Tuesday, June 30, 2009

David Mixner Calls for National Equality March this October

As this Administration sits in offices plotting timeline charts on what rights they feel comfortable granting us this year, clearly it is time for us to gin up our efforts and stop waiting for them to hand us our God given entitlements. Enough. I really can't stomach any more being told 'not now'. As nice as it would be, no one is going to give us our freedom; we are going to have to continue to fight like hell for it. It is demeaning to us to be moved around on a political chess board like freedom is a move in some game.

We have to stop it.

Let's never forget that we are not talking about just another piece of legislation nor just an executive order. What is at stake is over 1,000 rights, benefits, privileges and protections granted to all other Americans and denied to the LGBT community. It is about the ability of those who choose to serve their country can do so in total honesty and freedom. That the vision of America is for our young as well as other young Americans. Finally as we work toward full equality we must halt in its tracks the efforts of a number of our fellow citizens to put in place a system of Apartheid for LGBT citizens. The stakes are way too high for them to tell us to wait until next year, or even until the next term.

Our freedom can't be negotiated in the political offices of the White House and in the halls of Congress. Our goal is not to make their path easier but to ensure that young LGBT citizens will not be beaten, denied the right to serve, have their love demeaned in some sort of separate but equal system or excluded from giving their gifts and talents freely to this nation. At this moment, there is very little movement on any of these issues in the White House and it appears that some even believe we should be happy with just hate crimes legislation being passed this year.

I adore President Obama but not enough to allow his team to delay my freedom for political convenience or comfort. It is unacceptable.

My plea is for our LGBT leaders to call a March on Washington for Marriage Equality this November and if they won't do it, I appeal to our young to come together and provide the leadership.

We need to come together in a display of powerful community unity to empower our young and to show the nation that anything less than full freedom is unacceptable. Clearly there are other issues that should be on the agenda for the march but marriage equality is the lynchpin that deals with so many of those issues. The most striking outside that institution would be the freedom to serve in our nation's military - and that weekend I think we could have a separate powerful event to highlight that.

Having organized a number of major marches in my near 50 years of activism, I don't take this call lightly. Trust me, I know that there are times when such marches are ineffective and poorly timed. Yet, I have also seen them be extremely effective both in message and building momentum within the movement. For the first time, we have the opportunity to have tens of thousands of our straight allies and straight students join us and we should organize the march to make it easy for them to be by our sides.

My experience has taught me the secret to any march is to keep the message simple and to make it easy for others to join. Of course, our best organizers must be enlisted in order to ensure that hundreds of thousands attend in an orderly and safe fashion.

Tapping into my previous work, I would suggest the following for consideration: On the Friday before the march 12,000 (approximately the number of our service people that have been dismissed under DADT) led by our veterans walk single file from the Pentagon to the White House until all 12,000 are across from the White House. Let the nation see visibly how many of our citizens have had their careers destroyed while the military allows convicted felons to serve. I would love to see 12,000 across from the White House chanting "Let US Serve."

One of the lessons from previous marches is that everyone should be on the Mall by no later than 3PM. We should not let logistics prevent people from getting to the Mall or otherwise they won't be counted. Everyone must be present before the evening news has to develop their stories. Each marcher and organizer should be told that every single person has to be on the Mall from 2PM to 3PM in order for us to have a success. How they choose to do that I will leave to the organizers.

Watching press secretary Robert Gibbs dodge and duck answers on LGBT issues while it seems almost every other group and issue is being discussed is so depressing to me. The promise of the Democrats being in control was great. They still can rise to greatness. It is not too late but they need our help in lifting them out of their own fears and into the light.

President Kennedy had to deal with a recession, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis and so much more. However, when Dr. King and others filled the streets of cities around America and yes, Washington, DC, the president found the resources and time to stay by their sides. The time has come for us to remove the current administration's option of shrinking from leadership on this issue and to insist they rise to a new level of greatness along side us as we all fight together for freedom. It is the only way.

- David Mixner
Posting on his regular Blog DavidMixner.com
May 30, 2009

President Praises Gay Pioneer Frank Kameny

Remarks by President Barrack H. Obama
White House East Room Reception commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion
June 28, 2009

THE PRESIDENT: It's good to see so many friends and familiar faces, and I deeply appreciate the support I've received from so many of you. Michelle appreciates it and I want you to know that you have our support, as well. (Applause.) And you have my thanks for the work you do every day in pursuit of equality on behalf of the millions of people in this country who work hard and care about their communities -- and who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. (Applause.)

