Joyce Arnold is a liberal Independent activist whose column “Queer Talk” appears regularly on Saturdays, and occasionally on other days of the week.
This QT column could also be called, “I’m Right, and you’re Left out,” since it’s about more than marriage. Just like DADT is about more than servicemembers, DOMA is about more than couples who want to get legally married. ENDA is about more than civil rights in the work place. It’s all connected, all the bits and pieces, of varying sizes and significance, in the long struggle toward equality. And although Obama’s choices regarding LGBT equality are obviously significant, all of this, including marriage, is about much more than Obama. He has both helped and hindered. On marriage in particular, a Democratic president to the Right of popular opinion, and of some Republicans, basing his argument on states’ rights, isn’t subtle or clever. Whatever he’s thinking, the states’ rights argument means, in practice, that if you’re LGBT (among other groups), states are just as free to discriminate against you as they are to provide civil rights.
Pam Spaulding, at Houseblend, recently wrote:
… the states have varying laws on the books related to marriage, but what we have going on can and should be addressed by this President “” we have states embracing equality, while other states are enshrining bigotry into their state constitutions against a class of citizens at the ballot box.
He knows this is wrong; and it will give comfort to our foes who will quote the President with glee in their campaigns to pass marriage amendments.
For those of us in states facing institutionalized oppression, the perspective of “˜progress’ looks very different when you are sitting where further battles loom, as opposed to areas where equality is blooming. There is thinking that exists in abundance in the LGBT community (usually couched in the legal abstract) that helps generates the willingness to see “˜throw away states’ “” where LGBTs will suffer “” as mere speed bumps on the way to equality.
For many of us already in “throw away states,” the battle is to undo the damage already done. I rejoiced at the big marriage win in New York, but for those of us in the 29 states with constitutional amendments restricting marriage to “one man, one woman,” and the 12 states with laws doing the same thing, listening to Obama extol the right of state legislatures, and the right of a majority of citizens to vote on the rights of a minority, is not encouraging.
And just to be clear, these mini-DOMAs and state constitutional amendments are not restricted to “the South.” Via the Human Rights Campaign, states with constitutional amendments:
Alabama (2006), Alaska (1998), Arizona (2008), Arkansas (2004), California (2008), Colorado, Florida (2008), Georgia (2004), Kansas (2005), Idaho (2006), Kentucky (2004), Louisiana (2004), Michigan (2004), Mississippi (2004), Missouri (2004), Montana(2004), Nebraska (2000), Nevada (2002), North Dakota (2004), Ohio (2004), Oklahoma (2004),Oregon (2004), South Carolina (2006), South Dakota (2006), Tennessee (2006), Texas (2005), Utah (2004), Virginia(2006) and Wisconsin (2006).
States with laws: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
And, there are 18 states “where the law or amendment has language that does, or may, affect other legal relationships, such as civil unions or domestic partnership. … : Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.”
DOMA, of course, was signed into law by Bill Clinton. It’s been under attack in the courts fairly consistently since. Via the NYTimes:
Last year, a federal judge in Massachusetts declared the law unconstitutional as it applied to same-sex couples for issues like inheritance taxes and federal health and pension benefits. President Obama has expressed his opposition to DOMA, and in February the Justice Department announced that it would not defend it in court …
The comments above, from Spaulding, introduced an article by regular guest contributor Rev. Irene Monroe, “Obama harkens backs to slavery with “˜states’ rights’ for same-sex marriage.”
The fight for marriage equality in the U.S. is similar to my ancestors’ fight for freedom. In their day, before the Civil War in 1861, the U.S. consisted of nineteen free states and fifteen slave states….
As LGBTQ Americans, we’re not in slavery, but we certainly will be in a civil war as each state battle this issue. Whereas President Lincoln acted on behalf of my ancestor’s civil rights, we need to call on Obama to move on ours.
“˜The President has staked out a cynical political position aimed at not rocking the boat,’ said Richard Socarides, who advised President Bill Clinton on gay rights issues. “˜This states’ rights argument is a separate but equal argument.’ …
While our President states his opinion is still “˜evolving’ on this issue, he needs to know that we LGBTQ Americans and our families want to sample what he and Michelle and every heterosexual married couple take for granted “” marriage, not marriage-lite.
Of course, Democratic-lite Electeds are part of the problem. Comparatively speaking, an “evolving” president is better than other alternatives. For an admittedly extreme contrast, Michele Bachmann said, in 2004, that “in the gay marriage issue, legalizing a new status “” if you will, redefining in a sense what it is to be man, woman, what it is to be human … “ Bachmann is defining not just marriage, but what it means to be “human.”
She doesn’t seem to have evolved since then. On Thursday of this week, she was, according to The Advocate, “first in line to sign a new pledge affirming her belief that gay men are a public health risk, that gay parents are inferior to straight parents, and that homosexuality is a choice.”
By such comparisons, evolving can sound, if not good, at least better. But neither “better” nor “good” is equal. Ultimately, that’s the only standard by which Electeds should be measured. For that matter, it’s a standard for “we the people,” too.