I was skeptical about President Obama’s speech and yet hopeful. The short version of this post is that I was generally pleased. Of course I could highlight what was left out and the uncertainties that remain for our full equality, yet my ‘glass half full’ beckons and I succumb! Admittedly, the strongest language yet from this President and anyone ever in this office, it felt good to me personally. Alas I cannot I must indulge…. my real feelings pull between the half empty and the half full. SO let me see reason…. as I incline toward I am here with you in that fight and yet I can only give as much as the law allows? Do we beg the question or do we beg?
Whereas I thought I may write about the context, the atmosphere, the protests, but that would fail the invitation by President Obama, to align in a joint endeavor. As a critic noting the slow progress and an advocate for the daily reality of our lives, I am concerned that the speech, although emphatic, serves as another delay – a call in essence for patience. I miss my equality NOW and that is why I want a timeline from the President. I wanted to hear something different. I wanted to hear more about the repeal of DOMA – the law that discounts our very essence.
The President acknowledged that same sex relationships are just as admirable and just as real as heterosexual relationships. He said that he will get rid of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ (DADT.) He specifically mentioned ENDA and noted it will pass, as well as the Mathew Sheppard hate Crimes Act which he said he would sign into law.
However as the crowds enthusiasm escalated in familiar Obama engendered excitement, I could feel the expectation and the tacit drum roll as the President announced that he would see to it that “ LGBT couples would receive as many federal benefits and federal rights as the law allows”… the crowd went crazy… I think they thought he was heading on a path of overt commitment to the repeal of DOMA – and acknowledgment of our right to marry; but unfortunately he did not, instead he concluded this right to benefit by referring to “domestic partners act” and did nothing new or different to endorse our right to marry under the civil law. The problem with saying “as the law allows” creates a contradiction – DOMA ensures that the “LAW DOES NOT ALLOW!” So my mind was begging –“Mr. President please tell us how, when, you will ensure the repeal of DOMA – it is the Key – I do not want Federal benefits “as much as the law allows” because that is a big zero and I will get none.
Overall, it was a really good speech and crafted to illustrate the President’s alliance as if in Tandem in the fight for equality… the skill in the speech is that he took the heat of what HE could do and replaced it with what WE need to do. All in all positive and uplifting in its general message but fell short on specific details. The value is it definitely sets a different tone for acceptance and normalization of the LGBT community and our relationships.
I now note my disappointment at the limitations in language –because he could have gone all the way. Yet at the same time I realize that we still have to be patient and in our patience we have to fight for ourselves, everyday, because of the big mechanism and machinery involved in, as the President said “ laws to change and hearts to open,” and that is not going to be an easy task.
So As LT. Dan Choi, said on CNN tonight, what he was left with was when the president asked us as a community to continue to hold his (the President’s) feet to the fire and for us to tell our stories, urge our representatives and educate our communities. So here I urge our readers, our leaders, our LGBT community, our families and friends to take the challenge. Please do not for one minute think that this alliance with the President invoked with his historic and moving declaration tonight “ I AM HERE WITH YOU IN THAT FIGHT” is a call to rest. Its a call to action like never before, firstly because we have an ally and secondly because we need to effect change sooner than process and time can allot.
Because the President did not, I want to give a special mention (ok, hardly any compensation) to my binational friends either in exile, in detention, in hiding or waiting in terror for visas to expire and to remind the American conscience as it concerns itself with basic human rights, that the LAW DOES NOT ALLOW same-sex American citizens or residents to sponsor their spouses/partners for visa, residency or immigration to the USA. We have 98,000 (in my crude estimation) Binational couples, almost tripling the 2000 census. Unfortunately your plight went unnoticed in tonight’s speech, because even if we recognize Same sex relationships, even if OBAMA’s plan (as we have it) for our equality, respect and right to the “same admiration” as straight relationships, you are not included in any of tonight’s promises under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, until repeal of DOMA or passage of stand-alone legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) or Comprehensive Immigration reform that includes LGBT, same-sex couples.