Emma Ruby-Sachs: The Big Gay Speech Obama Should Give
This Saturday, President Obama will be the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Campaign’s big New York fundraiser. As the largest gay rights fundraiser in the U.S., it’s a big deal to score a personality like the President. But his presence has many members of the LGBT community worried. Here’s a guy who has done virtually nothing for gay rights since his election. What can he possibly say?
I’m sure his speechwriters have cooked up something special for the night, but I’ve got a few ideas of my own. I’ve written a little speech for the beloved President - the kind of speech we wish the man would give, just once.
Tonight is a night to celebrate the Human Rights Campaign - the work they have done, tireless, well organized, well executed work, to promote the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people in this country. It’s also a night to celebrate all of you, the people who donate their money and time to help make this country a more equal and just society.
But it is also a serious night, a night to reflect on where we have been and, more importantly, a night to plan and commit to where we are going.
I have a plan and I am ready for that commitment.
I understand that, in the face of the economic crisis facing us at home, the military crisis facing us abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan and the environmental crisis facing the international community, there is a very real struggle for basic human rights engaged in everyday by LGBT people in the United States.
This struggle is not overshadowed by the big news issues. It is not lessened by them. It is a constant and painful inequality. I know something about this kind of discrimination. My family knows something about this kind of discrimination.
And so, I do not stand before you tonight with excuses for the delays in Washington, for the setbacks and political conflicts that have crippled many important equality initiatives and stalled others.
I am here tonight because my administration is committed to full equality for LGBT people in this country. I pledged that commitment early in the campaign and have not swayed from that position.
I believe in the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the passage of inclusive immigration reform and the widespread protection of LGBT employees from retribution for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
I believe in hate crimes legislation that protects Americans from homophobia as well as racism.
And here’s what I’m going to do to make the things I believe in, a reality.
Within one year, by November 2010, we will introduce comprehensive immigration reform. This immigration package will include spousal sponsorship for same-sex couples in a committed relationship. Immigration reform is a priority for my administration and no reform package will be complete without this provision for the unification of American families thus far separated by discriminatory immigration policies.
Within six months, by April 2010, we will introduce a bill repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. When we ask so much of our troops, send them back for repeat tours, ask them to fight in harsh conditions so far from home, we must support their right to be open with their colleagues and superiors. We simply cannot afford to lose anymore good people from our military simply because of their sexual orientation.
As we speak, members of Congress are mobilizing around an inclusive hate crimes bill. That is a success that is imminent and my administration pushed to include the Matthew Shepard Act in the defense bill before Congress. We will push to get it passed.
These campaigns will not happen without roadblocks. Sometimes it will seem like we are moving backwards. We have already seen this with Proposition 8 in California and the proposed Proposition 1 in Maine.
But, the United States of America is a community of people from many different countries and many different cultures. It is a nation that vibrates with diversity and rises from its people’s differences as much as their shared experiences.
We are ready for progress. We are ready for equality. We, together, are going to make that equality happen.