President Obama hit the mark perfectly in his speech to the Human Rights Campaign Fund gathering last night. And so did all those who press him for more and faster action. On this, National Coming Out Day, cleverly set on my own birth date, there is much to be done to bring legal equality to gay and lesbian Americans. The Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes law is one step forward. But as much as legal equality must be pursued with vigor there are still persistent pockets of hatred and ignorance that need the clarity of Obama’s call for tolerance and equality.
While acceptance of gays as full members of the human family has grown dramatically since I first stepped out of the closet door some 33 years ago, there remain voices of division and hatred calling for the marginalization and in some cases eradication of us. Police departments in Atlanta Georgia and Ft. Worth Texas thought it is still within their discretion to bash gays at local bars under the color of law.
Some people clutching the cross of the Prince of Peace spew venom at us and celebrate those who attack and kill us. The legislative and ballot fights over gay marriage exhibit a degree of discrimination that would not be tolerated if aimed at any other people (well, maybe Muslims, sadly). These are the people whose hearts need mending and to whom all must reach out with compassion and love.
As Brent Childers explained in his commentary on Newsweek
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans are a diverse, extraordinary, resilient, and passionate group of forgiving men and women. I wouldn’t be standing beside them demanding full and equal treatment under the law and speaking out against the harm caused by religion-based bigotry at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 11 if I thought they were not created in God’s image the same as myself, same as my family, as we all are—we are all God’s children.
Other voices of faith have spoken up against the misuse of the Christian Bible and the Muslim Koran to support their bigotry and attacks on gays and lesbians. Increasingly politicians eschew the most vitriolic of anti-gay positions even though many still depend upon that voter segment for their holding office.
Obama’s speech was the clearest statement for equality from any President. It’s importance is missed by those who correctly point out he failed to set out a firm timetable. His words performed a more important task – they set a national agenda based firmly on the proposition that gay and lesbian Americans can expect their government to treat them as equals. Those who oppose that view and more importantly those who would equivocate and temporize are now on the outside, facing the inexorable tide of increasing equality and acceptance.
“Coming out” is important for many reasons, among them is the value of a person accepting themselves as they are, as one of god’s children and deserving to be honored for who they are, without reservations or apology. We who have stood and struggled for equality for all these many decades have a friend in President Obama.