Almost two years in, I conclude Obama really does believe in equal rights but only within his social worldview, which is affected by his religious views and an inclination to incremental change. Maybe that’s what he meant by “Change we can believe in.”
Some examples, and then my view as to why this Administration is still making a landmark contribution to our community’s struggle.
– Consistent posturing as advocating equal rights
Well, it’s certainly a major step forward and a move that lessens the chances of young gays internalizing homophobia, a problem that is still one of the direst our community faces. But the companion practice of coddling notorious homophobes and Christians like Rick Warren sends the message that we’re just a political chip among many.
– Silence so far on what I can only regard as a landmark civil rights ruling last week that found DOMA in violation of the equal protection under the law.
In this case silence may be golden (in case they let the case stand without appeal). But the ruling is historic for civil rights, with enormous potential.
– The dismissal today of the charges against Lt Dan Choi and others who had been arrested protesting DADT.
Pundits speculate this is either a sop, or to avoid more news coverage of the whole DADT issue given the military seems to be in the process of sabotaging what the administration is supposedly trying to accomplish. Or, both.
– The lack of impetus to fix the horrendous situation with HIV drugs and the federal / state LDAP program. And the administration’s new announcement today includes no funding to remedy the problem, trying to paint a turd rosy pink by saying more money isn’t needed if the strategy for combating HIV focuses on what it calls the highest risk groups.
In the meantime, people who need HIV drugs are going without. As one commentator wrote about this (from Joe.My.God)
I don’t see anything in the plan about addressing the ADAP crisis. Note that even the Democratic lapdogs HRC are clapping half-heartedly.
I guess my optimism comes through despite the mixed messages for a few reasons. Going back to the first point above, just the fact that our community is getting positive visibility and backing from many sources in the media, Congress and as high up as the President give not just hope for change, but present young people with a very different picture of what it means to be gay or lesbian in society. The rate of suicide among gay and lesbian teens is still high and this is something that I believe actually will have a direct positive impact now and well into the future. No matter what the immediate political outcome of any of these issues is.
We also have to keep in mind as a community that progress will be uneven. As the Black experience over the past half-century illustrates, many in an oppressed community can begin to thrive as soon as laws change. But the African-American community as a whole in this country is still affected by slavery, Jim Crow and, yes, racism is still alive, but hopefully not well. Not dominated, but still affected.
And for our community it will take even longer once the legal system changes because of the importance of Christianity and other oppressive religio-socio traditions including patriarchy. We will not thrive until religions adapt (as they will, having done so in many situations before). As for patriarchy, we will eventually find common cause with feminists in eliminating the invisible, pervasive ‘old boys network’ that still dominates bedrooms and boardrooms.
So while President Obama may not be the fierce advocate that we expected, this is a time of great promise, and certainly a time for us to strengthen our solidarity as a community and make as much political progress as we can.