A new president, a new administration and renewed energy stemming from a fresh view of America -- it has indeed been a celebratory week across the nation. And it’s wonderful to see our cultural melting pot reflected in the many folks represented on TV, radio, and other media this past week.
Is it a fact that we are truly becoming an equally representative society? We hope so, and we say it’s about time! We watched much of the pre- and post-inauguration festivities, and while we certainly enjoyed the entertainment, some nostalgic and some uplifting, and want to believe that a new era has dawned, we can’t help but be a bit skeptical that all may be too good to be true.
It’s a start you say?! Yes indeed it is. And we’re not naysayers; we share in some of the excitement and anticipation of better things to come.
Of course, Obama has only been in office three days as we write, but he’s already delayed the removal of gray wolves from the endangered species list and signed legislation to end a ban on funding for international organizations that provide family planning and abortion services.
And, of course, if Hillary couldn’t be our first woman president, we are at the very least pleased that Obama appointed her Secretary of State. She’s a mere four heartbeats from the presidency.
While it’s true that Obama is the most queer-friendly President we’ve had since Roosevelt (the one married to Eleanor), we hesitate to get too excited about things to come. When he ran for his Illinois Senate seat Obama was quite outspoken in support of same-sex marriage. However, while running for President he expressed disapproval of such but did support domestic partners and/or civil unions.
"In 2006 Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment that defined marriage as opposite-sex only."
Okay, politics being what they are, candidates have to choose their issues and words carefully and can never please everyone. However, this apparent change in support indicates to us that Obama the President is still Obama the politician who, power of the office notwithstanding, will be subject to compromise the same as everyone else. We just hope that our lives are not sacrificed when it comes to personal protections, contractual agreements, work place fairness and health-care issues.
Certainly to his credit, in 2006 Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment that defined marriage as opposite-sex only and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples. He has also supported bias-crimes protection acts and the repeal of don’t-ask-don’t-tell, all of which indicates a good track record from our perspective.
We know that Obama has a community-wide vision, and his message of coming together in respect and service is indeed righteous, and we have no particular reason to believe that he is misrepresenting himself.
"While it’s true that Obama is the most queer-friendly President we’ve had since Roosevelt (the one married to Eleanor), we hesitate to get too excited about things to come."
We were disappointed that he chose Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation and quite upset when the first gay Bishop, Rev. Gene Robinson, was chosen after the fact to deliver a blessing during pre-inaugural events. And, if being an afterthought wasn’t bad enough, Robinson’s delivery wasn’t even carried live by most of the media -- a decision made by the Obama inaugural committee.
Now, some folks have said we shouldn’t be concerned about this because Obama’s reasons for choosing Warren were based on his philosophy of bringing everyone together in acceptance, even those with whom we most disagree. And besides, Warren has been active in the AIDS efforts in Africa.
That’s a good thing, sure. But what about the AIDS effort in this country? We don’t see a lot of AIDS-related missionaries (or shall we say involved evangelicals) working here. Perhaps that’s because AIDS is seen as a “gay” disease in America, whereas the pandemic in Africa is not presented as such.
Maybe our displeasure with Warren goes beyond such social issues because we wonder why have an invocation (translate that to prayer) at all? Not everyone is a Christian, and not everyone is a believer in any religious philosophy. To be totally representative, one must include all religions or none.
Either have a service that brings representatives from all of the religions together or pass on that particular ritual, which seems irrelevant to swearing in government officials anyway. There’s that separation of church and state thingy again!
As we said earlier, we know it’s early in Obama’s tenure, and we have to hope, along with everyone else, that he will live up to most of our expectations.
"We’re not naysayers; we share in some of the excitement and anticipation of better things to come."
He has spent much of his career fighting for civil rights as an attorney, community organizer, Illinois State Senator and now as President.
His agenda includes combating employment discrimination, ending deceptive voting practices, ending racial profiling, reducing recidivist crime by providing ex-offender support, expanding hate crimes statutes, supporting full civil unions and federal rights for same-sex folks, repealing don’t-ask-don’t-tell, expanding adoption rights for everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, continuing to empower women and, gee, last but not least, fixing our disastrously broken economy and bringing an end to the wars and strife around the world.
Not a bad job description. He has our empathy!!
We hope no one gets the wrong impression here, because we like and support Obama and are glad he was elected. But we women and lesbians have been disappointed too many times to believe that sometimes an apple is just an apple, and we can trust that it will remain so.
We will promise do our part to support Obama’s agenda for a better, more equitable nation and will trust that by living up to the founding notion that all citizens deserve to be treated with dignity and respect Obama will reward us with complete enfranchisement.
We know there is much work to be done, but we see in the newly fostered sense of pride and involvement brought about by Obama and manifest across the country that truly the time for change is now.
And maybe it will be the time for good change for the queer folks!
It’s what we all deserve.
Helen Harrell and Carol Fischer can be reached at and .