*):
- Dr. King writing from his Birmingham jail: “For years now I have heard the word ‘wait.’ […] This ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’”
There has been much debate from within the gay community on the best strategy for demanding rights and the priority order to do so: marriage, workplace protection, etc. Many (including Obama) say to wait for the right time politically, for when it is safe for politicians to make the push; yet every day waiting is another day that inequality is the way of the land.
- During and after the election of Kennedy: “Some have suggested that Kennedy was primarily concerned with foreign affair and economic issues and though of African Americans only in terms of votes. […] Thus it was hardly surprising that, after the 1960 election, President Kennedy disregarded his campaign rhetoric and decided not to seek legislation.”
This has been the exact scenario with Obama. He garnered significant support (money and votes) from the gay community during his election when he said he would be a “fierce advocate” for us. He has been about as fierce as this kitten. He promised he would end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He promised he would urge states to give same-sex couples equal rights. He said he would support the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Now in office, he has done very little for the gay community.
- “Kennedy did use his powers as chief executive to appoint African Americans to important positions and to establish equal opportunity in federal employment. But he demonstrated no sense of urgency.”
Again, Obama has done the same, and although nice, it is not the “fierce advocate” we were promised.
There are countless more comparisons that can be made. I’ll leave you with one of the most famous King quotes: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
(*) All quotes from Cases and Materials on Legislation: Statutes and the Creation of Public Policy, 4th Edition, William Eskridge, Philip Frickey, and Elizabeth Garrett.
Perry v Schwarzenegger continued with witness questioning for the 4th day. And although it is much tougher to follow by reading tweets, blogs, and news reports compared to getting some video highlights, that would surely become quite viral, it is this very reason that I must encourage (beg?) you to continue to read as much as you can, especially those that have less of a vested interest in the case. The proponents for Prop 8 specifically sought for as limited coverage of possible in order to hide their own bigotry; those views will only be exposed by your own efforts to seek the information.
Again, to aid you in that endeavor, I will direct you to some first-hand sources. If you are interested in getting the most in-depth information, in a blog that is now transcribing the witnesses questioning close to verbatim, please visit the Prop 8 Trial Tracker, with its perfect tagline “Holding the right-wing accountable.” For quick snippets and highlights from the case, follow (or visit and read their Twitter history) American Foundation for Equal Rights, The Advocate Magazine, NCLRights and/or Lt. Dan Choi.
The 4th day of the hearing was filled with the questioning of Dr. Ilan Meyer, Associate Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Whew, that’s quite a title. Anyway, the plaintiff’s attorneys sought to show the emotional and mental damage causes by discrimination and being in the closet. The defendant’s sought to undermine Dr. Meyer’s own research, motives, etc.
Here are the Tweets I’d like to highlight for the day:
- @NCLRights: Patterson trying but failing to find some way that the weddings of same-sex couples would cost the city money. Quite absurd. #prop8
- @ltdanchoi Dr. Meyer specifically mentions DADT military policy imposing hiding & lying: “it is a private hell.” #Prop8
- @AmerEqualRights Meyer: Adverse mental health affects from discrimination & stigma include suicide attempts, particularly in youth #Prop8
- @AmerEqualRights Back from recess. Boies tells court we are on pace to rest our case around Wednesday of next week. #Prop8
That last one isn’t really substance, but gives you an estimate of the cases pacing (so you can know how long you need to buckle down and stay informed!).
I’ve yet to write/comment/link on anything related to the Uganda proposed anti-gay / gay-execution bill, which is incredibly short-sighted of me, I admit. Even now, the brevity of this post is not sufficient for such an important issue, and I’ll work to write something more appropriate this weekend.
Anyway, the most despicable part about the situation, aside from the actual ideas that the bill suggests, is the involvement that U.S. evangelicals may have had in promoting it.
There is a Congressional Hearing next week to both learn more about the bill in general and to delve into the possibility of U.S. citizen involvement.
The UK Gay News quotes Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI): “I think that one of the interesting things that this story has developed has been the investigative journalism that has uncovered pretty strong ties between a handful of US-based evangelicals and the development of this legislation in Uganda. [...] It is very disturbing when I see the ties that have been uncovered.”
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked the posting of any YouTube videos from the trial while it reviews the objections from the Prop 8 supporters. Accordingly, any updates at this time are coming in from various news sites and Twitter accounts.
To get snippets of information as it happens, I would recommend following the American Foundation for Equal Rights, @AmerEqualRights. Here are some highlights from their posts today:
(Olson is the attorney for the gay couples, Cooper is attorney defending Prop 8, Zarrillo and Katami are one of the couples):
- Olson: “In short, in the words of the highest court in the land, marriage is the most important relationship in life.” #Prop8
- Olson: Each of the rationalizations for Prop 8 fails; no good reason to justify its discrimination #Prop8
- Cooper: Marriage discrimination is OK as purpose of marriage is “procreative activity” #Prop8
- Cooper: Marriage equality, through which more people would be allowed to marry, will lead to fewer marriages #Prop8
- Zarrillo: Marriage is the “next logical step” in his relationship #Prop8
- Katami: “Being gay doesn’t change the fact that I pay my taxes, own a home and want to start a family” #Prop8
- Defenders object to showing of ad that cites a “homosexual agenda” as a reason to stop marriage equality. Overruled. #Prop8
- Zarrillo: Marriage to someone of the opposite sex is not an option #Prop8
The website for the American Foundation for Equal Rights has also posted Ted Olson’s opening statement as it was prepared (link). Here are my favorite parts:
- “The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly described the right to marriage as “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men;” a “basic civil right;” a component of the constitutional rights to liberty, privacy, association, and intimate choice; an expression of emotional support and public commitment; the exercise of spiritual unity; and a fulfillment of one’s self.”
- “As the witnesses in this case will elaborate, marriage is central to life in America. It promotes mental, physical and emotional health and the economic strength and stability of those who enter into a marital union. It is the building block of family, neighborhood and community.”
- “There is no rational justification for this unique pattern of discrimination. Proposition 8, and the irrational pattern of California’s regulation of marriage which it promulgates, advances no legitimate state interest. All it does is label gay and lesbian persons as different, inferior, unequal, and disfavored. And it brands their relationships as not the same, and less-approved than those enjoyed by opposite sex couples. It stigmatizes gays and lesbians, classifies them as outcasts, and causes needless pain, isolation and humiliation.”