Op/Ed: Pride & Progress
Editor’s Note: This is an op/ed from Charles Bright, GLBT Caucus Chair of the Virginia Young Democrats. GAYRVA.COM welcomes open submissions for editorial consideration.
June almost over and as it is every June, we found ourselves celebrating Pride Month all over the country. But one question that is very often ignored during this month is what do we, the American GLBT community, have to be prideful for? Well the answer happens to be quite a lot and in almost every instance we can look to the Democratic Party as the catalysts for our reasons to be prideful.
The progress that has been made for our community over the past six years has been astounding. Under the administration of President Barack Obama, we have seen the most progress made for our community in our country’s history and the President’s public support for marriage equality is only the most recent in a long line of accomplishments.
More than ten years after the horrific murder of Matthew Shephard outside of Laramie, Wyoming, our community now has protections under federal hate crime laws. We saw this President proudly sign the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in our military allowing service members to serve openly, no matter who they love. Some analysts have even singled out that signing ceremony as the moment that the President regained his mojo after a disastrous midterm election.
This administration has instructed its Justice Department to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act as they view it to be unconstitutional. They have greatly expanded access to federal benefits for domestic partners and even made binding conditions to hospitals that accept federal money, that they must allow same-sex partners the same visitation rights as opposite-sex partners. We have seen strides for the transgender community as well including the issuing of true gender passports for those in transition. The travel ban against people with HIV has also been lifted by this administration. The President also demonstrated amazing leadership during the anti-gay bullying epidemic that still haunts our schools by making a video for the “It Gets Better Project” drawing on his own experiences as a child and providing an inspirational message to those affected by bullying.
In addition to the accomplishments of the current administration, we have also seen the Democratic Party take the lead on this issue. Many state level parties have put support for marriage equality in their party platforms this year, including Virginia. The governors who have advocated and approved marriage equality (Cuomo, Gregorie, Lynch, O’Malley and Baldacci) have all been in the Democratic Party. The only other state to pass it through the legislature was Vermont and that was vetoed by the Republican governor, Jim Douglas. But the Democratic legislature successfully overturned the governor’s veto and made marriage equality the law.
But even with everything that has been accomplished, there is still so much that needs to be done. We still need the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to be passed with language that not only includes sexual orientation, but gender identity as well. We also need to have the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and replaced with the Respect for Marriage Act so the federal benefits of marriage can be extended to every married couple in the country. President Obama has expressed support for both of these bills and has said he will sign them.
And what about the other side? What has the Republican Party indicated about these issues? The answer is only two words, pure opposition. The majority of GOP congressional members stood in firm opposition to every advancing of equality for our community. The legislators in the Republican Party enjoy promoting their message of fiscal responsibility and attacking Democrats for reckless spending, but they seem to have no problem in using $1.5 million in tax payer money to keep defending the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts. Their presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, brags about stopping Massachusetts from becoming the “Las Vegas of gay marriage”, the religious wing of the party forced a gay spokesman to quit his position and their supporters booed a gay soldier, who was currently serving in Afghanistan.
The state level of the Republican Party is on a level that’s just as bad. An overwhelming majority in our state’s legislature do not even view sexual orientation as a class that should be protected from discrimination. Our commonwealth’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, believes that GLBT Americans are not guaranteed protection under the Fourteenth Amendment because sexual orientation was not something the people at the time had contemplated. This strikes me as strange because the wording of the amendment states that its protections are extended to, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” According to our own state’s attorney general, who is seeking to become its next governor, GLBT Americans don’t fit into the category of “all persons” granted constitutional protection.
We even saw an effort succeed to block a judicial nominee solely for the fact that he is gay. Not only did they succeed at this effort, but the leaders of it paraded their victory as if it were something to be proud of. This is the rhetoric and the actions demonstrated by the party that is supposed to be about freedom and liberty for all Americans.
It’s a fundamental difference in vision. The Democratic Party sees the issues of our community as matters of equality, fairness and a fundamental issue of civil rights. The GOP sees the issues of our community as matters of draconian morality and red meat for a bigoted base.
With the next election, the choice is clear. When it comes to advancing an agenda that reflects equality for all Americans, there is no question that the Democratic Party and President Obama in particular are the right choice. It’s not just because of the outrageous antics of the other side, but through his actions, President Obama has shown that he deserves to re-elected. Plus, with all the things Obama has accomplished for gay rights in his first term, one can only imagine what he can do with a second one.
You won’t want to miss this incredible evening of fun, love, and laughter!September 13, 2016
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