Thursday, July 9, 2009

‘Do Ask, Tell, Speak and Act!’ - By Mark R. Kerr

During a reception at the White House, June 29, President Barack Obama, marking the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City and the beginning of the modern Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights movement, said to those assembled for the event, “Welcome to your White House.”

“And I know that many in this room don't believe that progress has come fast enough, and I understand that,” the president said. “ 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.”

“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,” Obama stated to the crowd. “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.”

President Obama ran down the list of the calls he has made to encourage members of Congress to pass the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act and an inclusive hate crimes bill.

Words of encouragement indeed but it will take actions for these words to become paramount and more important, the law and policy of this nation so it is time for the LGBT community to keep the pressure up on both the White House and Congress on Capitol Hill, express encouraging words by telling those in power and act in every way possible as those brave individuals did that night at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.

Actions and words do have consequences since after the controversy over the Obama administration’s “legal response” to the challenge in federal court over the 13-year-old Defense of Marriage Act law enacted by Congress and the president’s “lack of response,” regarding the 16-year-old law, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” for which those out and open Gay and Lesbian individuals, who wish to serve this country in its armed services, can’t do so, as witnessed with the cases of Iraq War Veteran, Arab Linguist and soon to be, former New York National Guard Lt., Dan Choi and Air Force Lt. Col Dan Fehrenbach, show that “yes it can,” but the pressure must continue, now and for the foreseeable future.

Forty years have passed so far in this effort for equal treatment and LGBT citizens, in most states: still don’t have the right to work without the fear of being fired because of whom they are, perceived or otherwise; don’t have the governmental and judicial recognition of their relationships and families, using whatever word or convenient political phrase necessary and can’t serve this nation, if they so choose, by becoming a part of this country’s military.

Mr. President, the welcome was nice but it is not our White House or even government on Capitol Hill yet, until those words on the front of the U.S. Supreme Court apply to LGBT citizens of this nation, “Equal Justice Under the Law.”

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