Now this struggle, I don't need to tell you, is incredibly difficult, although I think it's important to consider the extraordinary progress that we have made. There are unjust laws to overturn and unfair practices to stop. And though we've made progress, there are still fellow citizens, perhaps neighbors or even family members and loved ones, who still hold fast to worn arguments and old attitudes; who fail to see your families like their families; and who would deny you the rights that most Americans take for granted. And I know this is painful and I know it can be heartbreaking. And yet all of you continue, leading by the force of the arguments you make but also by the power of the example that you set in your own lives -- as parents and friends, as PTA members and leaders in the community. And that's important, and I'm glad that so many LGBT families could join us today. (Applause.) For we know that progress depends not only on changing laws but also changing hearts. And that real, transformative change never begins in Washington.

(Cell phone "quacks.") Whose duck is back there? (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: It's a duck.

THE PRESIDENT: There's a duck quacking in there somewhere. (Laughter.) Where do you guys get these ring tones, by the way? (Laughter.) I'm just curious. (Laughter.) Indeed, that's the story of the movement for fairness and equality -- not just for those who are gay, but for all those in our history who've been denied the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; who've been told that the full blessings and opportunities of this country were closed to them. It's the story of progress sought by those who started off with little influence or power; by men and women who brought about change through quiet, personal acts of compassion and courage and sometimes defiance wherever and whenever they could. That's the story of a civil rights pioneer who's here today, Frank Kameny, who was fired -- (applause.) Frank was fired from his job as an astronomer for the federal government simply because he was gay. And in 1965, he led a protest outside the White House, which was at the time both an act of conscience but also an act of extraordinary courage. And so we are proud of you, Frank, and we are grateful to you for your leadership. (Applause.)

It's the story of the Stonewall protests, which took place 40 years ago this week, when a group of citizens -- with few options, and fewer supporters -- decided they'd had enough and refused to accept a policy of wanton discrimination. And two men who were at those protests are here today. Imagine the journey that they've travelled. It's the story of an epidemic that decimated a community -- and the gay men and women who came to support one another and save one another; and who continue to fight this scourge; and who demonstrated before the world that different kinds of families can show the same compassion and support in a time of need -- that we all share the capacity to love. So this story, this struggle, continues today -- for even as we face extraordinary challenges as a nation, we cannot -- and will not -- put aside issues of basic equality. (Applause.)
We seek an America in which no one feels the pain of discrimination based on who you are or who you love. And I know that many in this room don't believe that progress has come fast enough, and I understand that. It's not for me to tell you to be patient, any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half century ago. But I say this: We have made progress and we will make more. And I want you to know that I expect and hope to be judged not by words, not by promises I've made, but by the promises that my administration keeps. And by the time you receive -- (applause.) We've been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration. (Applause.)

Now, while there is much more work to do, we can point to important changes we've already put in place since coming into office. I've signed a memorandum requiring all agencies to extend as many federal benefits as possible to LGBT families as current law allows. And these are benefits that will make a real difference for federal employees and Foreign Service Officers, who are so often treated as if their families don't exist. And I'd like to note that one of the key voices in helping us develop this policy is John Berry, our director of the Office of Personnel Management, who is here today. And I want to thank John Berry. (Applause.)

I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act to help end discrimination -- (applause) -- to help end discrimination against same-sex couples in this country. Now, I want to add we have a duty to uphold existing law, but I believe we must do so in a way that does not exacerbate old divides. And fulfilling this duty in upholding the law in no way lessens my commitment to reversing this law. I've made that clear.

I'm also urging Congress to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, which will guarantee the full range of benefits, including health care, to LGBT couples and their children. (Applause.) My administration is also working hard to pass an employee non-discrimination bill and hate crimes bill, and we're making progress on both fronts. (Applause.) Judy and Dennis Shepard, as well as their son Logan, are here today. I met with Judy in the Oval Office in May -- (applause) -- and I assured her and I assured all of you that we are going to pass an inclusive hate crimes bill into law, a bill named for their son Matthew. (Applause.) In addition, my administration is committed to rescinding the discriminatory ban on entry to the United States based on HIV status. (Applause.) The Office of Management and Budget just concluded a review of a proposal to repeal this entry ban, which is a first and very big step towards ending this policy. And we all know that HIV/AIDS continues to be a public health threat in many communities, including right here in the District of Columbia. And that's why this past Saturday, on National HIV Testing Day, I was proud once again to encourage all Americans to know their status and get tested the way Michelle and I know our status and got tested. (Applause.) And finally, I want to say a word about "don't ask, don't tell." As I said before -- I'll say it again -- I believe "don't ask, don't tell" doesn't contribute to our national security. (Applause.) In fact, I believe preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security. (Applause.)

