There is an important report out on VIOLENCE & BULLYING by the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) that contains an entire section on LGBT suffering due to societal discrimination.
The USCCR is like the Discrimination Ombudsman of the U.S. Government, responsible for Civil Rights issues, ranging from studying and collecting information to making recommendations to the President and Congress.
They are independent and bipartisan, and their mandate extends to “matters of discrimination or equal protection of the laws because of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin.”
Since “sexual orientation and gender identity” are not included, it is all the more remarkable that this latest report address clearly LGBT suffering, though activists have called for the USCCR to address this issue.
The Report also examines the critical laws: Title IV (school discrimination based on “sex”) and Title VI (all federally funded programs) of the Civil Rights Act, which do not yet include SO&GI (though hopefully the Omnibus will do this).
The report is obviously the product of the sweet velvet glove of President Obama who is steadily making the legal and evidentiary case that will require our government to step up to its duty to protect us from harm.
For this one, he appointed Ms. Roberta Achtenburg, a lesbian human rights expert to the USCCR, back in Feburary 2011. She and three other colleagues approved the Report, while 3 others opposed it and one, who was new, abstained. The names are in the report.
The footnotes are particularly interesting because they start to chronicle – probably for the first time ever by a U.S. Governmental entity to Congress (?) – that we suffer “psychological distress,” “distorted sense of justice and order,” and an array of mental health, behavioral disorders, and other harm, caused by societal anti-LGBT discrimination.
Here’s a nice example: “Research indicates that experiencing stigma and discrimination is associated with heightened psychological distress—both among gay and lesbian adults and adolescents.”
It’s increasingly clear all around that ending discrimination is a matter of public welfare, and it seems our brilliant President is building the case.
On related fronts, The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) also just released a report on the harm caused LGBT Families by discrimination called: ALL CHILDREN MATTER.
And here is an overview of a variety of Reports on the broad array of injury and suffering we experience. What we need now, is a nice composite Report by MAP or Williams on the over all picture, as we gear up for the Omnibus LGBT Equality Bill.
Among the Occupiers, the cry is often: Whose Streets? Our Streets! It’s also heard in LGBT activism, like the night the police tried to clear the street party for marriage equality in front of The Stonewall, but were stopped by this chant.
It’s a statement that puts the issue of ownership over this society and our government in its appropriate perspective. It says that social policy should reflect the interest of the people, because the ownership resides with the people.
It is this understanding that we need more of from both this movement generally, and Representative Polis’ approach to the Omnibus, which does not have a public process, or even a committee of community stakeholders empowered in the process.
As a result, we are at the final stages, and no one can explain clearly why Title VI is not in the Outline, what process there is for community input, and why the community call for Full Federal Equality & Equal Civil Rights is being ignored.
Via this platform, I am trying to open that dialogue and bring the conversations to light, so that all can be informed and participate. But already the problems with insider, behind-the-scenes, one-on-one conversations are appearing.
One result was the last post I wrote – “Gay Inc Blocks Title VI,” which was based on the story I was clearly told by Rep. Polis’ staff, but is now denied. I shared that with HRC Board members directly via FB messages, and it resulted in a flurry of exchanges.
Here is what I learned in separate calls from Representative Polis’ Chief of Staff, Brian Branton; Legislative Director, Eve Lieberman; and, from Fred Sainz, HRC’s Spokesman who was on the line with David Smith. I invite their corrections.
I have no idea what the next steps are, but there are conference calls in various groups in the works. And I did made it clear that we were in this for our human rights, and not inclined to give up.
REASONS OFFERED BY POLIS’ TEAM ON WHY TITLE VI IS NOT INCLUDED
1. Different visions of an “Omnibus”. Rep. Polis’ team said they see the omnibus as only a collection of previously filed bills. REPLY: The Outline they produced already includes new components – “public accommodations and public facilities” which are Titles 2 & 3 of the CRA, which are not in any previously filed bills. And if this new bill were only a collection of our past bills, it would be obviously incomplete, and there would be no value added. It would not be “omnibus”. Moreover, all previous draft “omnibus” bills, which prompted this effort, include Title VI, and various Resolutions and Proclamations from elected officials, and community centers, call for Equal Civil Rights, some Title VI specifically.
