Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A note to President Obama: PLEASE remember that all "moral issues of social justice" are EQUALLY important

Do not be angry, do not be angry, do not be angry. Huh. Still angry. Guess it's time to blog.

I was watching an interview with Ted Kennedy's widow this morning in response to the passing of health care reform legislation. I was fine...until the numerous excerpts of speeches by President Obama in which he refers to health care reform as the number one "moral issue...of social justice" in our time.

I would like to suggest an alternate framing inspired by the folks who talk about "multiple oppressions" like bell hooks and the late Audre Lorde. I think it is very dangerous to present any issue of moral and social justice as any more or less important or deserving of action. We face unprecedented segregation in schools by race and class (according to Gary Orfield, more so than at any time since the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968). We have a growing gap between the rich and the poor in our society both in terms of income and wealth. We still face challenges in providing quality and affordable health care insurance to all citizens. We still do not allow same sex couples the same rights of marriage at the state and federal levels as opposite sex couples, nor do we protect LGBT folks from being fired on the basis of their sexual orientation. We desperately need immigration reform. ALL of these issues (and then some) are of equal importance as "moral" issues of "social justice."

I would also strongly suggest that President Obama begin to properly frame issues of equality for LGBT folks as "moral issues of social justice." To date, he has only offered that he is not quite comfortable supporting the idea of marriage for same sex couples. His discomfort seems to be rooted in issues of religion. PLEASE remember, President Obama, that WE ARE FACING A MORAL ISSUE OF SOCIAL JUSTICE every day as people who are excluded from the 1,100 Federal and approximately 300-600 State rights of marriage. WE ARE NOT EQUAL IN THE EYES OF THE LAW. Just as laws banning interracial marriage were struck down by the Federal Supreme Court as unconstitutional, we must strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. We should not allow the tyranny of the majority to decide the rules of the minority (e.g., only 30% of the population supported the Supreme Court decision to allow interracial marriage and yet we know it to be the fair and equal decision according to the Constitution). Nor should we WAIT (as Rea Carey said, and I paraphrase, waiting is the luxury of those who already *have* rights) for YOU to be comfortable with the religious implications. Marriage rights are civil in nature and not religious. State and Federal rights should be granted to ALL or to NONE.

Our full and equal rights are not an issue of the comfort of those in power or those in the majority. Our rights are not to be considered only during times of political convenience (e.g., the current year-long "time out" on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to try to ensure positive mid-term elections for Democrats and the abject silence on issues of marriage rights or employment protection). Our rights should be enacted and protected as a matter of law. As we have done to protect other minority groups in society (e.g., folks of color, women, differently-abled folks, religious minorities and nationalities), we must act to protect and enable full and equal rights under the law for LGBT peoples as well.

I'm sorry if this still sounds angry. I am not sorry if this sounds irreverent. I hold no reverence for people in positions of power or authority simply because they are in power or authority. I only hold reverence for those who have earned it by standing up for what is right and fair and equal in the eyes of the law even when that action is not (politically) popular. PLEASE, President Obama, stand up for what is right.

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