The President gives the cue will our leadership follow? – A FULL EQUALITY BILL is the imperative benchmark; The Omnibus! Civil Rights Act Amendment to include Gender, Sexual orientation and Gender identity – if South Africa can do it so can we.. At least set the benchmark.
By Melanie Nathan, January 22, 2013.
Yesterday, Barack Obama was inaugurated for a second term. When President Obama announced his evolution on the issue of same-sex marriage it was considered a huge leap forward for LGBT rights here in the United State of America and as importantly it made a grand statement to the entire world. What the President did yesterday at his inauguration took his evolution, that of America and the rest of the world, to the next imperative step. Many may not realize the depth of its significance. Our President was in essence calling for full equality for LGBT Americans, beyond the one issue realm of mere marriage equality. The question now is whether or not the American gay LGBT leadership and/or grassroots take the cue.
President Obama said:-
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”
I have often questioned our movement and back in 2009 wrote a piece touting full equality as an imperative benchmark in our fight for rights. Only fringe grassroots groups have embraced the idea since. I never understood the inability of our leadership (and now I am not even sure who that is anymore) to stand up for, at the very least, creating the benchmark, for full equality. To my way of thinking one asks for one’s full civil right entitlement and anything short of that is self-marginalization. That is what we have done as a movement – allowed for our own marginalization through asking for less than we deserve, all under the misguided notion that by asking for less we stand a chance of getting something. We have rallied around same-sex marriage and in doing so, notwithstanding the gains and the huge surge in acceptance, we have failed to denote our absolute goal.
I am not a “what if” kind of person, and would not want to frame this discussion in the “could have been” terms; and I do want to insist that in moving forward we must look at full equality as the absolute and only way forward for our advocacy in obtaining our rights to the fullest extent of the law. Now the President is on board and he himself has set that goal. The big question is whether or not our advocates, leadership, grassroot and representatives will follow the cue.
One group that seems to be on this is GetEQUAL, while others such as Human Rights Campaign and Congressman Barney Frank have refused to set or even endorse the benchmark. In a recent meeting with activists, a source informs, HRC refused to approach the Omnibus for full equality as an idea at all, always citing a non-pro gay Congress. No excuse, in my opinion and I have yet to see even the slightest suggestion by HRC hat full equality should be at the very least a benchmark. Fear of not winning is not true leadership. There can be no fear when setting the benchmark. How we achieve the goal is obviously the ultimate challenge. But how can we meet it without the goal?
GetEQUAL, one of the more effective and yet underfunded LGBT organization amongst the many, has sent out an e-mail to supporters today:-
“Now, with the Inauguration over, we have some clear opportunities to hold the President accountable to make good on his speech, and to transform beautiful words into courageous action. But, as he also said in his speech, it’s up to us to make change happen. We’re happy to rise up to that challenge, but we need your help! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want another inauguration to take place in this country without LGBTQ Americans being fully equal under the law. But that change isn’t going to just happen without some intensive and intentional organizing. It’s up to us to get equal — are you in? GetEQUAL for Full Equality Here:Click here to join the movement for full LGBTQ equality — and we’ll add your name to our website as an Equality Champion: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6535/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=7612.
This isn’t a petition and this isn’t a casual sign-up form. This is a pledge that you’re going to work over the next four years to ensure that LGBTQ Americans are equal under the law once and for all. We’re going to need people to take bold action, to mobilize their friends, to host house meetings, and to continually hold the President accountable to his promise of equality for all.
Are you in? Click here to add your name and to join the full equality movement: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6535/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=7612.
President Obama is not talking about marriage, he is not talking about jobs, he is not talking about greencards he is talking about is all. And in doing so he is speaking to LGBT advocates in the U.S.A. and letting the world know where we are at.
I suggest that when our community considers who they want to follow in this fight for our civil rights, they look to who in our movement is providing true leadership and in my opinion anyone who fails to set the ultimate benchmark, no matter how unattainable it may seem, is selling our movement short of its imperative goal and hence undeserving of our support. That does not mean they should not continue to advocate for piecemeal legislation and nor does it mean altering course – what it means is having the courage to establish the goal through dialogue and strategy and then the transparency to set out the strategy ththat jat follows missions, for all to see.
By Melanie Nathan
Note: I have interpreted the President’s colloquial terms to be fully inclusive of LGBTI.