Obama and The Gays

Yesterday, President Obama released a press statement proclaiming June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. This is fine and dandy, almost like a hard candy Christmas.

I think it is great that President Obama references Stonewall. I think it is great that he calls on Americans to end discrimination; however, I would rather President Obama his promise of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Back in January, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs answered questions from the Public on Youtube. “Thadeus of Lansing, Mich., asks, ‘Is the new administration going to get rid of the “don’t ask, don’t tell policy?’” Gibbs answered,”Thadeus, you don’t hear a politician give a one-word answer much. But it’s, ‘Yes.’” We need to call on President Obama and ask him to cash in that “yes.”

Back in April of 2008, I interviewed two veterans and asked about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Check out that interview here.

Below is the President Obama’s proclamation as it appears on www.whitehouse.gov:

LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2009
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION

Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans.

LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities. LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country’s response to the HIV pandemic.

Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before. I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration. These individuals embody the best qualities we seek in public servants, and across my Administration — in both the White House and the Federal agencies — openly LGBT employees are doing their jobs with distinction and professionalism.

The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done. LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.

My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.

These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

BARACK OBAMA

Brenda Lee’s Letter to President Obama

Here is the letter written by self-proclaimed Catholic Priestess Brenda Lee:
Dear President Obama,

I am praying for you. You are the most powerful man in the world and GOD placed you there to do HIS WILL. On March 18th, you mentioned that you would rather have one good term than eight mediocre years as president. You will always be the first African American President; the challenge is for you to be A Great African American President, but to become a great president you must keep your hands in GOD’S HANDS.

I am begging you, as a father of two daughters, to establish America as a GOD fearing country and to stand against the gay life that threatens to tear America apart.

Same sex marriage is a GOD ISSUE not a Civil Right Issue. The pursuit of happiness and safety in the context of the law protects the human race not only individuals. GOD’S WRATHS, Aids and VD threatens the population at large. There has never been and never will be total happiness.

No one has addressed the abused children who were given to gay couples in the State of California or the breaking of the law by California Attorney General Jerry Brown and the five justices when they lifted the ban on gay marriage without due process of the law, which they swore to uphold. To the American people, it appears that they are above the law.

No one has spoken of the ramification of the gay life style. How will children be conceived, how much will it cost, who will be able to afford it and who will over see the doctors? Which races will disappear? These are only a few of the complex questions that must be answered.

Who is qualified to take GOD’S PLACE and who will rule in Truth and Fairness? Once people can decided which sex they would like to be listed as, chaos will follow.

Your daughters and my grandchildren may not have the legal right to know the true sex of their potential spouses. You cannot image the opening of Pandora’s box. I pray that moralists will come to your aid in the coming months and let you know how they feel about these issues

I will continue to pray for your family, America and the world.

GOD BLESS You,
Rev. Brenda Lee

I’m going to write more on this topic, and I plan to share Brenda Lee’s response on what happened!

Obama to Craig Arnold to Auschwitz & MORE

Usually, I just post the title of articles and link the titles; however, for today, I am going to do it C. Dale Young style.

Dan Choi, a West Point graduate and officer in the Army National Guard who is fluent in Arabic and who returned recently from Iraq, received notice today that the military is about to fire him. Why? Because he came out of the closet as a gay man on national television.

Some readers might think it unfair to blame Obama. After all, the president inherited the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law when he took office. As Commander-in-Chief, he has to follow the law. If the law says that the military must fire any service member who acknowledges being gay, that is not Obama’s fault.

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It continues:
The Miss California saga started as a serious and compelling drama about personal expression, equal rights, and the tone and tenor of public debate in contemporary America. But in recent days, the story has transformed into something less admirable.

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Award-winning poet Craig Arnold, who went missing in Japan in late April, is presumed to have died after a fall, his employer, the University of Wyoming, announced Friday. The university had established a fund to try to find Arnold after Japanese authorities ended their search.

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I think one of my favorites comments from Sykes at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is: “I know Governor Palin, she’s not here tonight. She pulled out at the last minute. Somebody should tell her that’s not how you really practice abstinence.”

Sykes dropped her sitcom impishness and was all-Wanda, all the time. In the line that drew gasps from the posh crowd, she attacked Rush Limbaugh for saying he hoped the President’s policies would fail. “That’s treason,” she said. “That’s not saying anything different from what Osama bin Laden is saying… I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker but he was so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight.” Yow. “Too much?” she asked rhetorically.

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Sixty-five years ago Waclaw Sobczak hid a message in a bottle between the bricks of a wall in a building of the Nazi German Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, a last sign of life as he prepared to die.

