Friday, January 29, 2010

Rewind: Week of Jan. 29

Also posted on DC Agenda

The only thing new in President Obama’s mention of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during his State of the Union address was the phrase “this year.”

Although it is always helpful when the president uses the word “gay,” especially when stressing the equality of all citizens, it is not as helpful to keep on promising the repeal of a discriminatory law without saying or committing much else. Having surrogates — like Valerie Jarrett — try to assure us without giving any details does not foster much confidence, either.

Considering the ambitious agenda Obama intends to keep, his depleted political capital, the resurgence of GOP confidence, strident opposition from the Pentagon, and the reality that members of Congress have already “run for the hills” in anticipation of the November elections, will “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be repealed this year? Will skittish and self-serving politicians do the right thing and finally permit “gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are”?

And if the antiquated and disproven law were to survive another year, will Obama sign an executive order banning any further discharges of out lesbian and gay soldiers?

In related news, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law released a report Tuesday that increased the estimated number of gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals serving in the military to 66,000. The study also calculates that about 13,000 of these brave Americans are on active duty while the remaining 53,000 gay and bisexual women and men serve in the National Guard and reserves.

Wednesday was quite eventful. In Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced an historic piece of legislation, H.R. 4350, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which seeks to protect LGBT students. The bill establishes a comprehensive federal prohibition of discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill debuted with 60 co-sponsors.

While Polis was working for equality, his colleague, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), introduced a disapproval resolution to block the District’s marriage equality law, even though he admits that the motion is almost certain to fail. Chaffetz clearly had nothing better to do than indulge his homophobia and bigotry. In response, House Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) issued a statement saying she had received assurance from Democratic leaders that the House will ignore the conservative congressman’s useless resolution.

Meanwhile, in California, testimony in the federal Proposition 8 trial ended and the presiding judge, Vaughn Walker, could rule as soon as March. Whatever his decision, it will most likely be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals and all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Internationally, Moscow’s mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, vowed Monday to once again prevent this year’s gay pride parade, which he considers “satanic.”

“We haven’t permitted such a parade and we won’t permit it in the future,” he said. “It’s high time that we stop propagating nonsense discussions about human rights, and bring to bear on them the full force and justice of the law.”

The LGBT community plans on marching nonetheless, even though they had been harassed and dispersed during previous attempts.

On Wednesday, Mexico City’s lesbians and gays got the bad news that Mexican federal prosecutors will try to overturn the city’s same-sex marriage law. The federal Attorney General’s office issued a statement that says the law “violates the principle of legality, because it strays from the constitutional principle of protecting the family.”

In contrast, the United Kingdom’s LGBT community got props from the nation’s conservative leader, David Cameron. At a recent meeting on education, the Tory head said that schoolchildren should be taught about gay relationships and equality.

“We do need good sex and relationship education. That education should teach people about equality, that we treat people the same whether they are gay or straight. I think that is really important that we embed that in the ethos of our education.” Cameron added, “Should we teach children about relationships? Yes we should. Should we teach them about the importance of equality, whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual? Yes we should.”

Perhaps American conservatives should listen and learn from their British counterparts and finally uphold the American ideal of equality for all its citizens. After all, more and more of their ranks — young and old — are starting to see lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as equals worthy of respect and the most basic of rights.

You can follow me on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.

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