LGBTQ Leadership Begins At Home

Hilary Clinton giving a speech

Last week, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, delivered to the United Nations an historic speech on human rights as it pertains to the Obama Administration’s renewed commitment to the world’s “invisible minority”, the LGBT and gender variant community. There is no denying the consequential and extraordinary aspects of the Secretary’s speech to the members of the United Nations, and if you haven’t done so, I encourage you to watch the entire speech here.

Social networks were all atwitter with commentary. As you can imagine, polarizing points of view were more the norm than the casual acknowledgment of something significant. No great surprise the Christian right wing and the more carnival side show of the Conservative candidates for President, immediately accused the Obama administration of waging war against religion. Many returned fire and accused the President of opening up another front on the war on Christmas, though I’m not completely clear on the intel. Not all opposition came from those opposed to everything the administration tries to accomplish; not everyone aligned with the President’s democratic base found a strong foundation in theUnited States criticizing the world before we have our own house in order. Those without sin cast the first stone…or something like that.

Regular readers know that I am a supporter of President Obama; I have written in support of the reasoning behind many of his administration’s decisions and policies. Regular readers also know that I am no O-bot, either. I criticize Mr. Obama’s leadership when I feel he deserves it, and I have to admit, my reaction to the timing of the Secretary of State’s speech was initially one of skepticism. Is this the President trying to solidify a less than consolidated support group as the election is less than a year away? Though Secretary Clinton did acknowledge that her own country’s record on human rights for gay people is far from perfect, my initial reaction regarding the speech was this: For the United States to chastise any other country on their records regarding issues of gay rights is like this administration condemning other nations for violently silencing peaceful, public, protest all the while remaining significantly silent as paramilitary police departments around our own country pepper-spray, beat, berate, and arrest #Occupy and 99% protestors from California to New York.

That being said, I’m a strong proponent of it’s never the wrong time to do the right thing. Better yet, Eleanor Roosevelt said it better, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” It is in this vein that I challenge the Obama administration to move forward from this point, from this speech given by the Secretary of State, in theUnited States’ commitment to improved human rights for ALL its people.

I have to strongly encourage my President, from this point forward, when your administration condemns the leadership in Damascus, Syria, and threatens economic sanctions in response to civil rights abuses there, consider doing the same for the leadership of Damascus, Virginia. The State of Virginiamay be for lovers, but only the heterosexual kind. There are no employment protections for gay persons in Virginia, gay couples cannot legally enter into second-parent adoptions, in fact, private contracts such as wills and powers of attorney with medical consent that “approximate marriage” are not documents in which gay couples can legally file. Lambda Legal, our nation’s oldest and largest legal organization working for the civil rights of the LGBTQ community, considers the State of Virginia as “hostile”. For that matter, about 40 states have constitutional amendments or inhospitable laws rendering same sex partnerships illegal or in conflict with statute. In response, can federal highway funds be sanctioned? And can the same be said forCairo,Georgia;Lebanon,Kansas; andAngola,Louisiana? Probably not, but the questions should be asked. After all, an exemplary world-example should begin at home, right?

When Abraham Lincoln made the conscious and fateful decision that America, under his leadership, would not be a nation of slavers, he did so with a committed constitution. In a letter to the editor of the Frankfort Commonwealth, the 14th President of the United States said, “I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.” I ask this administration to be as definitive in its opinion on LGBTQ issues of liberty. Mr. President, do you support the separate, but equal approach of civil unions? Do you believe this is an issue of states’ rights where the prejudices of the majority determines the rights of the minority? Or have your opinions truly evolved in a more definitive manner toward equal protection under the Constitution? I understand that the political waters are often tepid to the touch, but when civil rights are at stake, I’m going to ask that you run more supportively hot. True leadership demands a more definitive personal position when claiming the high moral ground. Though more frugal in the cost of political capital, silence in response to divisive rhetoric, demeaning the LGBTQ community, tends towards tacit approval, and it does nothing to definitively demonstrate your administration’s desire for change.

I have to say again, that Secretary Clinton’s speech to the United Nations is truly historic, and the Obama administration should be commended in its attempt to wave an American PFLAG in front of the world. Leadership, however, is defined by what comes next, in our own example. Violence, harassment, persecution, and discrimination against the world’s LGBT and gender variant community will not change until we demand it from ourselves first.

I could go on and on regarding this passionate subject, but I have to end this blog here and leave you to your thoughts. I have to prepare a spaghetti dinner for a group of teenagers that require a little help studying for their chemistry final. In that my partner and I live an honest life in my community, the lessons learned around my kitchen table are not always examples of stoichiometry and formulas, but of social balance and equality. Yes, Mr. President, leadership does begin at home, and it is my sincere hope that this commitment includes the home of the brave.