I've hesitated to write this post I don't know how many times, often because I am concerned about how it will be received. The GLBTQ teen suicide rate, along with recent developments in cases surrounding Proposition 8 in California, Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the (so-called) Defense of Marriage Act, have steeled my resolve, and so tonight, I will share my thoughts as candidly as possible, while still refraining from using quite as much profanity as I would while speaking.
I am angry. I am angry at our politicians, I am angry at our political parties and the system in which they thrive. I am angry at a society that thinks it is acceptable to vote on civil rights, and I am angry at those who say the GLBTQ community is wrong to call our struggle a civil rights movement. However, at the moment, I am most angry at President Barack Obama. (To find out why, click "Read More")
When Mr. Obama ran for the US Senate four years ago, I did research into his voting record. Now, here was a man that stunned me, for in a world where a politician's platform changes the moment they are voted into office, his appeared not to do so. So I voted for Barack Obama, and when he won his Senate seat, my respect for him deepened. He continued to champion the causes he had promised to champion. He pushed for the things he said he would. He was, to my surprise and delight, an honest politician.
When he became a potential for the Presidential ballot, I was overjoyed. When he spoke of his intentions for gay rights in our country, I dared to hope. This man would not ignore us, as past Presidents have done. He would not vilify us, as his predecessor spent eight years doing. No, this man would champion our cause as a just one, and we would see equal rights, not in twenty years, nor in ten, but in four. I watched his inauguration, and I wept at his speech. Even those who do not agree with what he said that day cannot deny that this is a man who knows how to speak with eloquence, and to stir the hearts of those who listen. It was a dream come true. Within twenty minutes of his speech, the White House website was updated to include Mr. Obama's agenda; the things he intended to change or complete within the four years of his term of office.
But bit by bit, the dream began to slip away. Over the following months, the items on our President's personal "Yes we can" agenda that related to the GLBTQ community began to disappear. Not because they were accomplished, mind you. In fact, there was no explanation at all. This from the man who promised throughout his campaign to be a "fierce advocate" for our community and our rights.
Fast forward to the last few weeks. A defense bill was before Congress that would not have destroyed Don't Ask Don't Tell, but would have been the first step to eliminating the policy. For the record, this is something that Mr. Obama has promised repeatedly would be accomplished this year. On the day that the bill went before the Senate for a vote, the President called a basketball team to congratulate them on their victory, but made not one single call to a Senator who was wavering to pressure them to pass the bill. The bill did not pass.
A Federal judge then decided that Don't Ask Don't Tell is unconstitutional, and issued an injunction that formally threw the policy out, and forbade the Pentagon from terminating any further members of our military under that policy. Where our legislature has not repealed it, the judiciary (using their constitutional power of judicial review) effectively nullified the law by pointing out that it conflicts with the Constitution, which is superior to any and all other laws written, practiced, and enforced in our country. The law is gone.
Late yesterday, the President's Department of Justice filed an appeal, and requested a stay on the injunction. Why? Because a process is already in progress through the Pentagon, and we would rather continue to waste everyone's time working through these surveys and processes rather than letting the law simply die. In fact, we would rather waste time appealing the decision and bringing the law back from the dead so that we can continue with our bureaucratic bullshit process.
There is a similar case over the Defense of Marriage Act, wherein one clause of the Act was declared unconstitutional by a court in New England. (I do not remember the state, forgive me for not researching it at the moment, or I shall lose momentum here.) This, too, is being appealed by the Department of Justice. This, too, is a law that Mr. Obama has said needs to disappear, yet his Attorney General is defending it.
And why? Why is our Attorney General defending these laws, despite the President's professed desire to be rid of them? According to the President himself, as the Chief Executive of our nation, it is his responsibility to defend the laws that are on the books, even if he does not agree with them. Except for one small problem. That's not true, as Advocate columnist Aaron Belkin points out here. Now, upon reading Mr. Belkin's commentary, you may think that perhaps we just don't understand the strictness of the President's responsibilities in this situation. But then another case surfaces that is not one about gay rights, and the Department of Justice has declined their opportunity to appeal. Weren't we just told that there was no choice? That if a law is on the books and has been overturned by a judge, the Attorney General and the President are duty-bound to appeal that decision?
And now, perhaps, you see why I am angry at Mr. Obama. Because he lied. Not just about being a fierce advocate for the GLBTQ community, but about his responsibilities as President of the United States. And worse yet, he did not even have the common decency to cover up the actions that shine a light on the truth. It is a slap in the face, and more so coming from a man that worked so hard to earn my trust, and my vote.
But wait, there is, of course, more.
In the wake of the recent suicides, activist and columnist Dan Savage launched the It Gets Better Project. It began as a series of YouTube videos, to which I, too, contributed, addressed to those who are bullied, with the message that there is hope, that high school is not forever, and that life does get better if you stick around to see it. The project has been immensely popular, and hundreds of videos, recorded by everyone from your average Kieran-on-the-street to celebrities like Bette Midler or Darren Hayes, to a city council member in Fort Worth, TX. It is my hope that this project reaches those kids, and that someone, somewhere, decides that they can keep going because of these videos. There is also consistent mention of The Trevor Project, a twenty-four hour suicide hotline for those same kids.
And then the White House joined in. But there is something missing from this speech. What is it? Any mention, whatsoever, of Mr. Savage, of the It Gets Better Project, of YouTube, or of the Trevor Project. From the administration that brought you the audacity of hope, we also find the audacity of open, unapologetic plagiarism. And what's worse, as Dan Savage points out with his characteristic, unmitigated candor, the White House has the audacity to offer hope, even while refusing to actually work toward making things better. Instead of allowing discriminatory policies to be eliminated and just letting them rattle out their dying breath, we bring in the Department of Justice to resuscitate these policies, hiding behind a responsibility that the President has full authority to waive at any time.
If there is one thing I will give George W. Bush, while I may have disagreed with some...wait...nearly all...wait...everything (yes, that's it) the man did during his time in office, at least I knew where I stood. With Obama, I keep hearing what I want to hear, but actions speak louder than words. What are his actions telling me?
Dan Savage said it best. "Fuck you."