Cathy Renna

One small step...

Filed By Cathy Renna | June 18, 2009 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: Family Equality Council, Jennifer Chrisler, marriage, President Obama

The past few days have been a whirlwind for the LGBT community, but for those of us in DC particularly so. Working with the Family Equality Council, whose Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler attended the Oval Office signing of the Presidential memo granting SOME benefits to federal employees, it was particularly so.

As the dust settles (somewhat) on this and we get up to another day and continued struggle, I hope that all of us can keep what happened yesterday in perspective and also hold on the reality of the situation we find ourselves in as a community and as a nation.

This is one small step for us, as Jennifer said over and over to reporters, but we have a "country mile" to go.

As always, it was fascinating to be behind the scenes. There was a lot of explaining and contextualizing to the media about what this memo was - and what is was not. There was a lot of explaining both the diverse opinions in the LGBT community and anger and frustration directed at the President after the DOMA brief. There were many opinions on all sides about the timing, tone and impact of this.

Time will tell, and as President Obama said, this is also about all of us making sure Congress acts, he can only sign what gets on his desk. My fervent hope is that he now understands he needs to use his bully pulpit more and be that "fierce advocate" I believe he truly is but needs the political will and fortitude to demonstrate.

I've seen much progress in the past few decades and the culture is a far better place than is was when the last LGBT-supportive President was in office (however, as my wife says, there is a special place in purgatory for Bill Clinton after he signed DOMA). It is time for the politicians - in the Oval Office, on Capital Hill and at the state and local levels - to catch up and start delivering. And we need to channel all of this anger, frustration and energy in a constructive way to make that happen.

It was, as we all said, the first small step. It was historic that a sitting President said on live television that DOMA must be repealed, that Frank Kameny was handed the pen he used to sign this memo, that the LGBT media was invited to be part of the press pool and that we had one of our best and brightest advocates show the president pictures of her twin boys and hopefully, remind him of why we are in this fight.

When the President asked Jennifer Chrisler how old her boys were and she said they were "following in Sasha's footsteps and going into second grade" she was saying much more than the fact that they have kids the same age. She was saying "we have more in common than you realize and my kids and my family deserve all rights and protections that you and your family enjoy." That is the kind of fierce advocacy helps make this more than one small step for us.

And I have no idea what was going through Frank Kameny's mind as he walked through the gates into the White House grounds, but I am guessing he thought about being outside those gates in 1965 with pickets signs protesting. We still need both those tactics - inside and outside the gates - but let's keep the focus of the anger, frustration, education and attention where is belongs - on our elected officials. All of them.

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