2. The Polis Outline Coverage & Title VI. Rep. Polis’ team stated that the other provisions included in the Outline, together, are the equivalent of adding SO&GI to Title VI. REPLY: This is not accurate as a matter of law or fact. We referred them to the DOJ’s office that deals with Title VI enforcement and Internal DOJ memorandum.
3. The Omnibus is a bad strategic idea. Rep. Polis’ team stated the piecemeal approach is more pragmatic. REPLY: We maintain that the reason for an omnibus is to make a statement about our equality, as a beacon for our cause, and an organizing impetus for our movement. We need a bill we believe in.
4. Opposition from LGBT Groups. Polis’ team’s explanation that Title VI was omitted due to opposition from HRC, NGLTF,NCLR, operating as a coalition, based on “pragmatism,” is no longer being offered (see below).
5. Pragmatism. This argument seems to have disappeared as well, as the focus is now on 1. Our vision of the Omnibus includes only previously filed bills; 2. Our Outline pieces covers Title VI, both of which are not accurate factually.
1. Process & Public Participation. We have urged that Rep. Polis’ team create a more transparent process for a public debate on the scope of the Outline, and then on any draft bill. Polis’ team is opposed to a more public process. REPLY: This keeps all the people being consulted individually one-on-one in the dark as to who else is in the conversation, and precludes open grassroots participation, or a community-wide dialogue. Our intention is to bring as much transparency to this process as possible and to advocate for a legitimate process on this matter of clear community-wide concern.
2. Timeline. Repeatedly, Polis’ Team has said that they are waiting for Rep. Baldwin to file her health care bill, before they can file, and evidently, before they are able to offer a draft for comment. REPLY: Rep. Baldwin is running for Senate so may be pre-occupied. But we maintain we should not have to wait to begin a community conversation on the Outline, which is already available, and that the Baldwin bill should not preclude a conversation about Title VI. Overall timeline as I understand it is still January.
3. “Agree to Disagree.” Rep. Polis’ team repeatedly used this phrase when there was disagreement, even as to factual, legal matters, like the scope of Title VI as compared to the Outline. REPLY: It reflects a problem power dynamic, whereby the Chief of Staff becomes the authority figure for our entire movement, empowered to make unilateral decisions on matters of general concern to our entire community, with no public dialogue, or even committee conversation.
1. Blog: “Gay Inc Stops Title VI.” Rep. Polis’ team is now saying that they were misunderstood on this point. HRC says they are not working in coalition on the Omnibus, and have not offered input against Title VI. REPLY: I stand by my earlier reporting, which accurately reflected the information I was given by Rep. Polis’ staff, and am deeply troubled by this turn of events, which suggests to me the run around.
2. HRC’s Position on Title VI. HRC’s Spokesperson said that HRC would not make a public statement on the issue of Title VI’s inclusion until they had a draft bill to comment on. They have the Outline, but say they have not commented on that, and did not oppose Title VI. REPLY: We requested a statement from HRC supporting the inclusion of Title VI in the Omnibus, but so far have not received one. There is no reason HRC should have to wait to join this vital conversation in earnest and openly.
3. LGBT CAUCUS (Congress). Concern was raised about being sensitive to the feelings of other Representatives, and the individual work on individual bills. REPLY: We reiterated that the LGBT Caucus should be coordinating on a strategy, and holding a public process engagement with the community on an omnibus bill. This reflects a general problem whereby our agenda is treated as the private purview of individual Congress people, instead of belonging to the people.
WHOSE OMNIBUS? OUR OMNIBUS!
