In the wake of President Bush’s reelection with Republicans increasing their majorities in both of Houses of Congress, many on the gay left talk as if we are entering a new dark age for homosexuals. Otherwise sensible gay writers warn of censorship and increased discrimination while an openly gay Democratic legislator compares a proposed state constitutional amendment to slavery, lynchings and forced migrations.
At the same time, we see striking advances made for gays in our culture. Movies and television shows routinely feature gay characters and subplots. Connecticut is set to be the third state to recognize same-sex civil unions. The number of Fortune 500 companies offering domestic partnership benefits and including sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies continues to increase. And all these things are happening during a Republican administration with Republican majorities in Congress and a more conservative federal judiciary.
Despite all this progress, in Virginia, Adam Ebbin, an openly gay Democratic Delegate (whom yours truly had the good fortune to meet when he lived in the Commonwealth), likens a proposed state constitutional amendment defining marriage to
slavery, the forced Trail of Tears migration for American Indians, lynchings and “massive resistance,” Virginia’s official effort to thwart court-ordered public school desegregation.
Such over-the-top references do little to defeat the measure he opposes.
In a similar, though less hysterical vein, one thoughtful blogger sees censorship in the Administration’s decision to single out one episode of a federally-funded cartoon for defunding even as he provides a link to a website which is airing the episode in question. While five Democratic Congressmen accuse Scott Bloch, director of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (the office responsible for enforcing workplace guidelines in the civil service) for “stonewalling in their call for a clear answer on whether LGBT federal workers are protected from discrimination,” they fail to provide evidence that the administration is discriminating against non-military federal employees. (I agree that Scott Bloch needs to come clean here, but note that their charges are his stonewalling and not discriminatory behavior by non-military federal agencies.)
Even with improving conditions for gays in American society, there is much that we have yet to do. We need to fight the stereotypes of gay men and lesbians that exist even in sympathetic circles. And continue to promote a positive image of gay people. We need more states to do as California has done — and Connecticut is about to do — and recognize gay civil unions. We need to repeal the military’s Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy.
And there is work to be done within our own community as well. We need to do a better job of promoting relationships, to underscore the responsibilities that inhere in long-term partnerships and to remind gay people of their many benefits, psychological and spiritual as well as physical and social. And we need to confront the increasing use of such drugs as crystal meth and the concomitant increase in unsafe sex among gay men.
To do all this, we must first stop exaggerating our problems. Stop complaining about the freedoms we supposedly lack. We have the freedom to live openly as couples, something interracial couples did not enjoy up until 1967. Even President Bush, while supporting a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual unions, recognizes the reality of same-sex unions and included the vice-president’s daughter and her female partner on stage when he declared victory in last fall’s presidential election.
Although many states have amended — or are in the process of amending — their constitutions to define marriage as it has been defined for thousands of years, things are improving for gay people at a pace that we could hardly have imagined twenty years ago. HRC reports that in 2003 alone, “1,067 private employers and colleges and universities added domestic partner benefits. . ., including 25 of the Fortune 500.” And that in addition to the thousands of private employers who had previously offered such benefits. It does us no good to compare our situation to that of African-Americans under slavery and Jim Crow or to the forced migration of the American Indians.
Instead of such hyperbolical rhetoric, we need to honestly address our concerns. As we do that, we will see that while things are not as they should be, conditions for gay men and lesbians, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, are far, far better than they were for those minorities who faced discrimination and disenfranchisement in the past.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com