The last Sunday in June this year, June 28, marks the 40th anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in New York City, and I had a wonderful 420-medicated idea to make sure this year's pride events are noted by our president, Barack Obama.
My friend Patricia Nell Warren, the fabulous wordsmith and author of "The Front Runner," agreed to write a proclamation to submit to the president, and I promised to contact the White House and solicit Obama's support for it.
I tried to find an addy for Brian Bond, a liaison in the White House's Office of Public Liaison, but the page for the office doesn't list his or anybody's addy. I've snail-mailed a letter and the draft proclamation to Bond and others in the office, but if you have addies for them, or other gays and gay-friendly folks in the White House, please share them with me.
June 28 is practically right around the corner, so there's little time to campaign and persuade the president to issue a proclamation commemorating the Stonewall Riots almost 40 years ago.
I'd like to think that after Obama wrote a proclamation of sorts when he wrote a letter to the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club of San Francisco for Gay Pride Month in 2008, he'll be inclined to issuing an official declaration for Stonewall 40, and hopefully this draft, by Patricia.
By President Barack Obama
Forty years ago this month, at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, a courageous group of women and men resisted harassment and mistreatment by law enforcement, setting in motion a chain of events that would become known as the Stonewall Uprising. More important, the event marked the birth of the modern lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered civil-rights movement. It pushed into higher gear the previous efforts of many generations of gay people, starting in the 19th century and extending into the post-World War II period, to win what gay people have never had -- a position of equality under American law.
Today lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered/intersex people, as well as their families, friends and allies, celebrate the anniversary of Stonewall every June in America as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. In 1999, during the last Democratic administration, the National Park Service added the Stonewall Inn, as well as the nearby park and neighborhood streets surrounding it, to the National Register of Historic Places.
I recognize that the message of “change,” that American voters so overwhelmingly supported at the polls in November 2008, is very personal and urgent. But while we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It’s about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.
I am proud of the changes that my Administration has already made to help end discrimination against LGBT people, and to ensure that they have the same rights guaranteed to their fellow Americans. Shortly after taking office, I reversed U.S. policy at the UN regarding including inclusion of sexual orientation in any international statement of human rights for LGBT people, and ordered that the U.S. support this inclusion, rather than opposing it as we had done in the past.
To bring about changes that are still needed, I aim to do the following:
· Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. I aim to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, or on gender identity and expression. I will put an end to the ideological litmus tests used to fill positions within federal government – tests which often resulted in barring LGBT people from serving in government. I aim to strengthen federal hate crimes legislation, expand hate-crimes protection by passing the Matthew Shepard Act, and reinvigorate enforcement at the Department of Justice’s Criminal Section.
· Fight Workplace Discrimination: I support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy.
· Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: I support full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. I also believe we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
· Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: I voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
· Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: I agree with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. I will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
· Expand Adoption Rights: I believe that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. I think that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
· Promote AIDS Prevention: I will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies, and have appointed an openly gay man, Jeffrey Crowley, to the Office of National AIDS Policy. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. I will support common-sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education. I am willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS, and will continue to speak out on this issue as president.
As I said in my inaugural address, the time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
Now, Therefore, I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do thereby proclaim June 2009 as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. I encourage all Americans to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that celebrate our diversity, as well as the era of change and healing upon which our nation has embarked, and to remember throughout the year the LGBT Americans whose many and varied contributions have enriched our national life.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this eleventh day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.