PROCLAMATION OF THE OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE
WHEREAS, the unity of cultures across time have embraced the concept of inalienable human rights that derive from our relationship to nature; and, on this 24th day of October 2011 the Oglala Sioux Tribe acknowledges Richard Noble and the grassroots LGBT Civil Rights Movement; and
WHEREAS, a central tenant of United States law is the principle of non-discrimination and equal protection under the law as human rights; and
WHEREAS, members of the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered – and the two-spirits of this world – face historical and ongoing community rejection, political stigmatization and institutional discrimination based on their innate nature, causing untallied human tragedy, emotional detachment and suffering so extreme that many commit suicide; and
WHEREAS, members of the grassroots LGBT community seek, via the American Equality Bill, to add “sexual orientation and gender identity” equally to all of America’s non-discrimination laws, both to advance this urgent cause for justice, and to protect the inherent right of each person to develop consistent with their natural sexuality and gender as their authentic self, safely and with appropriate cultural dignity and respect; and
WHEREAS, the American Equality Bill reflects the Government’s duty to provide protection from discrimination for all people as a matter of public welfare, and the human rights duty to ensure legal equality for LGBT people under federal law in order to rebuke homophobia and transphobia with the full force of official United States governmental policy, including via the expenditure of all federal funds under Title VI; and
WHEREAS, it is time to ignite the civil rights movement of the 21st Century to liberate the LGBT community in America, in order to reach every community, leaving no child anywhere alone suffering with discrimination or social rejection; and
WHEREAS, from March to October, 2011, Richard “Rainbow” Noble will traverse the country from West Hollywood to Washington D.C. on the Civil Rights March Across America with a sacred Rainbow flag and staff to raise the collective call for freedom, showing remarkable bravery and dedication to his people; and
NOW, THEREFORE, the President John Yellow Bird Steele of the Oglala Sioux Tribe here by calls upon all of humanity to rise in support of the liberation of our two-spirit brothers and sisters from social and legal discrimination, and to urge all official representatives to take urgent action to protect their human rights with the full inclusion of “sexual orientation and gender identity” under all of America’s Civil Rights laws.
THEREFORE, I, John Yellow Bird Steele, hereby declar on this 24th day of October to honor and continue a collaborative effort with Congress for full federal equality and Civil Rights LGBT Omnibus Bill.
JOHN YELLOW BIRD STEELE
NOTE: CORRECTION: the source of the information has since said there was a misunderstanding, and that HRC, NGLTF & NCLR are not operating in coalition on the omnibus and have not opposed Title VI inclusion. For a subsequent note on these conversations, see this post. As the writer, I maintain this is what I was told, and regret any confusion.
In a shocking bit of news, it appears that the main LGBT organizations are blocking the inclusion of Title VI in the “Omnibus” equality bill being developed by Representative Polis for filing in January.
The outline shared by Polis’ office is sweeping, but clearly omits Title VI, which pertains to all federally funded programs, and marriage equality, which is not even on the table.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act reads:
Sec. 2000d. Prohibition against exclusion from participation in, denial of benefits of, and discrimination under federally assisted programs on ground of race, color, or national origin.
Including Title VI in a true omnibus would add “sexual orientation and gender identity” to this list, as has been proposed regularly since the omnibus idea first emerged in 2009, and would effectively end federally subsidized discrimination.
It appears, however, that a long-needed coalition of LGBT corporations has formed, and is now speaking with one voice against an inclusive omnibus.
WHY IS GAY INC AGAINST AN INCLUSIVE BILL?
The pro-offered argument is “pragmatism.” In other words, as the story goes, the Omnibus will be more viable legislatively if Title VI is not included.
Of course, this sounds immediately fishy. It would almost be better to hear them say: “We don’t want to put Title VI in play in 2012 because it will force Obama’s hand, and the opposition will be saying: ‘Look they want to force homosexuality on your community. Boo.’ So, since this is an election year, let’s file w/out Title VI, and then we’ll add it later, after the next election.”
It’s actually a convincing argument and we’ve heard ones like it before, like when they sought to leave transgendered people out of ENDA. It’s a politics of compromise whereby we negotiate against ourselves, before the game even starts, compromising principle, deflecting the call for equality.
