Forty years after the Stonewall riots (June 28, 1969), and what have we got? Well, under the Clinton Presidency, we got Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in 1993 and the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. But in 2003, under the Bush Presidency, oddly enough, we got the US Supreme Court ruling on Lawrence v Texas, declaring all sodomy laws in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico as unconstitutional.
This week, under the Obama Presidency, we get the Department of Justice upholding DOMA, even though, until last month, Obama’s position was to seek to repeal it.
Kind of makes you wonder why we so often think that the Democrats are good for the gays.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was a response to the US military’s 191-year-old ban on sodomy in the armed forces and its 51-year-old ban on servicemen of “homosexual orientation.” In spite of the Crittenden Report’s acknowledgment (in 19-fucking-56!) that homosexuals constituted no more of a security risk than heterosexuals and a 1988 study that pretty much confirmed this point, Georgia Democratic Senator Sam Nunn adamantly opposed lifting the ban.
Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank sought a compromise. Retired Arizona Republican Senator Barry Goldwater had the balls to call for the ban’s complete repeal. President Clinton opted for compromise—political animal that he was and is—thus, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
In 1993, the Hawaii State Supreme Court ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage could not stand unless the state could give compelling reasons for denying certain American citizens the legal privileges awarded to others without contest.
The other states began to panic, fearing that gay marriages in Hawaii would be forced on the other 49 states. A bill was written by Georgia Republican (at the time) Bob Barr and signed into law by Clinton. DOMA provided that states were not compelled to recognize same-sex relationships affirmed in other states and that, in the eyes of the federal government, “marriage” and “spouse” were henceforth defined in strictly heterosexual terms.
Until six years ago, state laws could forbid citizens to engage (even in private) in various non-procreative forms of sex (“sodomy”), and, as officially illegal, gays and lesbians could seek no government protection from being fired from their jobs (as I was in South Carolina in the 1980s), evicted from rental properties, or kept under police surveillance (as I was, I later found out, while living in Pensacola, Florida, in the early 1990s).
When, in Bush’s first term, the US Supreme Court ruled that such laws violated due process (5th amendment) and equal protection (14th amendment), there was dancing in the streets in predominantly gay neighborhoods across the United States. This decision was the single most important political event for me personally, as it struck down the laws that had, for the first 50 years of my life, made my very existence illegal.
This week, in no uncertain terms, Obama’s Justice Department told gays and lesbians that their marriages in the few states permitting them will not be honored in other states and that the federal government does not recognize them either as qualifying for rights and privileges awarded the rest of the married populace.
Adding insult to injury, the DOJ’s statement compares homosexuality to incest and pedophilia and further asserts that homosexuals are in no way comparable to blacks and other American minorities whose civil rights are protected.
Now that Obama has officially reneged on his promise to the gays—despite foreshadowings like including an ex-gay singer-minister on his 2008 “gospel tour,” responding equivocally to Proposition 8 in California, and selecting a vocal supporter of Prop 8 to pray over his Inauguration—gay bloggers everywhere are foaming at the mouth—and with good reason.
Some are suggesting that this month’s gay pride celebrations take the form of political protests. (On the 1st, with some irony perhaps, President Obama proclaimed June 2009 officially “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered Pride Month 2009.”)
A press release signed by the ACLU, GLAD, Lambda Legal, NCLR, HRC, and NGLTF calls on Obama to honor his campaign promises to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community, among which was to overturn DOMA.
Gays and lesbians seeking entry into the American mainstream via marriage and military service are discovering (again) that their true place is in the florist shops and hair salons and not at the altar or on the front lines.
Though I have never wished to enter the American mainstream and have never seen myself as a one-issue voter, I sense my bitterness at the news of Obama’s negligence of and contempt for me and those like me.
For all the good that Obama might do as President yet, my strong feeling today is that America is not my country—it never was—and, though I live here and love much about it, my position in it as a gay man is a few rungs beneath a legal alien and only a few rungs above a minor.