Thursday, May 29, 2003
''I hope that in this new millennium we will continue to break down the walls of fear and prejudice and work to build a bridge to understanding and tolerance, until gays and lesbians are afforded the same rights and responsibilities as all Americans," signed President William J. Clinton, proclaiming June 2000 as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.
But in this new millennium, a new kid sits in the White House, and June''s rainbow flag flies no more. Freely proclaiming months observing women, blacks, Indians, Asians, Irish, and even older Americans, President Bush just as freely nixed celebrating our nation''s gay and lesbian citizens. Why salute your, uh, more colorful constituency, when wielding black-and-white morality can mobilize votes.
In this administration, "walls of fear and prejudice" are key political strategy "to build a bridge" to re-election and party dominance.
A White House spokesman had justified Bush singling out the rainbow crowd saying, "The president believes every person should be treated with dignity and respect but, he does not believe in politicizing people''s sexual orientation."
Now that''s a good one.
Actually, continuing June observation of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month would mean tacit approval of the sodomite lifestyle. And as Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum recently made clear to his Republican base of Christian fundamentalists, the elephant party doesn''t swing both ways, officially anyhow. Arguing for moral policing of American bedrooms, he drew a hard line between good vs. evil, or conservatives, strong families and procreative sex vs. liberals, homosexuals and anything goes.
Bush mostly leaves overt politicizing of sex to his minions. But under pop''s reign, he strategized with the religious right to replace "abortion" with "the homosexual agenda" as a moral wedge to politically divide and conquer the nation.
When governor of Texas, Bush publicly supported the prosecution of two men arrested for making love in the privacy of their own home, a case now before the US Supreme Court. He defended upholding the state''s sodomy law as "a symbol of traditional values" and threatened to veto any legislative attempt to overturn it. A Court of Appeals since found the 200-year-old law to be in violation of the Texas Equal Rights Amendment by making the same behavior criminal "for some but not for others, based solely on the sex of the individuals who engage in the behavior."
Governor Bush also aggressively fought and stalled the James Byrd Hate Crimes bill that so riled conservatives for including protection of sexual orientation with other minorities. His Republican successor has since signed the legislation.
This is the same GOP leader whose party has taken gay bashing to an art form. Former Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott has likened gays to alcoholics, sex addicts and kleptomaniacs, and opposed Clinton''s executive order to protect federally employed gays and lesbians from job discrimination. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay defended Santorum''s remarks equating homosexual sex to incest and bestiality, saying he was "very proud" of the senator for taking a "very courageous and moral position."
The Republican Party platform, which trumpets individual responsibility and limited government, opposes the decriminalization of sodomy, at least for homosexuals. It reads: "The practice of sodomy tears at the fabric of society" and "...contributes to the breakdown of the family unit." Based on most legal definitions of any intimate act other than procreative sex, sodomy is something my husband and I enjoy regularly, as do millions of heterosexual couples, and our family unit is just fine, thank you.
While Bush "quietly" makes political points for not "politicizing people''s sexual orientation," thousands of Americans continue to be denied basic human and civil rights for, well, their sexual orientation.
In recognizing federal responsibility for observing Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, Clinton said, "Gay and lesbian Americans have made important and lasting contributions to our nation in every field of endeavor. Too often, however, gays and lesbians face prejudice and discrimination; too many have had to hide or deny their sexual orientation in order to keep their jobs or to live safely in their communities."
His proclamation called for the passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, "to strengthen the Department of Justice''s ability to prosecute hate crimes committed due to the victim''s sexual orientation" and of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, "which would outlaw discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation," legislation conservatives continue to oppose.
As civilized nations address gay and lesbian rights as civil rights, such as extending access to military service and domestic partner benefits, even marriage, our president pretends that sexual orientation is not a political issue. This despite the increasing number of soldiers discharged for homosexuality under "Don''t Ask, Don''t Tell," including Arabic and Korean linguists, just when our national security depends on them most. Not political despite countless related federal, state and local cases involving housing bias, job termination, adoption bans, civil unions and same-sex marriage, domestic partner health benefits, hospital visitation and inheritance, school harassment, parental visitation rights and university discrimination.
Maybe Bush will admit to his party''s shameless politicizing of sexual orientation come the day when, as Clinton''s proclamation for June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month says, we "finally recognize these Americans for what they are: our colleagues and neighbors, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, friends and partners."
Lara Riscol, a member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, is the author of the upcoming Ten Sex Myths That Screw America.