Friday, October 29, 2010

Pentagon DADT Study Results Coming In

We still don't have many details, but apparently the Pentagon's study on how "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will affect military operations is more or less finished, and the results show that both servicemembers and their families are okay with gay people serving openly.  From the Huffington Post:
An internal Pentagon study has found that most U.S. troops and their families don't care whether gays are allowed to serve openly and think the policy of "don't ask, don't tell" could be done away with, according to officials familiar with its findings.


The survey results were expected to be used by gay rights advocates to bolster their argument that the 1993 law on gays could be repealed immediately with little harm done to the military. But the survey also was expected to reveal challenges the services could face in overturning the long-held policy, including overcoming fierce opposition in some parts of the military even if they represent a minority.

Details on the survey results were still scarce Thursday, with the Pentagon declining to discuss the findings until after Dec. 1 when it rolls out its own plan for repeal.
Again, the specifics of the study's findings have not yet been released, and assertions made by anonymous sources should always be taken with a grain of salt, but it appears that the Pentagon will recommend moving forward with repeal.  (And no, I do not believe that was inevitable, based on the Pentagon's foot-dragging on this issue.)

What remains to be seen - and may be for a long time to come - is whether President Obama was aware of these findings when he chose to appeal Judge Philips' ruling striking down DADT, or even back when the Senate failed to pass repeal.  After all, if sources are discussing preliminary findings of the study now, who's to say they haven't known about them for some time?
 
The whole idea of this "study" was insulting to begin with.  Soldiers and their families should have no say in the decision-making process: that is the responsibility of our Commander-in-Chief and his closest advisors.  But it is nice to know that when DADT is finally repealed, our gay servicemembers may have an easier time knowing a majority of their peers will accept them.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Debating Gay Marriage, Part II

As promised, I'm now posting my closing statement from the gay marriage debate I had in class last year (click here to see the opening statement). As I gave my closing statement second, it was my responsibility to respond to my opponent's claims, and so these remarks may make decidedly less sense if you are unfamiliar with what her claims were. However, I am presenting this as a sort of how-to for those of you who plan on challenging those who believe that civil unions are enough for the LGBT community.

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My opponent and I agree on one very important thing, and that is that we have a problem here. The status quo cannot stand; something has got to give. Now, we agree that there is a problem, but where we fail to agree is with regards to how we go about solving that problem.

My opponent first argued that marriage in itself violates the separation of church and state. Frankly, I couldn't agree more. But it's a moot point; for better or for worse, marriage is now a matter not only of church, but also of state: it is in our federal law one thousand and forty-nine times. To take away straight couples' already-existing right to marry under the law is unfair. How do you tell a straight couple that has been married for thirty years, like my own parents, that their marriage is no longer recognized? In the five states that currently allow gay marriage, religious institutions that do not want to perform such ceremonies are not obligated to do so, thus keeping the church and state separate. This is a win-win situation.

Second, my opponent argued that civil unions for everyone would allow equality. This is also true, but also a moot point. Civil unions would allow equality, yes, but so would civil marriage. And given the previously-mentioned General Accounting Office report, which states that married couples receive one thousand rights that couples in civil unions do not, I would rather see us equal and well-protected under the law.

Lastly, my opponent argued that gay marriage is too unpopular to support. While I unfortunately am obligated to agree with the facts, I do not think that this should stop us from striving to achieve full marriage equality. Minds can be changed. Hearts can be opened. If we have a healthy dialogue such as this one, people will see that we need to keep the church out of what has in fact become a governmental institution and allow all couples to have the same rights under the law.

What it comes down to is that civil unions are not civil marriage. We cannot let civil unions be the last word on the matter of marriage equality. We must strive to allow all couples, gay or straight, to enjoy the institution of marriage equally, and receive the same legal rights and protections under the law.

Our founding fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Our founding fathers, from the time of this nation's birth, had a notion of equality. Now, back then, equality was for white male landowners. But as our nation has evolved, so too has our definition of equality.

In 1863, it meant that no human being could own another human being.

In 1920, it meant that women could have a role in the process of choosing our elected officials.

In 1964, it meant that separate institutions for separate races is not equal.

And in 2003, it meant that any person, gay or straight, could practice their sexual preferences in the privacy of their own homes, without fear of retribution.

Equality is not a singular event. You aren't going to wake up one day and say, equality is here. Rather, equality is an eternal struggle, an eternal march towards an ideal. Equality in the institution of marriage is the next step in that march. As members of the George Washington University, one of the most politically progressive schools in the nation, I hope you will join us in that struggle, join us in that march. We would be happy to march alongside you. Thank you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Debating Gay Marriage, Part I

In my political debate class last year, we all had to engage in one debate with a classmate, and the issue I chose (predictably) was gay marriage. My opponent wasn't against gay marriage per se, but instead believed that marriage should be solely a religious institution and that the government should only provide civil unions, both to straight and gay couples. It was quite a different debate from what we're used to seeing on this issue, and I think it was very interesting. I decided to post my opening statement for those interested in seeing exactly why marriage equality is so important, at least in my own terms.

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On October 11th of this year, I had the opportunity to join tens of thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people and our straight allies here in DC for our very own March on Washington. It was the National Equality March. On that day, we marched to demonstrate against the injustices facing the LGBT community.