BUT WE ARE A MOVEMENT FOUNDED ON THE PRINCIPLE THAT ALL PEOPLE ARE CREATED EQUAL AND ENTITLED AS A MATTER OF INALIENABLE HUMAN RIGHTS TO BE PROTECTED BY THEIR GOVERNMENT FROM DISCRIMINATION BASED ON THE STATUS OF THEIR INNATE SEXUALITY AND GENDER.
If this is remotely true, filing an omnibus without TITLE VI sure doesn’t cut it.
Think about it. Title VI, by making it illegal to discriminate using federal money, enlists an enforcement army of thousands of contract managers, managing over $3,400 billion dollars, to stamp discrimination out. It is the mechanism by which our federal non-discrimination policy becomes a social norm via the vast economic power of the United States. This is how the money talks.
Of course, Gay Inc knows all of this. Representative Polis knows all of this. The DNC knows all of this.
So WHY does the outline Rep. Polis issued NOT INCLUDE TITLE VI?
Title VI, which has been in the eQualityGiving.org Omnibus since 2009, and the American Equality Bill from the outset. Title VI which puts “non-discrimination based on race, color, and national origin,” on every contract to every school, to every homeless youth program, to every police department, state, city, town, hospital, etc.
To many, this is where “pragmatism” comes into the picture, not in defining the goal. Because there is a reason the various non-discrimination laws exist, and their benefits will be of equal value to our community, and their exclusion our equal loss.
SO IS THIS REALLY PRAGMATISM?
Possibly, but is that the appropriate standard? What is pragmatism anyway?
Pragmatism is the obstacle of choice in politics. It lives within the now, or even the past, but not the future. It says: yes your equality may be what you want, but do not seek it. It is the voice of the impossible blocking change.
From 1974 to 1994, LGBT organizations backed a Civil Rights Bill. In 1994, weary from a decade of AIDS, we made the pragmatic decision to drop an equality bill, and thereby, separated ourselves from our Civil Rights heritage. We decided to seek only an end to employment discrimination in a deal with potential allies, and for 17 years, have fought that pragmatic fight, unbeknownst to society at large.
Meanwhile, the world has passed us by. Marriage is legal in Argentina and South Africa where “sexual orientation” is protected in the Constitution. Our plight is recognized by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Organization of American States, which has made explicit the duty under international law to “prevent, punish and eradicate” discrimination based on SO&GI.
The United States pushed those international resolutions under President Obama and Secretary Clinton, and is bound by them. They know that Title VI is the fulfillment of this duty. Everyone does. Surely pragmatism cannot dictate that we not seek its protection. The protection of human rights, under a clear duty to act, but not for us?
SO WHY WOULD REPRESENTATIVE POLIS LEAVE IT OUT?
Because HRC, the NGLTF, NCLR, and a confidential list of others, led by an invisible hand, managed behind closed doors in secret and in concert, like only corporations can, have decided that it is not “pragmatic” to even file a bill for Equal Civil Rights protections. That we should not seek equal protection under the law, not now, not yet. That we should wait, and follow, with no public open conversation about the entire matter.
Of course it does depend on WHY WE ARE EVEN FILING AN OMNIBUS BILL?
NO ONE THINKS we are filing this bill to pass in this Congress. That is not the point.
The point of the omnibus, like the AEB, is to put EQUALITY on the table. To take OUR stance. To reflect OUR dignity. Not as a statement of the possible, but as a statement of collective intention to manifest our liberation.
It is an opportunity to be the change we seek. It is the chance to make our equality a major issue in the 2012 race, by giving our own people a beacon.
This is the “intangible” that pragmatic legislative or corporate analysis fails to grasp: The power of Collective Intention to manifest change beyond the possible in today’s terms. The power of a shared dream.
THE LOVERS & THE DREAMERS UNDERSTAND THIS.
Our movement is ultimately about love. And two-spirited people have long been the shamans and visionaries, still dancing among us today. When Richard Noble takes to walking across country for Equal Civil Rights, he points the way. When the Mayor of West Hollywood and the City Council, as duly elected officials of a city that is 40% LGBT, issue a Resolution for the AEB, they declare it. When the Mayor of Salt Lake City calls upon the U.S. government for Equal Civil Rights for LGBT Americans, the way is clear.
