No thanks for table crumbs

On June 1, President Barack Obama issued an official proclamation on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and National Pride Month.

The resolution is reprinted in its entirety below, but, first, my thoughts.

Should we thank Obama for the proclamation? Criticize or chastise him for not yet doing more to help us achieve our equality? Should we do both?

Yes, the proclamation is important, and it sets our community in the public light. But it does nothing to help the everyday, sometimes life-or-death circumstances of LGBT people.

The proclamation does nothing to help those who are faced with violence in their communities and schools. It does not help LGBT people who face unemployment due to lack of job protections. It does nothing to assist LGBT Americans who find themselves separated from their foreign partners because of a discriminatory, anti-gay immigration system.

The proclamation does nothing to unite the LGBT parent who was forced by a court to give up his or her child because of a judge’s anti-LGBT prejudices. It does nothing to help the gay or lesbian couple trying to make ends meet as their state and national governments ignore their very existence.

I’m not willing to drop all concern over the Obama Administration’s slow of movement on our issues just because of the symbolic gesture of this proclamation, or the mostly slight moves he’s made on our issues so far.

Obama once told us that he was a “fierce advocate” for our equality. Maybe, at one time, he might have been, but I’m afraid that fierceness has faded since he took office.

There have been no strong statements or fierce advocacy condemning the tide of anti-LGBT movements across the country. There was no strong statement of praise for the marriage decisions in Iowa, Maine or other recent marriage equality states. There was no strong statement or fierce advocacy rebuking the California Supreme Court’s decision on Proposition 8.

Obama, the de facto head of the nation’s Democratic majority, has done little to push for our equality in the halls of Washington, D.C., power. A true “fierce advocate” would hold his friends’ and associates’ feet to the fire.

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” I do believe Obama is a good man, but he has not done enough to keep his claim that he is our community’s “fierce advocate.”

In January 2008, I wrote a piece entitled “‘President Obama’ – Why gays need to worry.” Addressing Obama’s campaign missteps with the anti-gay and ex-gay Donnie McClurkin incident and Obama’s inclusion of other anti-gay leaders in his “big tent” strategy for America, I said:

Obama won’t have the power or the bravado to stand up to the right-wing bullies if he becomes president, just like he wasn’t able to stand up against them and say, “I’m sorry Donnie, but your views do not match my view of America. My campaign is about one of equality and that isn’t something you stand for. I’ll have to ask that you not perform. I can’t give you a platform for hate.”

All people deserve a place at the table, but when they come to dinner with a plate of hate and exclusion, somebody needs to stand up and issue a correction and rebuke their misguided “In the name of God” rhetoric. Obama won’t and can’t do it.

How prophetic. More than 100 days into Obama’s Administration, our “change” president has done close to nil when it comes to changing the reality of LGBT Americans. His press secretary and other associates avoid our issues like the plague. As predicted, Obama doesn’t have — or, at least, has yet to show he has — the power or the bravado to stand-up to the right-wing bullies, or stand up and issue corrections and rebukes to their misguided hate.

I’m frustrated. I’m impatient. I see, so clearly, that our nation’s promise of equality includes me and my peers. Why can’t others? Why can’t Obama. For now, I’ll pass on the congratulatory thank yous and praise for this proclamation. Instead, I’ll thank Obama for a real act, one that is a better and more welcome change: Kevin Jennings’ appointment to the Department of Education.

It is far past time for the full banquet of America to be opened up to the LGBT community. As host of that banquet of equality and justice for all, Obama owes us a seat. Will we ever receive our invitation to dinner, or will we be kept waiting outside, dining on the table crumbs of equality we’ve gotten thus far?

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 1, 2009

– – – – – – –

Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans.

LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities. LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country’s response to the HIV pandemic.

Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before. I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration. These individuals embody the best qualities we seek in public servants, and across my Administration — in both the White House and the Federal agencies — openly LGBT employees are doing their jobs with distinction and professionalism.

The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done. LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.

My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.

These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

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