Obama Proclaims June LGBT Pride Month

photo of president barack obama

On May 28th, President Barack Obama formally proclaimed June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.

As Americans, it is our birthright that all people are created equal and deserve the same rights, privileges, and opportunities. Since our earliest days of independence, our Nation has striven to fulfill that promise. An important chapter in our great, unfinished story is the movement for fairness and equality on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

That this is being stated so boldly and clearly by an American president speaks volumes, both in a good way and some not so good. Homosexuality is not new, and it is very depressing that it has taken this long for an official statement attesting to the horrible trials and tribulations those that are LGBT to come out. That said, at least it’s being done now.

LGBT Americans have enriched and strengthened the fabric of our national life. From business leaders and professors to athletes and first responders, LGBT individuals have achieved success and prominence in every discipline. They are our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, and our friends and neighbors.

This is another point that I think is missed by many, many people. I mean, it’s easy to think of homosexuals as “those people”, but it’s quite another when you find out that you know some personally, as we all do. I have friends, relatives, colleagues, and personal heroes that identify as LGBT. It still shocks me, though, when people I know and respect feel differently about a person upon finding out that their sexual orientation is not what they’d assumed it to be. “What do mean, he’s gay? Ewwwww!” It’s kind of funny, I guess, but I have a tendency to judge people for how they judge the LGBT. I suppose that’s a proclamation for another day, though.

Obama goes on to specifically address ways that his administration has focused on bringing this issue into the forefront, of facing it head on, of not hiding behind milquetoast policies like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (which, to be fair, was a fairly bold political move for the time and place).
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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal: Is it Really a Done Deal?

This past week, the House passed legislation that would allow for a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the law that prohibits openly LGBT people from serving in the U.S. military. The legislation was not an outright repeal as many had hoped for, but will allow for the military to phase out DADT once a study is conducted to determine what the effects of elimination would be on troop morale and unit cohesion. Still many feel that this a reason to celebrate as it marks a big step forward towards DADT being fully done away with. However, I believe it is premature to say that it is a certainty that DADT will be ended, as there are still many who want to maintain the status quo and will do whatever it takes to make sure the policy remains in place.

Despite the House having passed the bill, it will not be so easy to get the bill through the Senate. The Republican opposition is so dead-set against DADT being repealed that they are willing to vote against it even if it means temporarily defunding the entire military (the compromise is attached as a rider to the defense budget for 2011). It is also not a certainty that there is full unity within the Democratic caucus, as Senator Jim Webb (D – Virginia), a supporter of repeal, has voted against the compromise as he feels it is unwise to act before the military’s study is completed. As Webb, a Vietnam veteran and former Secretary of the Navy, is considered a leader on military issues he may be able to convince many moderate Republicans and more conservative Democrats who would otherwise favor repeal to oppose the compromise, especially if they are likely to be involved in potentially difficult re-election campaigns this fall. If Webb is not powerful enough to sway certain senators into the “no” camp, recent statements by Admiral Mullen, the nation’s highest ranking military officer, that he will support the bill, despite wishing the House had waited until after the study, may give some pause.

Another issue is the pressure being put on Congress and the President by outside groups, especially those on the right. Many Christian conservative groups have chosen to oppose any changes to the status quo, and perhaps want even more stringent anti-gay regulations, as they do not think that gays should be anywhere in the public sphere. The Family Research Council, an Evangelical lobbying organization founded by radio broadcaster James Dobson and recently disgraced homophobic hypocrite George Rekers, held a press conference with several high-ranking anti-gay military officers. At this conference, senior fellow Peter Sprigg released the results of a “study” which claims that repealing DADT will make the military a safe haven for gay oral rapists. Indeed, while this claim seems dubious at best, it is indicative of the religious right’s homophobic agenda and perhaps reflective of the opinions of a good percentage of the American military, which has an increasingly larger number of Evangelical and conservative Christian personnel. As a result, many potentially pro-repeal senators, particularly Democrats may be scared to vote “yes”, especially in light of a recent statement by Southern Baptist minister Franklin Graham, son of the legendary Billy Graham, that Obama and other Democrats will lose millions of Evangelical supporters by ending DADT and not throwing them a bone on key social issues such as abortion and “religious freedom.”

While repeal pf DADT would in the eyes of many be an extremely good thing, it is in no way guaranteed. A recent pro-repeal column published by the USA Today states that the above mentioned elements may create the perfect storm to prevent DADT abolition, despite 70 percent of those polled (including 53 percent of self-identified conservatives) favoring open participation of LGBT soldiers. Despite what appears to be widespread support for the termination of an unfair and discriminatory policy, legally mandated bigotry in the military may continue if overly powerful extremists are able to frighten enough people into voting opposing repeal.



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ROTC Student Expected to Pay Back $80,000 After Coming Out as a Lesbian

photo of two lesbians one in the military

ROTC student Sara Issacson recently learned that she will have to pay back $80,000 in student loans awarded to her … before she came out as a lesbian.

From LezGetReal:

Sarah Isaacson was a student at University of NC – Chapel Hill when she joined the ROTC. She received some $80,000 in scholarships to the college through the military, and now she has to repay every last dime of it because she is lesbian and is open about her sexuality. Instead of serving quietly and in secret, always wondering when someone was going to find out that she was attracted to other women, Isaacson decided to tender her resignation from Reserve Officer Training. The decision is always between serving in silence and hoping no one ever knows you’re gay or lesbian, or throwing away a career in the military that you have longed to take up for ages.

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Are Feminist Groups Blowing Off Muslim Women?

Christina Hoff Sommers, author of The War Against Boys , is weighing in on how American feminists are responding to the needs of Muslim women.

The subjection of women in Muslim societies–especially in Arab nations and in Iran–is today very much in the public eye. Accounts of lashings, stonings, and honor killings are regularly in the news, and searing memoirs by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Azar Nafisi have become major best-sellers.

If you go to the websites of major women’s groups, such as the National Organization for Women, the Ms. Foundation for Women, and the National Council for Research on Women, or to women’s centers at our major colleges and universities, you’ll find them caught up with entirely other issues, seldom mentioning women in Islam. During the 1980s, there were massive demonstrations on American campuses against racial apartheid in South Africa. There is no remotely comparable movement on today’s campuses against the gender apartheid prevalent in large parts of the world.

These groups are indeed focused on other issues including the repealing of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Georgia’s “Race and Sex Selection” Bill, the so-called “Global Gag Rule” on women’s health care information, and Supreme Court nominee information. Maybe I’m crazy, but those kind of pale in comparison to other issues — notably, the so-called “Global Gag Rule” regarding family planning in other countries seems both timely and universally relevant.

Instead of recognizing that feminist groups she referenced are working hard, though, Sommers makes some inflammatory accusations:

One reason is that many feminists are tied up in knots by multiculturalism and find it very hard to pass judgment on non-Western cultures. They are far more comfortable finding fault with American society for minor inequities (the exclusion of women from the Augusta National Golf Club, the “underrepresentation” of women on faculties of engineering) than criticizing heinous practices beyond our shores.

Uh … it seems to me that this is marginalizing some great works.

Yeah, American Muslim women have some horrible challenges at the moment—but is there a reason that they should receive more attention than domestic violence, the horrors of immigration for women, or sexism in the workplace? I don’t mean to make light of their situation, by any means, but they do make up a fraction of the female population. Does the horrific nature of what they experience mean that it should take precedence over other pressing issues? I’m not so sure.

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