Tag Archives: same sex marriage

President Obama – Not Ahead of the Curve

15 Jun

Today President Obama acted by directive to provide a 2 year “deferred action” on deportation of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. I’m overjoyed at the change. But am I grateful? Nope. I say it’s about time and, BTW, not enough.

No doubt the directive was prompted by the fact that the Republicans were about to announce a proposal via Marco Rubio meant to build support for the Republican Party among Latino voters.

I know that the Rubio proposal was just a political maneuver with no teeth. I’m not lauding Republicans. But never doubt that they, not human rights advocates, drove this decision. This had to do with the Obama team winning the Latino vote in the upcoming election by outflanking the other side. We deny this at the expense of our ability to get ahead of our national leaders; to get behind the wheel of our policy agenda and not just consign ourselves to the role of political backseat drivers.

The directive was the issue driving discussion on the Dylan Ratigan show today. In the discussion on air, liberal pundit Krystal Ball touted the President’s “courage” on social issues, citing his recent statement of support of same-sex marriage as “ahead of the curve.”

I was frustrated with the too little and, for many, too late directive, but I’ll admit that Ball’s statement was what got me writing. Ahead of the curve on same sex marriage? Courage in regard to immigrant rights? I call b.s.

I mean, if the order today and Obama’s statement in support of same sex marriage are ahead of the curve, we need a new curve.

On the issue of marriage, is the President ahead of the curve by evolving to support in an election year when young voters, overwhelmingly in support of same sex marriage, will be a factor at the polls? Only if that curve is drawn by pollsters, and not by the moral imperative at stake in this issue.

And concerning the deferred action on deportation? I won’t call it courage to finally provide temporary relief for a problem requiring a permanent solution, and years ago.

According to the ACLU:

In 2010…363,000 immigrants [were held] in detention in over 250 facilities… Among those locked up for months or years are survivors of torture, asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, families with small children, the elderly, individuals with serious medical and mental health conditions, and lawful permanent residents…who are facing deportation because of old or minor crimes.

In the immigration system, 84% of detainees have no lawyer. They are denied bond and can be held indefinitely. Many are detained for years without ever going to court to determine whether their detention was legal to begin with.

And those with past convictions are not the whole story. In fact, they are a red herring of sorts, distracting us from the fact that nearly half of those deported in 2011 had no past criminal conviction. Their only “crime” was crossing the border without papers. And once arrested, their human rights were not a consideration. Apparently in the U.S., the self described human rights champion, the only people counted as “human” and therefore eligible for rights consideration are citizens.

Krystal Ball should be ashamed of herself, calling out POTUS for being “ahead of the curve.”

How many same sex couples have been dissolved by death, with the survivor being excluded from the last moments of life of their loved one? How many have been excluded from wills? How long have same sex couples had to tolerate being treated as second class citizens, their basic humanity debated, while POTUS evolved?

And how many immigrant families have been torn apart, parents separated from children, husbands from wives, while we’ve waited for this temporary reprieve?

Why do we allow this kind of horse trading on matters of basic human dignity and human rights? And when those with the power to do something act, why does the “curve” get set at the point where they decide to act, and not along the lines of the lives of those for whom these decisions have life changing consequences?

It’s time for us to move the baseline on courage in America. If we don’t, I’m afraid of where following that curve will lead us.

Obama Comes Out of the Closet

10 May

When President Obama came out of the closet with his support of same sex marriage (first stated as an Illinois State Senator in 1996), it was a bright spot in a difficult week for LGBT people. The cynical nature of his “evolution” on the issue got an eye roll out of me, but it also got a tear and a cheer.

Coming one day after the passage of North Carolina Amendment 1, Mr. Obama’s statement in support of same sex marriage, perhaps the most politically touchy subject affecting same sex couples, was a calculated political risk taken at a critical time in the career of our nation’s first black president. It was historic.

And, speaking as a gay man, it was also about damn time.

I’m 50 years old. As a child in the 1960s, I could never have imagined this moment. Homophobia was so commonplace in those days that it was not just normal, it was considered righteous. Adults and children alike bullied boys they perceived as gay.

I was no exception. I grew up isolated, picked on, occasionally assaulted, and without hope for the future. I knew I was “different,” and I was sure that adulthood would hold nothing good for me. And as childhood was no walk in the park, I frequently contemplated suicide in the manner of small children, picturing the regret that my tormentors would experience at my funeral.

By my teens, contemplation turned to action. I figured out how to butch up enough to deflect the bullying of my elementary school years onto other victims, but I lived with a secret, terrified at being found out. I turned to drugs and alcohol, taking the slow road to self-destruction. Eventually, I flunked out of school.

As a working-class boy of color, my family and community meant everything to me. Without the support of these social networks, how was I supposed to get work, make a family, and have a rewarding life? Yet, I knew I would be rejected if I came out. When finally it was made clear to me that my immediate family was aware of my sexual orientation and that I was to “never bring it into the house,” I knew it was time to cut out on my own.

But where was I to go? The organized part of the gay community looked awfully white to me. I grew up in a community in Hawaii that was almost entirely, very nearly militantly brown. Turning to a white community for comfort would be perceived as a betrayal of my family. It felt like a form of betrayal to me.

All of that might just be TMI, but I share it because my story is not unusual. It is, in fact, pretty typical of the experiences of LGBT people of color of my generation.

Over the years, I made a life for myself as a political activist and community servant. I created a community among those who believe as I do in the importance of human rights, racial and gender justice, and sexual freedom. Life did indeed get better.

However, like I said, I’m 50. I’ve waited a long time to hear my president acknowledge that I am fully human and therefore as deserving of rights as anyone else. For 50 years, I’ve waited to hear my president say that regardless of his private religious beliefs, I should be able to share in the same rights of citizenship as straight people.

I lived through the AIDS crisis of the 80s. I helplessly watched friends die as our federal government stood idly by because the disease first appeared in the U.S. among gay men. As an out gay activist my 20s and 30s, death threats, hate mail, and the occasional stalking were part of my “normal.” For most of my life, I’ve had no protection from discrimination in housing and employment based on my sexual orientation. As a former Oregonian, I lived through five statewide ballot measure races in which the morality of my very existence was questioned, and my most basic rights put up for a vote.

I know I should be grateful, but, as far as I’m concerned, every day we continue to debate the relative humanity of other human beings is a day spent reinforcing a way of thinking that is an affront to the humanity of all of us. So, I’m not saying thank you. I’m saying what I believe to be on the minds of most LGBT people of my generation. It’s about damn time.

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