We marched to show that we have had enough of the discrimination by our state and federal governments.

We marched to honor those like Harvey Milk and Del Martin, who dedicated their entire lives to advancing equal rights for the LGBT community.

We marched for Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., two teenage boys who were brutally murdered because of their sexuality.

We marched for the next generation of activists, so that children can know that it is okay to be different, that it is okay to be proud of who you are, and that it is okay to stand up for yourself in the face of adversity.

We marched for full equality, and we will fight for full equality, because we deserve full equality - everyone in this nation does.

But what we didn't march for, was second best. We didn't march for close but no cigar. And we didn't march for civil unions - and that's what you're getting with civil unions, you're getting second best. If we in America truly believe in equality, then we need to allow all couples to enter into civil marriages for three important reasons.

The first reason is, civil unions are an equal rights disaster. To quote the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, written in 1868, "No state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." The fourteenth amendment has many times come to the aid of those whose rights have been infringed upon. To have separate institutions for different types of couples is to violate the Equal Protection Clause of our Constitution.

The second reason is, civil unions give couples fewer rights than civil marriages. My opponent believes that all couples, gay or straight, should enter into civil unions, and that marriage should be a solely religious institution. While I believe that my opponent's intentions are good, what she's leaving out is the fact that civil unions do not have the same rights that civil marriages have. In fact, the General Accounting Office revealed in its Defense of Marriage Act report in 2004 that there are over one thousand legal benefits and protections that married couples receive, which couples entering into a civil union will never see. This includes Social Security benefits for widowers, sick leave, tax and insurance breaks, veterans' benefits, and many more. Due to this disparity in legal protections, it makes no sense to grant civil unions to all couples in the stead of civil marriages.

The third reason is, we need to keep the Church and State separate. Former President Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1807, "our legislature should build a wall of separation between Church and State." Jefferson had it right: one person's religious views should not dictate another person's civil rights, and our government should not bend to the will of these religious institutions which do not even pay taxes. My opponent would allow religious institutions to take priority over giving all couples the same legal rights that civil marriages grant. In my home state of Connecticut, which has supported marriage equality since last year, religions that do not like the concept of marriage equality are not obligated to perform gay marriages, but gay couples are still free to get married, either through other religious sects or by common law. This is the right solution, this is the solution for America, and this is the solution that we in the George Washington University community need to support.

The bottom line is this: civil unions are not civil marriage. Civil unions are not civil marriage when our government violates the Fourteenth Amendment to grant different couples different marital statuses. Civil unions are not civil marriage when married couples receive over a thousand different benefits that civil unions do not get. Civil unions are not civil marriage when religious institutions are allowed to dictate our national policy. Civil unions are not civil marriage, and I hope that I can convince you today that the GW community needs to lead on the issue of granting marriage equality for all. Thank you.

Click here to see my closing statement.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Today in LGBT History: National Equality March

On October 11th of last year, I had the privilege of marching with tens of thousands of LGBT people and our straight allies in the National Equality March. Together, we marched from McPherson Square, past the White House, to Capitol Hill in order to show our solidarity as a movement and our determination to acquire the rights enjoyed by straight people which have been denied to us. Speaking at the rally were such LGBT rights stars as Cleve Jones, Urvashi Vaid, Kate Clinton, Julian Bond, and pop sensation Lady GaGa.

It’s strange to think it has been an entire year since the march. Sometimes I wonder if we have made any real progress since then. Sometimes I wonder if the solidarity that was supposed to come out of this historical event ever actually materialized. Sometimes I wonder if Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was right, and we really did “only put pressure on the grass.”

But looking to the past will do us no good now. We need to instead look to present and future battles: repealing the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; passing a fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act; making sure that immigration reform includes LGBT families with the Uniting American Familes Act; and repealing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and allowing legally-married gay couples to receive the benefits straight married couples do.

So let us look back on the National Equality March with the knowledge that our work is far from over; let us feel the hope, inspiration, and determination we felt on that day, every day hereafter. We need to come together and work together, as one single unit, to achieve real change.

The following pictures are not the best to come out of the National Equality March, but they’re my pictures so I figured I would add them to the metaphorical LGBT scrapbook. Below are some of my favorites, with a slideshow of all of the photos I took at the end.  
 





Friday, October 01, 2010

About Justifiable Anger

Justifiable Anger is a blog that focuses predominantly - although not exclusively - on LGBT issues and politics. It presents a vertical, not horizontal, approach to blogging: while other blogs focus on simply reporting the news and covering as many of the day's events as possible, JA will instead take the most important news and analyze it, delving more deeply than other LGBT blogs into what the news actually means.  JA presents a fresh, young take on LGBT issues: an intellectual spin on today's LGBT politics.


JA welcomes comments of all viewpoints.  Comments are moderated so as to eliminate spam and irrelevant trolling, but all relevant comments will be posted.

"Justice has its anger, Monsieur Bishop, and the wrath of Justice is an element of progress." - Les Miserables

Note: As of late 2011, Justifiable Anger is no longer being updated. The blog will be kept up as an archive (and for nostalgia's sake), but please understand that the opinions expressed here were only mine, and were mine several years ago while I was still in college.