Friday, June 12, 2009

Radical is not Wrong

Tonight, I write the first serious blog entry that I have done since April out of an abundance of anger and an intense sense of betrayal at what I have found in today's release of a briefing by the Department of Justice. The document (which can be found here: )
makes the case for upholding the Defense of Marriage Act passed in the 1990s that essentially bars Congress from passing a law to recognize same-sex marriages. It goes beyond that, however, in attempting to fully stymie and crush any attempt for federal recognition of same-sex couples at any legal level. The act is something that candidate Obama pledged to work to repeal if he became President because he recognized that it is unfair and essentially bigoted. It was created out of ignorance and fear that, although still holding a place in American society, is growing less pervasive.

At the bottom of this entry I will link all relevant material that I discuss. The point here is the briefing went entirely too far and attempts to compare gay marriage to incest and denies it the same credibility that interracial marriage was given when it first became defended by the courts. It goes too far in that, rather than simply defending DOMA (which neither Clinton nor Bush chose to do in this formal manner) to attacking the heart of the gay rights movement: we too are human beings, and on that account are equally deserving of civil rights granted to others. Indeed, the argument is laid out that homosexuals have every right to enter marriage, we just have to do it with the “right” people. It is a fallacy of logic to expect that we should deny ourselves, and thus our freedom to be individuals, in order to achieve a semblance of equality.

The fact of the matter is that the Obama administration is engaging in a sport of can-kicking that is unparalleled in its audacity and negligence. Perhaps the president feels that gays are not worthy of his recognition, despite the fact that most of us fought hard for his candidacy and defended him against all sorts of accusations because we believed in him. We trusted that he would be faithful to his word, we believed that his labeling of gay rights as a “top priority” among his many other top priorities was honest and genuine.

The history of the gay rights movement is a painful one, interspersed with great and joyous victories but overshadowed by legal defeat after legal defeat. Our humanity has been put up for referendums, as though the opinion of other citizens has any bearing upon our inalienable rights that are in theory supposed to be applicable to all American citizens. Most of all in the past year we, and I mean “we” by regular gay, bisexual, and transgendered men and women because that is my community, have come to learn the hard way that reliance upon the political machines will only leave us in the dust. I am sure that this lesson was obvious in the 1990s as well when the Clinton administration all but spit on the LGBT community. Our defeat with Prop 8 was bankrolled by Mormons and perpetuated by the ignorant as though allowing gay marriage would somehow destroy civil society as we know it. The organizers against Prop 8 were incompetent and unready to take bold steps to assert their case. The politicians we task with defending us either did so with great reluctance or ignored us altogether.

The fact that a majority of California voters reject our status as equal holds no bearing, because civil rights are not up for vote. By such logic, people could bar Africa-Americans from marrying and enjoying legal benefits. We could arbitrarily decide that Muslim-Americans (though religion is essentially a choice, but I believe freedom of religion is a vital aspect of human rights) are unequal to the rest of “us” and we could strip them of many rights that citizenship carries.

It was expected that Obama would keep promises, or at least show some level of action. The President and his supporters' repeated attempts to encourage patience because there are more pressing matters were convincing and acceptable. However, people like myself have recognized that the silence has been disturbing – the only recognition of the LGBT community has the been appointment of a gay man in a fairly high-level administrative position and a speech made on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riot, the birth of our movement. Every other opportunity to recognize gay equality was either ignored or mocked. The President refused to do anything with regard to Don't Ask, Don't Tell when a lieutenant who recently came out faced discharge, he either mocked or dismissed gay rights protesters outside a Los Angeles fundraising event, and he has had a baffling silence about gay marriage passages in states since his election.

I have been told to wait for too long, especially after today's briefing that was released. I know it almost sounds ridiculous that six months is “too long” but considering the silence that has accompanied the wait, there is no doubt in my mind that our level as a priority in the Obama White House is nothing more than an office joke at best. At worst, the LGBT community was used as a tool for Obama's election. We are a mobilized and active political bloc and our power is certainly potent, but to have that used without any recognition whatsoever of what responsibility ensues the borrowing of our community's power is an affront to fairness and civil equality.

I feel ashamed now that when legislation was brought forth to end workplace discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered that I supported Barney Frank's proposal to get rid of the last group because it would hinder chances of passage. The logic I held was the practicality was more important than idealism. That remains true, but the assumption that I made was that eventually transgendered people would get their equality too. I now realize that is not only incredibly unfair, the logic has no basis. The assumption that it is “practical” to give some groups rights and not another is ultimately hypocritical because it is what I stand against. The assumption that I could trust politicians with defending everyone's rights (eventually) even when it is not convenient is laughable. Anyway, my whole spill about this issue is to highlight the point that we only have each other – no political entity can be expected to support us or return our support. They will only do so when it is politically expedient. Barack Obama does not have the courage to stand by his words, or at least make some recognition of them.

I sincerely hope that the course begins to change, that all my comments about Obama are proven wrong. But what I also recognize is that the LGBT community needs to unite as never before to acquire our individual freedoms that are denied to us all. I also call upon all of you – straight, gay, bicurious, bisexual, transgendered – to stand up for this moment and help in the fight for equality. Whether you are straight or gay you are implicated. Your inaction is the endorsement of the marginalization of people because they are different. I hope that someday the term “LGBT” will become meaningless when we have achieved our full equality. This will take a grassroots effort, however, and it is the single issue that motivates me like no other.

Arguments that are derived from your interpretation of God and His Word are irrelevant. We are not demanding that our membership in your churches become mandatory. Churches maintain the right to deny marriage licenses to whomever they wish – the fact that the Catholic church denies its services to non-Catholics is a key point in this argument. We are demanding our civil rights. Religious arguments have no basis in the realm of civic equality, at least when such arguments are designed to prevent others from becoming equal.

Carrie Prejean may think she's the face of this debate, but you and I both know that the faces of this debate are LGBT citizens that have to live in a nation that is respectable and admirable in almost every facet of its acknowledgement of human rights. Ours are handily rejected.

We will not quit until what is ours has been rightfully acknowledged. I happily welcome all of you to join the fight. I know we can win it because we are ultimately driven by a desire to be free from civic repression. Our existence has become widely accepted in popular culture and it is only natural that government will be behind because it is in its very nature conservative. The status quo, though a reliable basis for future action, is not acceptable in this case. I understand to many people the notion that two men should have the right to get married is incredibly radical and almost laughable. But let this statement remind you of past struggles: Just because something is radical does not mean it is wrong.

We must act so that government will. Our acceptance in pop culture means little if we are unwilling to pursue direct action to ensure our acceptance and integration in civil society. 

Equal in spirit,

Matt Arundel

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