On October 10, 2009, as President Barack Obama was preparing to deliver a speech to the invited DC Beltway audience of a Human Rights Campaign gala, Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network of Chicago spoke outside in Mount Vernon Square. His remarks were directed at those who have asked, “Why not be patient? Why not give Barack Obama more time to deliver civil rights?”
We in Chicago have actually had a fair amount of experience with now-President Obama. Some of us remember when he was a state legislator. He said he was in favor of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. But then just a week his election in a landslide victory to the U.S. Senate, he said that his so-called Christian beliefs dictated that he could not favor equal marriage rights for our community. What do you think about that?
Is it any wonder that someone who was a constitutional law scholar at the University of Chicago, who could come out in favor of separate but equal institutions for any group of people, would make such a betrayal? Would invite someone like Donnie McClurkin to lead his South Carolina campaign? Would invite someone like Rick Warren to give the invocation at his own inaugural?
We were appalled by that in Chicago, but unfortunately we’ve got a lot of experience with Chicago politicians and this was more of the same. The few times that we have gotten any gains from the President in terms of LGBT equality is when we have demanded them. When we have gotten upset with him. When we have gone onto the streets.
We saw that when Rick Warren was “balanced,” so to speak, with a pro-gay speaker at the inaugural festivities. We saw that when we got some minor reforms in terms of benefits for same-sex couples at the federal level. When we protested his appalling briefs in favor of the Defense Of Marriage Act.
So for those who think we should give President Obama more time, we have to say: you have already done plenty of damage to our community in the few months you have been in power, and unfortunately it’s not only the damage that you have done that we have to deal with, it’s the damage from the last Democratic administration, the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell and many other things.
So to those who think our problem is just simply the Republicans, we have to say no. It is a bipartisan problem, and it’s about time our community started making a bipartisan response, making demands of whichever President is in power for our equal rights and liberation.