Editor's Note: David Badash is a regular contributor to Bilerico-DC. He is a writer and the founder of The New Civil Rights Movement, a blog focused on gay rights and gay marriage.
My, how far we've come! Time was, a hundred years ago, being labeled a homosexual gave you a free pass - to go directly to jail. In New York City's 1903, seven men went to prison for up to twenty years after police raided a bath house. A decade later, the term "faggot" was first used in print. Then, in 1920, the word "gay" was first used to describe, well, gays.
Speed through much of the twentieth century. We had our day in the sun in the 60's, and the 70's a bit. The 80's were not too kind to us - then in the late 90's and the early part of this decade, we started to gain some support. But all of a sudden, now, it seems, we're the most popular game in town! Why, even the President wants to hang out with us!
Yes, President Obama is trying to get a little more hip to the gay thing. He's just invited some top-notch gays to the White House for cocktails. And this "reception," just days after the DNC's flailing $1000-a-plate LGBT fundraiser - hosted no less than by that bastion of gay rights himself, Vice President Joe Biden, whom the Human Rights Campaign gave all of a 78% rating on gay rights last year and whom the ACLU gave a "mixed record" rating of 60% on civil rights.
Seems they're dropping like flies (well, no flies dare enter the White House anymore, but I digress...) at DNC fundraising HQ, ever since that nasty business with the Department of Justice's DOMA brief invoking incest and under-age marriages to support the Defense of Marriage Act. Can you believe that the Bush version of the DOMA brief was worse? My word, yes, how far we've come!
So, do we support Obama? Or oppose him? There are so many sides to this argument...
There's the radical left, who supposedly think (according to the radical right) that Obama was going to hand down gay rights to everyone on Day One. Of course, no one thought that at all, but the Right likes to say, "Finally, gays realize Obama is keeping his campaign promises!"
Never mind, they claim, that he's not on any other issue - but the Right is funny that way. Funny that way, as in the Right spent the weekend complaining about Obama taking his daughters out for custard for fifteen minutes the day before Father's Day. Funny that way, as in their 2012 poster boy Mark Sanford disappeared for four days over the same Father's Day weekend, "to get away from the kids," but they chose to criticize Obama as irresponsible instead.
Then there are the gay-supporting centrist liberals, who think Obama should keep his promises as soon as possible, repeal DOMA and DADT, get Hate Crimes passed, and ENDA too. Not all at once, but they want to see some sort of a plan, a vision, a nod, a hint that it's somewhere not-too-far back in Obama's mind. They recognize that there are other things on Obama's plate, but they also are cognizant of opportunities, not to mention the fact that civil rights should be a priority for any democracy.
And then there are the apologists. You know them. The gays who don't think gays should be married, or who think gays can't handle marriage, or that marriage would be nice, but, not right now, honey, I have a headache. Oh, I mean, you know, when you can fit it into your busy schedule, dear. Did you remember your umbrella, sweetie?
The apologists think everyone else should come first. Our President is, after all, a busy man. He's got the economy, which seems to be entering another downward spiral (and just when things seemed to be going so well!). He's got that messy business in Iran - not that he has anything to do with it really, but the Right likes to think he does - and he's got the upcoming health care legislation battle, because lord knows a few Democrats woke up with amnesia last week and thought they were Republicans.
He's far too busy to spend his time on messy things like civil rights for gays!
The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart, in a piece this past Sunday titled "For Obama, a Hit and a Miss On Gay Rights," wrote "... the Obama administration bungled the politics surrounding its filing of a brief in a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act..." So, it was the politics that were bungled? In the filing of the brief? Not the entire brief, I suppose? Capehart then goes on to write, "On Wednesday, he signed a memorandum extending a number of benefits to the partners of gay federal employees. This was the culmination of work that began in December."
Culmination of work that began in December? More like Monday, when it became clear things were getting choppy on the "gay" DNC Fundraiser. Capehart describes the criticism Obama is getting as "searing," and says "it borders on a blind rage." (I hate that word "rage," like when Michelle Malkin uses it to describe gays: "The insane rage of the same-sex marriage mob").
The apologists like to think if they wait just long enough, are polite just long enough, are the good boys and girls their mothers taught them to be, that their government will see them waiting on the corner and reward them with a goody basket full of gay rights.
Well, I have some bad news. Waiting and being polite - as much as I personally appreciate those things - aren't going to get us what we deserve, what we want, what we need. As much as I like being chivalrous, I know that it takes some pushing and some name-calling, and a lot - a lot - of speaking truth to power to make things move.
I don't know about you, but while I like my president, I like equal rights more. I value equal rights more. I need equal rights more. And just as I have no need to make apologies for who I am, I have no need to make apologies for what my president, or my Congress, does - or does not do - any longer.