Now, my administration is already working with the Pentagon and members of the House and the Senate on how we'll go about ending this policy, which will require an act of Congress. Someday, I'm confident, we'll look back at this transition and ask why it generated such angst, but as Commander-in-Chief, in a time of war, I do have a responsibility to see that this change is administered in a practical way and a way that takes over the long term. That's why I've asked the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a plan for how to thoroughly implement a repeal. I know that every day that passes without a resolution is a deep disappointment to those men and women who continue to be discharged under this policy -- patriots who often possess critical language skills and years of training and who've served this country well. But what I hope is that these cases underscore the urgency of reversing this policy not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it is essential for our national security.

Now, even as we take these steps, we must recognize that real progress depends not only on the laws we change but, as I said before, on the hearts we open. For if we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that there are good and decent people in this country who don't yet fully embrace their gay brothers and sisters -- not yet. That's why I've spoken about these issues not just in front of you, but in front of unlikely audiences -- in front of African American church members, in front of other audiences that have traditionally resisted these changes. And that's what I'll continue to do so. That's how we'll shift attitudes. That's how we'll honor the legacy of leaders like Frank and many others who have refused to accept anything less than full and equal citizenship.

Now, 40 years ago, in the heart of New York City at a place called the Stonewall Inn, a group of citizens, including a few who are here today, as I said, defied an unjust policy and awakened a nascent movement. It was the middle of the night. The police stormed the bar, which was known for being one of the few spots where it was safe to be gay in New York. Now, raids like this were entirely ordinary. Because it was considered obscene and illegal to be gay, no establishments for gays and lesbians could get licenses to operate. The nature of these businesses, combined with the vulnerability of the gay community itself, meant places like Stonewall, and the patrons inside, were often the victims of corruption and blackmail. Now, ordinarily, the raid would come and the customers would disperse. But on this night, something was different. There are many accounts of what happened, and much has been lost to history, but what we do know is this: People didn't leave. They stood their ground. And over the course of several nights they declared that they had seen enough injustice in their time. This was an outpouring against not just what they experienced that night, but what they had experienced their whole lives. And as with so many movements, it was also something more: It was at this defining moment that these folks who had been marginalized rose up to challenge not just how the world saw them, but also how they saw themselves. As we've seen so many times in history, once that spirit takes hold there is little that can stand in its way. (Applause.)

And the riots at Stonewall gave way to protests, and protests gave way to a movement, and the movement gave way to a transformation that continues to this day. It continues when a partner fights for her right to sit at the hospital bedside of a woman she loves. It continues when a teenager is called a name for being different and says, "So what if I am?" It continues in your work and in your activism, in your fight to freely live your lives to the fullest. In one year after the protests, a few hundred gays and lesbians and their supporters gathered at the Stonewall Inn to lead a historic march for equality. But when they reached Central Park, the few hundred that began the march had swelled to 5,000. Something had changed, and it would never change back. The truth is when these folks protested at Stonewall 40 years ago no one could have imagined that you -- or, for that matter, I -- (laughter) -- would be standing here today. (Applause.)

So we are all witnesses to monumental changes in this country. That should give us hope, but we cannot rest. We must continue to do our part to make progress -- step by step, law by law, mind by changing mind. And I want you to know that in this task I will not only be your friend, I will continue to be an ally and a champion and a President who fights with you and for you.

hattip: Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Dish

Recent Post by Andrew Sullivan

Cut Off The DNC's Money!

One way to get the Obama administration's attention on civil rights is for gay people to stop funding the Democrats. That's all these people care about anyway when it comes to gays: our money. If the Democrats refuse to support us, refuse to support them. This is a start. But we need to get more creative. We need actions to highlight the administration's betrayals, postponements and boilerplate. We need to start confronting the president at his events. We need civil disobedience. We need to tell him we do not want another fricking speech where he tells us he is a fierce advocate for our rights, when that is quite plainly at this point not true. We will not tolerate another Clinton. No invites to these people for dinners or fundraisers. No cheering him at events while he does nothing to follow up on his explicit promises. Of course these things can be done. If anyone high up in the Obama administration or the Pelosi-Reid Congress gave a damn, much would have been done.

We need to swamp Pelosi with phone-calls.

We need to target Reid for his inaction.

We have to pressure Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin not to excuse the disdain that the Obama administration is showing toward gay equality, and their cynical use of our votes, money and passion to enforce real and potent discrimination against us and our families.

And we have to refuse to attend White House signing ceremonies like yesterday's farce. Really: until they are serious, we should not be coopted and placated with pathetic sops. I am not a Clintonite. I worked my ass off to get this man to power. On many issues, I support him and will continue to do so.But I am a proud, self-respecting gay man with HIV. And I am not going to take this crap for much longer on civil rights. Fight back. Act Up.

Andrew Sullivan
Posting on his regular blog - The Daily Dish
June 18, 2009