Yesterday, I listened with hope to the President Barack Obama's words at the historic White House celebration of Gay Pride. Instead, when he was done, I found myself very depressed.
As our elected officials search for new words, new institutions and new arrangements to avoid giving us full equality, it is important for people to remember that right now all we have amounts to basically a system of separate but unequal. We have a set of laws at the national, state and local levels that separates LGBT folks from the rest of America.
Let's call it what it is - Gay Apartheid.
Now some of you might think that is a loaded and unfair word. I have chosen the word very carefully and deliberately. Apartheid is when a group of citizens of a nation is by law separated from all other citizens and the rights, benefits and protections all others are granted.
Having DOMA and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as laws of the land are apartheid laws. They set us apart from all other American citizens. State after state has singled us out in their Constitutions to create a separate body of law for LGBT citizens. States have created laws to forbid us from adopting or participating in the foster care system. Those of us who have foreign national partners are refused to right to co-habitate in America. Creating civil unions and domestic partnership laws to avoid marriage is a failed attempt to sustain a system of 'separate but equal' that didn't work in the segregationist South and won't work for us. So lets be honest about this as we see an enormous number of laws on the books specially denying LGBT Americans the rights, benefits, privileges and protections granted to all other Americans: we have created and are continuing to expand on a system of Gay Apartheid. There is no other way to look at it.
Despite the President's warm words and the lovely trappings at the White House, he continues to buy into this system and allows it to continue. In fact, it was a carefully worded warm, fuzzy speech that failed to answer many questions. The use of the words 'domestic partnership' seems like out of the 1980's. He couldn't even say the words 'civil unions'? He again mostly addressed Federal employees concerns and repeated his campaign promises to overturn DOMA and DADT. There was no attempt to stop the horrific destruction of the careers of our LGBT military personnel with the announcement of a "stop-loss" order. In fact right after the event Press Secretary Gibbs basically said it isn't going to happen and threw the entire issue to Congress without Presidential leadership. Marriage? Civil Unions? The President said not a word. Adoption and Foster Care? Not one word was uttered by the President. Immigration for partners of American citizens? Not one word.
We did not hear the answer to the most important question: When?
The fact that the President might feel our pain or understand our impatience or even wants to socialize with us just is not important any more. Quite honesty, I don't care if he likes us, has us to dinner or even if he believes marriage is between a man and women. I don't want to hear any more promises or caring words about our future. Please don't tell me one more time I have to change the hearts of Americans before I am allowed to have my freedom. For me to be a free man doesn't mean I have to make everyone in America like me. In fact the Constitution protects an unpopular minority from the tyranny of a majority.
The only thing important to me now is when! That is the question. When will these oppressive and horrendous apartheid laws be overturned? When will the President show the powerful leadership shown by President Kennedy and President Johnson in the 1960's? When will he insist Congress take up and immediately repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell?" When will the President address the nation in a powerful speech saying that the time of inequality, injustice and yes, apartheid against the American LGBT community must come to an end. Mr. President, the only question we have for you is when?
The notion that the President feels we might be happy with his term at the end of seven and a half years was depressing. For those who understand the political process, that when might be never happen given the changing nature of the presidency. No one in their right mind believes that he will have credibility, the powerful Congress and the good will of the American people more than he has now. First Lady Michelle Obama wouldn't tolerate living under the laws of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for two days and he expects us to live under them until maybe into his second term? Hell, no. Not acceptable, Mr. President.
So there is only one acceptable answer to the question of when the President should seriously begin to deal with ending the system of Gay Apartheid in America.
Now, for God sakes. Now.