Like this, we need Congressman Polis to be a representative visionary. As a rather pragmatic truth, the LGBT community has no directly elected representatives, neither among its organizations nor in Congress. So as a community and people, we rely on surrogates, custodians of the public trust to do the community bidding.
In this spirit, the call for the Omnibus has repeatedly come from the community. When eQualityGiving put forth the original draft in 2008, and The Dallas Principles spoke the truth of unity. When the National Equality Marchers demanded “Full Federal Equality.” When The American Equality Bill Project encamped for 37 days, and activists fasted. When hundreds chanted “CIVIL RIGHTS NOW” in Grand Central Terminal.
The community has spoken. When the Mayors of Oakland, Reno, Boulder, Salt Lake City and West Hollywood issue Proclamations. When the LGBT Community Centers in Denver & Boulder – the Congressman’s own district – issue Resolutions explicitly calling for Title VI and EQUAL Civil Rights.
When the Wall Street Occupiers say no more corporate control of politics and take to the street for the voice of the people, they speak for our movement as well. The legitimacy of our movement depends on it, and our destiny is tied to it. Corporations cannot set the dreams for all of us.
Our movement is spiritual. We seek to free people from discrimination that binds their very being, denying their soul’s journey on earth and the safe haven to become their authentic self. We are liberating all of society by securing the acknowledgement by this Government of its primary duty: to protect us as we are, not as someone else would have us be.
Ultimately our cause is a focal point of today’s holy wars, calling the ultimate question of love or anger, compassion or judgment. And we should no longer hide from this responsibility or avoid this role.
When we INCLUDE TITLE VI we start a macro conversation about WHY LGBT PEOPLE ARE NOT ALREADY COVERED EQUALLY by federal non-discrimination laws, WHY we are not treated with dignity, and WHY discrimination is wrong.
When we INCLUDE TITLE VI we announce what we intend to accomplish, and that YES we are speaking to everyone, everywhere in this Country.
When we INCLUDE TITLE VI we are saying we are equal, and we expect our POLITICIANS to say so too.
We have had decades of pragmatism, while societal acceptance has over shot our own organizational expectations.
We’ve bowed to allies and other minorities, denying our own dignity in the process.
We’ve seen more and more teenagers taking their lives because we won’t force the macro conversation we need to have to address a societal wide illness of homophobia and transphobia, cultivated by our own Government and propagated by its laws, that leads to barbaric acts like parents rejecting their own offspring or people tied to fences and beaten to death.
We see exponential mental illnesses among our people, spiking under anti-gay referendum, police abuse, killings, political ostracizing, families torn apart, and the generalized rejection of an entire segment of society by their own community, not as a group, but individually in a forced emotional isolation born of fear.
The Civil Rights Act can’t change this. But the debate over our Equal Inclusion can. And then, after we win the legislative battle, after we build a chorus so loud we can no longer be ignored. Title VI will push that conversation deeply into every corner of this country, leaving no child behind and no dream deferred.
We’ve seen a sea change in public opinion ushered in by television programming, but not by a mass movement.
It’s time to find our common intention to liberate ourselves as a matter of entitlement.
It’s time to find our voice as a community entitled to respect as a matter of consciousness.
It’s time to file a bill for equality that says: WE ARE EQUAL & WE ARE NEXT.
For AN INCLUSIVE OMNIBUS, email: [email protected] Your input is invited.
The Occupy movement gets to the real root of why our governments are not protecting our social, political and economic human rights. To help dismantle this set up, here are some structural recommendations that seek to shift the balance of power between the people and their representatives, their governments, and their worlds’ institutions. They also recognize the value of natural resources belonging to the people, and start to return corporations to their appropriate place. While perhaps not radical, they are offered as achievable goals, that together could really alter the power structure, paving the way for more refined objectives.
10 PROPOSED DEMANDS FOR OCCUPY WALL STREET
U.S. Constitutional Amendments:
2. Reverse Citizens United. Make clear Corporations are not people in the Constitution.
3. Separately Elect the U.S. Attorney General, in non-partisan race: i.e., not appointed by the President. This will make sure the people have a lawyer protecting their interests vis-a-vis the Gov’t (most state-level AGs are separately elected from the Gov).
