Thursday, October 29, 2009
Thanks, Mr. President
President Obama has signed a bill that makes crimes against any individual based on sexual orientation, faith, place of birth or disability a federal offense. The Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act "extends provisions first passed in 1968 that make it a federal crime to target individuals because of their race, religion or national origin." (Source: Washington Post)
And yours truly, he who once called the President the Antichrist, couldn't help but be moved by the president's remarks following the signing of this bill. What a thrilling moment this is for our nation's history, to see a President so committed to building a nation as opposed to tearing it up. How thrilling it is for this young gay man who remembers the days surrounding the Matthew Sheppard murder in 1998 and went further into the closet during his freshman year of college because all things gay scared the hell out of him. Today is a new day for our community - the work doesn't end and sadly, this doesn't stop future crimes from happening, but the message is clear: gays belong in this country, they are appreciated in this country and they will be protected in this country. As will anybody who comes here to live their own American dream.
The pesky issues of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, and an increasingly agitated GOP who will only use this victory to scare people into voting for them in 2010 and in the presidential elections of 2012, still loom large. In other words, nothing in our democracy is every really, really certain. For anyone concerned with the propagation of human rights in this country our work should not only focus on getting pen to paper for the signing of legislation, but on building our communities, and educating our neighbors - gay rights are everyone's rights and the marginalization of any group in this country only deters from the values that we all claim set us apart from the rest of the world.
I remain thrilled, hopeful, but ever more vigilant.