“I put the bottle in the wall,” Sobczak, 84, who survived Auschwitz but still bears the ID number — 145664 — the Nazis tattooed on his forearm, told AFP via telephone from his home in Wrabczyn, western Poland.

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National Nurses Week is celebrated annually from May 6, also known as National Nurses Day, through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

AIDS.gov

I am excited and pleased about the new administration launching AIDS.gov. The website has information ranging from treatment & care to research to prevention & education to funding opportunities to finding a testing center. Yes, the site has it all.

After eight years of Bush I forgot an administation can actually work to help the people of this fab country. Thank you, Obama!

Become a fan of AIDS.gov on Facebook!

Quick Links from AIDS.gov
Recent Funding Announcements
Treatment and Care Programs
Clinical Trials

"You’re Likable Enough, Gay People"

“You’re Likable Enough, Gay People” by Frank Rich was published in print today and online yesterday by The New York Times. The article is making its rounds on Facebook, Myspace, and everywhere else; however, I want it in my blog:

You’re Likable Enough, Gay People
by: Frank Rich

IN his first press conference after his re-election in 2004, President Bush memorably declared, “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.” We all know how that turned out.

Barack Obama has little in common with George W. Bush, thank God, his obsessive workouts and message control notwithstanding. At a time when very few Americans feel very good about very much, Obama is generating huge hopes even before he takes office. So much so that his name and face, affixed to any product, may be the last commodity left in the marketplace that can still move Americans to shop.

I share these high hopes. But for the first time a faint tinge of Bush crept into my Obama reveries this month.

As we saw during primary season, our president-elect is not free of his own brand of hubris and arrogance, and sometimes it comes before a fall: “You’re likable enough, Hillary” was the prelude to his defeat in New Hampshire. He has hit this same note again by assigning the invocation at his inauguration to the Rev. Rick Warren, the Orange County, Calif., megachurch preacher who has likened committed gay relationships to incest, polygamy and “an older guy marrying a child.” Bestowing this honor on Warren was a conscious — and glib — decision by Obama to spend political capital. It was made with the certitude that a leader with a mandate can do no wrong.

In this case, the capital spent is small change. Most Americans who have an opinion about Warren like him and his best-selling self-help tome, “The Purpose Driven Life.” His good deeds are plentiful on issues like human suffering in Africa, poverty and climate change. He is opposed to same-sex marriage, but so is almost every top-tier national politician, including Obama. Unlike such family-values ayatollahs as James Dobson and Tony Perkins, Warren is not obsessed with homosexuality and abortion. He was vociferously attacked by the Phyllis Schlafly gang when he invited Obama to speak about AIDS at his Saddleback Church two years ago.

There’s no reason why Obama shouldn’t return the favor by inviting him to Washington. But there’s a difference between including Warren among the cacophony of voices weighing in on policy and anointing him as the inaugural’s de facto pope. You can’t blame V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and an early Obama booster, for feeling as if he’d been slapped in the face. “I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table,” he told The Times, but “we’re talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most-watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation. And the God that he’s praying to is not the God that I know.”

Warren, whose ego is no less than Obama’s, likes to advertise his “commitment to model civility in America.” But as Rachel Maddow of MSNBC reminded her audience, “comparing gay relationships to child abuse” is a “strange model of civility.” Less strange but equally hard to take is Warren’s defensive insistence that some of his best friends are the gays: His boasts of having “eaten dinner in gay homes” and loving Melissa Etheridge records will not protect any gay families’ civil rights.

Equally lame is the argument mounted by an Obama spokeswoman, Linda Douglass, who talks of how Warren has fought for “people who have H.I.V./AIDS.” Shouldn’t that be the default position of any religious leader? Fighting AIDS is not a get-out-of-homophobia-free card. That Bush finally joined Bono in doing the right thing about AIDS in Africa does not mitigate the gay-baiting of his 2004 campaign, let alone his silence and utter inaction when the epidemic was killing Texans by the thousands, many of them gay men, during his term as governor.

Unlike Bush, Obama has been the vocal advocate of gay civil rights he claims to be. It is over the top to assert, as a gay writer at Time did, that the president-elect is “a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot.” Much more to the point is the astute criticism leveled by the gay Democratic congressman Barney Frank, who, in dissenting from the Warren choice, said of Obama, “I think he overestimates his ability to get people to put aside fundamental differences.” That’s a polite way of describing the Obama cockiness. It will take more than the force of the new president’s personality and eloquence to turn our nation into the United States of America he and we all want it to be.

Obama may not only overestimate his ability to bridge some of our fundamental differences but also underestimate how persistent some of those differences are. The exhilaration of his decisive election victory and the deserved applause that has greeted his mostly glitch-free transition can’t entirely mask the tensions underneath. Before there is profound social change, there is always high anxiety.

