Homophobic nation stifles gay rights

Kelly Hart embraces Rev. Dawn Roginski outside the Philip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California, after a judge ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional on Wednesday, August 4, 2010.

On Nov. 2, the primary issue on the minds of voters will be the economy. Most people will be thinking about jobs, taxes and trillion dollar deficits. The majority of citizens will be measuring candidates on their economic literacy and understanding. Dollar signs will define the ballot box.

But, after several tragic suicides and foolish political gaffes, gay rights have returned to the forefront of our consciousness. Last Thursday, this page featured two columns that struck the issue from different angles. One supported the legalization of gay marriage and one argued against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

While we probably won’t see gay rights affect next month’s elections, there is a good chance next month’s elections will affect gay rights. Unfortunately, that’s what we said during the last election, and there is nothing to show for it.

This president and this Congress were supposed to do something about DADT, but they haven’t. They commissioned a report instead of righting a wrong.

The absence of courage on this issue is disgraceful. The Democratic leaders have cowered in the face of political pressure. This should have been the first thing on the agenda last January.

Yet, for another congressional term, Washington punted. It’s easy to demonize Republicans for opposing gay rights, but Democrats deserve an equal thrashing for doing nothing despite having the power to enact real change.

DADT should never have been authorized in the first place, and it certainly shouldn’t still be on the books. It is an embarrassing and bigoted policy that tells gay Americans they do not possess the qualities necessary to serve their country.

For years, politicians have hid behind DADT in the name of military stability. They claim including openly gay Americans in military ranks would upset unit cohesion. Except that was the same argument made when black soldiers were first admitted into white units in the 1940s.

The unit got over it. Our brave soldiers will adjust to gay members just as they did to black members.

Sexual orientation has nothing to do with someone’s ability to serve. Being gay doesn’t mean you aren’t brave. It doesn’t mean you aren’t selfless. It doesn’t mean you can’t put on a uniform or carry a rifle.

Many people have dissected the recent suicides of gay teenagers. The general focus has been on bullying and the use of new media. That misses the point.

Nearly every high school student in this country could be considered a victim of bullying, but most of those stories don’t end in tragedy. These kids didn’t kill themselves because they were bullied. They killed themselves because they were being bullied about being gay.

They were raised in a country that said they couldn’t be soldiers. They were raised in a culture that said they couldn’t get married. They grew up being told by their government they lacked the qualities needed to be good parents.

This isn’t a story about teenagers bullying teenagers. This isn’t a story about boundaries or privacy. This is a story about being gay in America.

Most victims of bullying don’t respond so tragically because they can look to the adult population for comfort. If you get picked on because you have glasses or you’re short, your parents and your teachers can tell you everything will be okay when you’re older. They can assure you things will get better after graduation.

That doesn’t work if you’re gay because the adult population supports laws that define you as a second-class citizen.

Countless commentators have pointed the finger at young people for the recent suicides. They have said young people don’t understand the power of bullying and the Internet. But, the real blame falls on middle-age America.

If you want to end tragedies like the ones we’ve seen in the last month, end the policies that make these kids think things won’t get better.
This was not about bullying. This was not about webcams and Twitter. It was about hate.

As soon as we understand that, we can help make it better. We can reach out to people who are in trouble. We can save people from making such final choices.

It shouldn’t be like this in America. Everyone has the right to think whatever they want about homosexuality, but that doesn’t mean we can have laws that discriminate against our gay brothers and sisters.

It’s wrong in the military. It’s wrong in the adoption system. And it’s wrong in marriage. It’s also wrong the party that supposedly stands for gay rights has done nothing in two years to make it better.

If the Democrats are wondering why their base is staying home this year, this is why. They claim to stand for something, but really stand for nothing.

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