Editors' Note: Guest blogger Phil Reese began his career of LGBT advocacy in central Michigan and now resides in Champaign, IL where he teaches Middle School and attends graduate school at the University of Illinois. Phil is passionate about news, social networking, information science and mobilizing LGBT people to become more active in their communities.
I love Barack Obama. When I saw that 2004 DNC keynote, I didn't see a local politician but a President. I sat there leaning forward on my ripped vinyl college-apartment couch--eyes wide in amazement like Coco Peru--I knew he'd be a Kennedy. I fell for him immediately, my Congressional Crush! I worked hard to get him elected in 2008 and with hundreds of other overjoyed youth, rioted in the streets of Champaign, IL on election night! Even my Republican father wept with joy the night that Obama won. It was the culmination of all my hopes.
But I'm not going to vote for him in 2012.
That is unless he keeps his promises. Upon his election, Obama put forth an 8 point LGBT Civil Rights agenda which included the following:
- LGBT-inclusive Hate Crimes Statute
- Employment Non-Descrimination Act
- Civil Unions
- DOMA Repeal
- End DADT
- Expansion of Adoption Rights
- Promote AIDS Prevention
- Microbicides Development Act
To this day--7 months in--the agenda is stalled. Apparently, they left it stuck on the fridge in Chicago. We've gotten 'relocation benefits' for Federal employees, and maybe a lift of the HIV travel ban. However, there was that horrible DOJ DOMA brief. Maybe, like law expert blogger Chris Geidner says, the White House is obligated to file the brief in favor, but that language was unforgivable. Though he didn't write it--nor even read it--at one time, someone else who sat in that chair at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. set out a plaque on his desk saying "The Buck Stops Here." Every American should still reasonably expect that.
In the history of this nation, not a single Federal bill has expanded the rights of LGBT Americans. In fact, the only LGBT bills that have ever passed Congress have limited our rights--like DOMA and DADT. To be fair, the expansion of Federal protections to transgender employees and perspective employees is an incredible gain--downplayed by many prominent LGBT bloggers and pundits--but what about this list? We need to celebrate this victory, but let's not forget that we've not won yet.
Obama has a super-majority in both houses. He also has the bully pulpit. And he's been given carte-blanche for reform. There is record-setting support nationally for LGBT rights--especially when it comes to lifting the military ban on homosexuals. If Obama does not get four of the eight points checked off his list (that's 50%--failing in most U.S. Public Schools, but good enough for me) I will be advocating we all vote 3rd party in 2012.
Mr. Obama, I voted for you with pride and excitement. I love you dearly, and I screamed like a drag queen at a Cher concert when McCain conceded. I want you to have eight years in the White House because I think you're the best thing that's ever happened to America. But, I am a Gay American, and I can get fired, can be refused service, can be thrown out of my apartment for being who I am, I cannot marry the person I love, I cannot sponsor the person I love for citizenship, I cannot serve my country in the military, and I can be systematically stalked and singled out and beaten to death and left tied to a fence in the Wyoming wilderness just because of who I am. And that gruesome and egregious crime will be tried as just another killing, on par with a meth-head robbing a Convenience Store whose gun unexpectedly goes off. You have achieved the American Dream, and given hope back to so many. However my entire life, I've been looked at differently, spit upon and despised. I've been shunned in my church, been dumped by friends, and society. Now it's time you give me hope.
Besides AIDS-Prevention and Microbicides Development, these four actions are possible and necessary. Even though I am not in the Armed Forces, many of my friends and found-family are. Set the precedent: remove the military ban on homosexuals by Executive Order so we can serve openly and proudly. Gays and Lesbians can legally marry the person they love in six states but my country still says: "strangers." Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and allow these families to be families. I am the survivor of hate crime--which is not a crime against a person, but a crime against a community--and I want anyone else who does what was done to my friend Jeremy and me to know that terrorism is not American! Eleven years is too long--where is the Matthew Shepard Act? I am a well-adjusted adult, a gay teacher with reams of wisdom to pass on to the next generation, but a paranoid principal or parent can get me canned in most states, not to mention I could be made homeless by a homophobic land-lord--You must go to Congress and tell them they aren't done until the Trans-Inclusive ENDA passes!
We can help President Obama with ENDA, DOMA-repeal and Hate Crimes by contacting our elected officials at house.gov and senate.gov. Hound them until you know what they're voting, and make sure they vote right!
Mr. President, I urge you to keep your promises, and to make real the American Dream for millions of Americans and their loved ones who want to believe in you!