The success of Proposition 8 in California was a serious shock to gay Americans and to all the rest of us who believe that all marriages should be equal under the law. The roles played by African-Americans (who voted 70 percent in favor of Proposition 8) and by white Mormons (who were accused of bankrolling the anti-same-sex-marriage campaign) only added to the morning-after recriminations. And that was in blue California. In Arkansas, voters went so far as to approve a measure forbidding gay couples to adopt.

There is comparable anger and fear on the right. David Brody, a political correspondent with the Christian Broadcasting Network, was flooded with e-mails from religious conservatives chastising Warren for accepting the invitation to the inaugural. They vilified Obama as “pro-death” and worse because of his support for abortion rights.

Stoking this rage, no doubt, is the dawning realization that the old religious right is crumbling — in part because Warren’s new generation of leaders departs from the Falwell-Robertson brand of zealots who have had a stranglehold on the G.O.P. It’s a sign of the old establishment’s panic that the Rev. Richard Cizik, known for his leadership in addressing global warming, was pushed out of his executive post at the National Association of Evangelicals this month. Cizik’s sin was to tell Terry Gross of NPR that he was starting to shift in favor of civil unions for gay couples.

Cizik’s ouster won’t halt the new wave he represents. As he also told Gross, young evangelicals care less and less about the old wedge issues and aren’t as likely to base their votes on them. On gay rights in particular, polls show that young evangelicals are moving in Cizik’s (and the country’s) direction and away from what John McCain once rightly called “the agents of intolerance.” It’s not a coincidence that Dobson’s Focus on the Family, which spent more than $500,000 promoting Proposition 8, has now had to lay off 20 percent of its work force in Colorado Springs.

But we’re not there yet. Warren’s defamation of gay people illustrates why, as does our president-elect’s rationalization of it. When Obama defends Warren’s words by calling them an example of the “wide range of viewpoints” in a “diverse and noisy and opinionated” America, he is being too cute by half. He knows full well that a “viewpoint” defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable.

It is even more toxic in a year when that group has been marginalized and stripped of its rights by ballot initiatives fomenting precisely such fears. “You’ve got to give them hope” was the refrain of the pioneering 1970s gay politician Harvey Milk, so stunningly brought back to life by Sean Penn on screen this winter. Milk reminds us that hope has to mean action, not just words.

By the historical standards of presidential hubris, Obama’s disingenuous defense of his tone-deaf invitation to Warren is nonetheless a relatively tiny infraction. It’s no Bay of Pigs. But it does add an asterisk to the joyous inaugural of our first black president. It’s bizarre that Obama, of all people, would allow himself to be on the wrong side of this history.

Since he’s not about to rescind the invitation, what happens next? For perspective, I asked Timothy McCarthy, a historian who teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and an unabashed Obama enthusiast who served on his campaign’s National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Leadership Council. He responded via e-mail on Christmas Eve.

After noting that Warren’s role at the inauguration is, in the end, symbolic, McCarthy concluded that “it’s now time to move from symbol to substance.” This means Warren should “recant his previous statements about gays and lesbians, and start acting like a Christian.”

McCarthy added that it’s also time “for President-elect Obama to start acting on the promises he made to the LGBT community during his campaign so that he doesn’t go down in history as another Bill Clinton, a sweet-talking swindler who would throw us under the bus for the sake of political expediency.” And “for LGBT folks to choose their battles wisely, to judge Obama on the content of his policy-making, not on the character of his ministers.”

Amen. Here’s to humility and equanimity everywhere in America, starting at the top, as we negotiate the fierce rapids of change awaiting us in the New Year.

Fundraising Announcement & The Tree

Before I write about the night I want to make an announcement. From 12/5/08 to 12/31/08, I am going to donate $1 from every “O” bumper sticker purchased directly from me to the Atlanta Pride Committee. Buy a stocking stuffer and help Atlanta Pride at the same time. This is definitely a win-win situation.

Tonight was the annual lighting of the LGBT Christmas Tree at Outwrite Bookstore and Coffee House, which is a fundraiser for the Atlanta Pride Committee. I want to give a huge thank you to Philip, the owner of the fagulous Outwrite. Philip does so much for the Atlanta LGBT community, so I hope the Atlanta LGBT community will remember Outwrite when it comes time to Christmas shop. Keep your eyes open over the next week or so because Outwrite is going to have a fan page coming soon!

There were great performances from Our Song and the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus. And, Wild Cherry Sucrets in the form of Tony was an entertaining MC for the night. It was all around good times. Thanks to everyone who attended. If you didn’t attend, don’t worry because you can attend next year.