Thursday, October 29, 2009

March Toward Equality

It was a great day for equality in American when President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the bill outlawing offenses motivated by a person's race, gender, identity, color, sexual orientation, or mental of physical disability named after two men killed in separate hate crimes -- Shepard because he was gay, and Byrd because he was black. It was the culmination of a years-long crusade by crime victims and their families.

"Today, we have taken another step forward," Obama said. "This is the culmination of a struggle that has lasted more than a decade."

"No one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hand of the person they love," Obama said in a reception in the East Room of the White House.

"At root this is not just about our laws, but who we are as a people," Obama said.

It was an emotional moment that renewed a little bit of my faith in America. The president? My faith in him has not wavered, and Wednesday only reaffirmed it.

Now where do we go from here? Andrew Kessinger, a graduate student at Columbia University and a senior editor at the School of International and Public Affairs' Journal of International Affairs, isn't impressed and says it's time to start doing something for gays "who aren't hurt."

Is this the best Congress can muster when it comes to advancing gay rights?

The law morbidly protects gays only after they have been attacked; any consideration for their safety and human rights before such an occurrence still seems a congressional afterthought.

Put another way, our nation's dead and hospitalized homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered people are receiving after-the-fact sympathies, while the healthy gays and lesbians among us are expected to suffer from the same root discrimination. Are rights advocates expected to remain patient, even happy, about such progress?

The proverbial plate is too full, pooh-poohs our political elite. The rationale underlying such sentiments is that reforming our nation's health-care system, improving our economy and winning the war in Afghanistan must of course take priority over gay rights.

Is it too much to ask for more, sooner rather than later? (Read his full piece HERE.)

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