Sunday, October 11, 2009

Equality March in DC - my comments

My wife and I were at the Equality March in Washington, DC just now. While we were waiting to start marching, we saw a rainbow in the sky - it was a beautiful omen, and quite unexpected because there was no rain.

The best sign I saw read "Heteros for Homos".

President Obama has publicly committed to equal rights, but has said that he himself believes that marriage is for a man and a woman. His administration has not made very much progress on its promised agenda to the LGBT community. The folks behind us were criticizing him rather sharply.

In defense of President Obama, it is early in his administration. There is so much on the table that absolutely needs to be done - health reform, cap and trade, immigration reform. The US political system was explicitly designed with a large number of veto players - meaning people who can exercise veto power over legislation. As a result, legislation moves slower than in other countries. The US requires a higher level of overall consensus, especially in the Senate (the senior of the two chambers), to move legislation, and LGBT issues are still very polarizing. Frankly, this legislative inertia is a net negative for the country, but it is what it is and it would take a full-scale nuclear war to change things - and we do not want a nuclear war.

In the US, the immediate symptoms are marriage itself and the benefits that come with it - tax benefits, immigration benefits, inheritance issues, issues in medical care (e.g. being able to visit your partner without challenge in a hospital). Hate crimes legislation is another symptom separate from marriage itself. These symptoms can be fixed through legislation. Some symptoms can probably be fixed with an executive order from the President, which would be faster (ask a lawyer what those are). President Obama and Congress need to move on all these things.

However, the only reason to insist on a separate status for some people, like civil unions for LGBT folks, is because one thinks them inferior. In the long run, separate but equal cannot stand. I think President Obama either knows better, or should know better, than what he has said publicly. Eventually, the world must move towards equal status for LGBT folks. It is unfortunate that Canada and many European countries are ahead of the US in that regard.

Footnote: I say LGBT, short for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, out of habit. It is the acronym under which I was introduced to the community. One of my friends, who is an elder statesperson in the Michigan LGBT community, prefers to say TBLG - putting transgendered folks first, since they are subject to the most discrimination and indeed physical danger.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

The Washington Post consistently published the suggestion that marriage equality would cause a race-based civil war, first spoken by Marion Barry, DC Councilman. Lots of hegemony behind this.

Remember the sign we saw, held by an interracial couple, "My marriage used to be illegal, too"?