Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Audacity of a Place Called Hope

In her 1988 hit "Opposites Attract", Paula Abdul summed up the fight for LGBT equality with the words "I take two steps forward, I take two steps back".

Sorry for the obscure 80's reference, but as I'm reminded every day by co-workers I could have fathered, I'm old. Besides, I think it's important to remind the young folks that, once upon a time, Paul Abdul was actually relevant.

But I digress.

Bill Clinton was the first president I voted for at the age of 32. I was a political late bloomer. Politicians had never said anything about LGBT rights that gave me reason to believe that America would ever be a gay friendly place. In the run-up to the 1992 election, as Slick Willie courted the LGBT vote, I dared to hope that we had a powerful ally. I believed his rhetoric, I liked his style and I loved that he had an openly gay man, David Mixner, as one of his advisers.

After the victory parties were over and the confetti swept up came the knife in the back called, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) and the smack-down of "The Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA).

During his campaign, Clinton promised to lift the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. Once in office, he was faced with a big, steaming pile of political reality and conservative opposition. DADT was a forced compromise that was supposed to allow us to serve our country as long as we kept our mouths shut. But the the military powers-that-be, along with the rest of the world, forgot all about the third don't: "Don't Pursue" . There weren't supposed to be any witch hunts.

In the years that followed the implementation of this half-assed policy, gays and lesbians have been investigated, interrogated, humiliated and booted out in record numbers.

In the late 90's Hawaii was the first Marriage Equality battleground in the U.S., when two same-sex couples sued the state for the right to marry. They lost.

Before the dust had even settled, Pres. Clinton signed DOMA into law, defining marriage as between one and and one woman and making it clear that states did not have to recognize same-sex unions performed in other states.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, has never publicly spoken out against the policy. She believes states should be able to decide what makes a marriage. This may explain why Bill forgets he's married from time to time.

Back when the buzz first started about Barack Obama and Oprah gave him her royal seal of approval, like most of America, I had barely heard of the man. When the ground swell started and the momentum started to build, I decided that I wasn't going to support Obama just because everyone else was. I wasn't crazy about Hilary either.

I was cautiously leaning towards Biden, who promptly and predictably shot himself in the foot by referring to Obama as "clean" and "well-spoken". One thing you can say about our new veep is that he never disappoints, even when he does.

When the Virginia primaries took place, I was still on the fence between Barack and Hilary, right up to the last minute when I stepped into the voting booth. I still didn't know much about Obama, but I knew what to expect from the Clintons. So I decided that sometimes the devil you know is better that the devil you don't know and I voted for her, not him.

As the interminable presidential campaign season dragged on and Obama-Mania swept the nation, I held onto my cynicism with a white-knuckled grip, determined, like the late Charlton Heston, that they would have to pry it from my cold, dead hand.

In the months following the November elections, the same-sex marriage war rages on, with some significant victories, but even more defeats. That's why this week's release of a CBS/New York Times poll is such a shot in the arm for our community:


Forty-two percent of Americans now say same sex couples should be allowed to legally marry, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds. That's up nine points from last month, when 33 percent supported legalizing same sex marriage.

Support for same sex marriage is now at its highest point since CBS News starting asking about it in 2004.

While some may choose to focus on the obstacles we face, I am encouraged by the fact that 67% of those polled are in favor some legal recognition of our relationships, either marriage or civil unions. As the date of the arrival of my AARP membership card looms on the horizon, this cynical old fart is feeling something I haven't felt in a long time. Could it be hope?

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