4. Conscript Presidential Military Power to instigate wars and military actions abroad, without Congressional authorization.
5. International Human Rights Treaties Enforcement: Create a Private Right of Action to enforce International Treaties domestically, or alternatively, providing that the Gov’t must abide by them, enforceable by the U.S. AG perhaps.
U.S. Domestic Policy:
7. Corporate Responsibility Law & Wealth Tax: Create legal code of ethics and transparency for corporations, and tax standing wealth of Corporations (to get them moving assets, not hording them, close all foreign holding loop holes).
8. Lobbyist Prohibition: Have a prohibition on former Congress people (and perhaps Gov’t employees) becoming Lobbyist for 20 years (eliminate influence peddling).
10. Create Standing for Private Citizens/NGOs at World Court: International treaties (except WTO treaties) are not enforceable, except by gov’t against gov’t, and they don’t do that. We need a real Int’l legal & enforcement mechanism to enforce International Human Rights treaties.
Posted on Occupy Wall Street comment here.
GET READY: National Coming Out Day is Tuesday, October 11th 2011
-by Tommy News Thomas
Please pass this message on to everyone in your address book.
Take Action for International Coming Out Day
October 11th is International Coming Out Day. Take Action!
National Coming Out Day is Tuesday. Here are some important actions
Write letters, email, call, and fax your representatives asking them
Get contact information at www.congress.org
Make a commitment to be honest about your sexual orientation or gender
If you are participating in Occupy Together protest events, wear your
More information on AEB Here:
From The Human Righta Campaign:
National Coming Out Day
Donate your Facebook status
Whether you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or a straight ally,
Use HRC’s Coming Out for Equality Facebook app to show your support
New ways to come out for equality will be added each week leading up
About the App
We can’t do this alone, but together we can make a difference. Recruit
Learn about Coming Out Day
Find coming out guides and other resources
Download the guide
Please pass this message on to everyone in your address book.
Last night leaders of Log Cabin, Marriage Equality New York, HRC, Freedom to Marry, Empire State Pride Agenda, and others came together to evaluate the Marriage Equality Victory in New York.
It was a great meeting of the minds, and three main themes emerged:
There were more precise factors mentioned as well:
But the main message was Coalition, Coalition, Coalition.
One person typed in a question on the live feed provided by the New Organizing Institute, which organized the event: “What are the plans for a national coalition?”
NGLTF also talks about the value of Coalitions. Everyone does.
So where is our National Coalition? Where is the Strategic Leadership it could secure? Why not Madeleine Albright? Or even James Carvell co-chairing with Mary Matalin?
So as we pick a new head of the Human Rights Campaign, we need someone with experience in these key elements: coalition building (among peers, not top down), strategic campaigns (not organization building), and a commitment to a serious two party campaign.
If straight allies and unexpected messengers were as helpful as Brian Ellner said last night, then it would be great for this to start at the top.
Let’s break our own employment-discrimination history, and hire a straight person to head up HRC. But let’s hire someone based on the way they THINK, not how much money they have raised, or how long they’ve been among us. And above all, let’s hire someone with vision and a sense of urgency.
National Coalition. National Coalition. National Coalition.
Click your heels three times. Bind it in a prayer. Make it happen.
In a typically brilliant speech that promises little, Candidate Barack Obama delivered a highly touching and equally disappointing message at the HRC Gala on Saturday, October 1, 2011.
Here’s what he could have said:
“I will make it a priority of my administration to add SO&GI to the Civil Rights laws to end discrimination against the LGBT community. It is mandated by human rights law and principle. It is mandated by our Constitution, and it is long over due. It is an inalienable human right we are talking about – to be free from discrimination based on who you are — an inalienable human right that is being denied millions with dire consequences to their mental health and our nation’s welfare, and I will not rest until this is corrected.”
Here is why the speech was so weak:
It is a particularly interesting time for a status quo speech given that 2011 by all measures is proving to be quite the year with revolution in the air everywhere you turn.
