the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.

obama: gay rights important, just not right now?

In politics on June 3, 2009 at 11:40 am

It’s LGBT pride month, and as with any “pride” month, you get the obligatory presidential proclamation monday about the importance of our country’s diversity, complete with a call for “the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all.” Pointedly, Obama referred to the 40th anniversary of the stonewall riots. The riots constitute a game-changing couple of weeks for the Gay Rights movements–suddenly, Gays were a visible (if still voiceless) political force to be reckoned with. The LGBT community unified around the selfless, courageous actions of these men in NYC. 

It is precisely action that’s missing from Obama’s Gay Rights agenda. He celebrates the bravery of the LGBT community in “mobiliz[ing] the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic,” yet has let legislation that would override the current ban on HIV positive visitors to the U.S. stall in the HHS department. 60 Canadians on their way to an HIV/AIDS conference were turned away at customs on the day of Obama’s proclamation. 

Obama recommits in the proclamation to supporting measures “ending the existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security.” He also nominated a republican congressman for Army Secretary who supports an end to DADT. But more could be done: A temporary suspension of all DADT hearings until a way forward is drawn out? A sit-down with recently discharged officers like Dan Choi?

Yes, the president has a lot on his plate, and special interest groups at his doorstep with innumerable–and often conflicting–‘asks’. But this is not a special interest movement. It is the civil rights movement of our time. There is urgency and pride and anger in the majority of voices of Gay Rights supporters. If you’re not yet ready to commit to action, Mr. President, at least let the inflection and emotion in your speeches match that of the sons and daughters of Stonewall.


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