Who’s hiding now?
A couple of recent developments – one seismic, the other not so much – point to a tidal shift in the battle for LGBT equality and dignity.
Jonathan Rauch makes the clearest, most consistent conservative case for equality – especially marriage equality – that I’ve yet read. Even his opponents, on both the left and the right, accord him respect. (Andrew Sullivan recently referred to him as “Mr. Nice Gay.”) He deserves his reputation.
At times, though, Rauch’s conservatism causes him to call for compromises that are seriously flawed. Earlier this year, he took Judge Walker to task for his opinion stating that Prop 8’s denial of marriage equality was unconstitutional; for Rauch, the civil unions (domestic partnerships, actually) available in California should have been enough. He overlooked the fact that no reason was adduced at trial for conferring all of the benefits of marriage without the label – in other words, to engage in discrimination simpliciter.
Worse is his piece in this month’s Advocate. In an effort to achieve an elusive compromise between anti-discrimination laws and accommodating religious belief, he clatters far off the track. Please read the entire piece. It’s beguiling in its apparently reasonable call for LGBT advocates to tolerate some (unspecified) level of discrimination, but his seemingly commonsensical call for civility falls apart under a closer reading.
Click the link above to read the full article.
(1) There’s no other way to start than by sounding a loud war whoop of triumph. This is a huge victory – both for the march of LGBT equality (itself part of an endless project of civil rights for all) and for the many thousands of gay and lesbian troops no longer required to serve in silence. While the discharges have been way down under Obama – and could have been expected to drop even more – those have been only half the problem. The other half is the daily, soul-stealing injury that the closet creates and enforces. Although realities of military culture will likely mean a slow process of coming out for many, the breaching of this wall will provide a blast of fresh air to those suffocating under this inhumane – and wholly unnecessary – policy. (And, on a personal note, people like my friend Alex Nicholson, founder of Servicemembers United, can soon re-enlist.)
(2) Having just screamed from the rafters, I now offer a quick caveat: This isn’t done yet. There will be a process for certifying that implementation of the repeal won’t harm military readiness. That measure was needed to secure the votes needed for passage, and it’s important to keep the pressure on for a quick resolution of this issue.
(3) Yesterday’s win isn’t just about DADT. Consider what repeal means: Even in a situation where people are, and should be, the most concerned about any changes (because of the dangers involved), in the end this was close to a consensus. Popular opinion, the views of the troops and of most of the top military brass, and even the strangled U.S. Senate (65-33, on the final vote) add up to a resounding statement of this principle: Gay and lesbian troops can and will soon be as valued a part of the military as anyone else. And we’re reminded that discrimination by government is indefensible, a message that resounds loudly in the marriage equality debate.
And if the military can accommodate us, why not the institution of marriage? While the specific issues are different, a broader principle has by now insinuated itself into the Zeitgeist: We exist (no small step!), and we have the same needs and aspirations as everyone else: for ourselves, our families, and for the dignity that equality confers.
(4) A tale of two Senators: Joe Lieberman, whose insufferable posturing on the health care reform bill likely led to the collapse of the public option (and therefore to the current judicial challenges to that bill), was a true civil rights hero on this issue. No, it doesn’t compensate for, much less undo, his role in other areas of governance, but we should give credit where it’s due.
As for John McCain, well, yes, I’m going to pile on. His final speech before the vote was one of the most outrageous and depressing things I’ve heard: “This is a sad day,” he began, before repeating the canard that the integration of gay and lesbian troops would add to the human suffering – including missing limbs – he’s seen at places like Walter Reed Hospital. To the extent that McCain’s constant tacking to the right and away from the wind of social change on this issue is representative (his vote on the Dream Act is another piece of evidence), it now seems that his “maverick” image was a pose all along, and that he’s always been a hard-right conservative. In any event, he’s no longer worthy of anyone’s respect as a political figure.
(5) Speaking of the Dream Act…here’s hoping that on January 5, 2011, the Senate will manage to somehow change at least the most egregious of its rules. To allow forty Senators from this already woefully unrepresentative body to stall or defeat any piece of legislation is a “luxury” we can no longer afford, especially now that the use of the threatened (not real!) filibuster has become almost as routine as the up-or-down votes themselves.
With the defeat — 55 positive votes notwithstanding! — of the Dream Act, gays and lesbians who came to this country as small children and who had ideas of serving in our military as a path to citizenship leave empty-handed, the repeal of DADT notwithstanding. The hard work of political justice remains, as always, undone. Fixing the Senate would be a good next step.