It is also in 2011 that LGBT children are routinely committing suicide rejected by their families and society. It is in 2011 that LGBT people live in a society that denies their legitimacy as beings entitled to respect and human rights. And still, in 2011 that LGBT Americans are excluded from the protective laws considered inalienable for all others.
At this time, there is a reason revolution is in the air, and it is as true with the cause of LGBT liberation as any other. The government and civil society organizations have failed to evolve, to keep pace with the people. They have allowed power and access and money to corrupt the very system of representation. They are denying the will of the people out of a distorted sense of self interest trapped in an intentional system of perpetual greed and materialism to which they are blind. We are all in it, some more than others, but not forever.
It is still in this framework, however, that Candidate Obama speaks to the American LGBT people through HRC’s lens of tuxedos and adulation. And what does the audience expect? What does he offer to the plight of millions suffering under institutional discrimination? For their loss of soul and community?
He offers the Jobs Act, DOMA repeal and ENDA (jobs again) sometime in the future, along with words, loving, affirming words, like a parent, with the best intentions of spending time with you, once he’s done with work. Of a community embracing you, the stranger, when they’re ready on their terms.
In passing, there’s a word here or there about “equal rights” or the “fight for equality” cloaked just so it blends, unhelpful to the opposition, but visible to activists hungry for a sign upon which to hinge mystical hope. Cloaked without content or commitment, with secret intention, like a uncertain suitor.
Surrounding the scarcity, beautiful paragraphs ring rhapsodic revealing his heart’s truth, which he cannot speak for fear of politics and his desire to be President, which we share. Moving passages of his relationship with our movement’s mother, Judy Shepard, and touching moments about families loving not only their lesbian daughter but also her wife. It’s music to our ears.
Truly unprecedented for a President, he brilliantly inches public consciousness and political conversation delicately forward with uncanny finesse, spinning friend and darting foe, though not on CNN, he speaks to insiders.
BUT SOMETHING HUGE IS MISSING. He is after all a President of a country sworn to uphold its higher ideals. He has the power to bomb foreign countries killing thousands. He has the power to apply the Constitution based on his vast expertise. He has the power to set the political agenda of the nation and the world.
So what’s missing in this speech to the HRC people? How about a speech addressing the LGBT community with a promise to do what the President has the power to do. Protect them. To roll up his sleeves and focus on resolving their plight for all of history. To pay tribute to Bayard Rustin’s role in the liberation that gifted him one term as President, if not two.
Specifically, Candidate Obama – and all Presidential candidates — should make a direct promise to secure Equal Civil Right protections for LGBT Americans immediately as a priority in 2013.
This should be accompanied by an unbridled campaign by our government, like there is in other countries, to eradicate homo/transphobia via public service campaigns, making restitution for its past role in our stigmatization, and working to change it. While the injury can not really ever be remedied, all LGBT Americans born prior to the end of legal discrimination deserve serious compensation for the harms perpetrated upon us.
This is President Obama’s responsibility, and what we and the situation deserves. This is what our mental injury warrants. This is the harm the United States government needs to own up to and fix.
To start the long process from where he is to where we should be, THE NEXT SPEECH to our people should begin with the recognition that discrimination is a social illness that calls for radical intervention as a matter of public health and welfare. It should clarify that the Government’s failure to act is a violation of international human rights laws the United States helped to create based on our own principles. He should make clear, by documenting and acknowledgement our suffering, the urgent need for justice it represents, and the obligation of the government to protect us and to take action.
With all of this missing, the most disconcerting aspect is how Obama in the speech miscasts our roles as though it were the obligation of the oppressed people to liberate themselves, rather than a clear obligation of the President to apply the Constitution aggressively to protect people from discriminatory harm. And while it’s a good message to tell the community to keep the pressure up, which he repeats frequently though we never heed, it is ultimately insulting and patronizing. This is his job. Not ours.
Instead, our legal inequality is treated like an acceptable reality. Our cause still talked of as a waiting game for us, not him. And our dignity remains a distant idea, nice in theory, but not urgent, like what an epidemic of suicide or the on-going mental abuse of 20 million survivors might necessitate.
Of course, it’s tough to feel urgency when everyone is wearing tuxedos. This is perhaps our most dangerous public relations success. We’ve buried the emotional impact of discrimination under a facade of rich and happy people. We’ve almost convinced ourselves, but the sadness within swells with the truth we’ve been shamed into hiding. Doesn’t it?
It’s unimaginable that there is another group today on earth that experiences community rejection of this magnitude. A rejection by a society of an entire subgroup, isolated not at birth or together in their own group, but as individuals in every day of their life by forced emotional detachment. Human lives floundering in a religious environment hostile to their very existence that seeks to deny their souls’ journey on earth. An internal suffering that drives people to suicide and parents to reject their own children!?
This is barbaric and unbelievable, and what do we get?
Jobs & Marriage, but not really marriage. Repealing DOMA doesn’t actually end marriage discrimination in America. It will only end pro-active federal government discrimination in this one arena. We will still not be able to marry in 44 states, and no one is talking about a federal law to outlaw that. And still we wait.
The saddest part of the speech was the audience and how eagerly we accepted it, thrilled simply because he was among us, desperate for approval as rejected children would be, or as victims assimilated for survival, or perhaps simply trapped by power.
Contrast that with the response of the immigrant community at the Council of La Raza when the entire audience heckled the President in unison: “Yes You Can,” which weeks later resulted in a new enforcement policy, showing we can demand more, and still support him.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqve7zzX4HQ (heckling at 16:00).
So ultimately, this is our game and we must decide. How much longer can we avoid the elephant in the room with a mixed race President ignoring that America has non-discrimination laws, called Civil Rights laws, that fail to protect us? How long do we talk around the existing solution those laws have long represented to oppressed peoples? How much longer will we accept friendship as a substitute for leadership? And in which campaign cycle will we stand up and say: ENOUGH WAITING, WE’RE NEXT.
2011 and 2012 may well be that moment. It’s in the air, like revolution. Our time has come provided we make a glorious noise for justice so loud it cannot be ignored.
To ride this wave, Candidate Obama could get ahead of the LGBT movement’s constrained and out-dated vision. He could make it clear that he intends to END DISCRIMINATION against LGBT Americans, consistent with an ethical and moral obligation. He could say, as posted above,:
“I will make it a priority of my administration to add SO&GI to the Civil Rights laws to end discrimination against the LGBT community. It is mandated by human rights law and principle. It is mandated by our Constitution, and it is long over due. It is an inalienable human right we are discussing – to be free from discrimination based on who you are — an inalienable human right that is being denied millions with dire consequences to their mental health and our nation’s welfare, and I will not rest until this is corrected.”
This is the energy that will light the flame of enthusiasm we lack. These are the calls that ignite a revolution, or draw a revolution in progress to a leader or candidate.
In this environment, half measures carefully crafted to avoid political engagement, like this speech, will not cut it. There is too much volatility and the people are looking for real leadership far beyond political brinksmanship, and they know the difference. We all know the difference.
Fortunately, no matter what the gay corporate strategy or the President’s strategy, the community is poised to rise up. As 2011 is already the year of insurrection and we are already part of that swell.
We are the equality movement that seeks to forge our society into the “e pluribus unum” the President so rightly speaks of, echoing the Wizzard of Oz or Buddha. We are the last stand on intolerance. We are the spiritual turning point. Our cause is evolution in the making calling fundamental questions of compassion, love and our oneness.
So the issue of our civil rights equality will not be ignored. It cannot in good conscious be avoided. As voters and citizens, we deserve to know what we are voting for. And as LGBT Americans, we deserve to know that our liberation will be the Nation’s priority.
If those in power set the stage and roll out these messages with determination as to the righteousness of this call for justice, we will ride high. Otherwise, we will storm the barricades once again for justice, and this time, it will be for our dignity.
This is the wave of the future. The tides of life are changing. It’s in the air.
TRANSCRIPT & VIDEO OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S REMARKS:
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