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Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Gay Agenda for Everyone

By Dan Savage -

I’m not an idiot: Now that the Republicans hold the House, only wishful thinkers and the deeply delusional expect to see any movement on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender legislative agenda this year or next. Nevertheless, President Obama should address gay rights in his State of the Union speech this week, and he should tackle the biggest, most meaningful right of them all: the right to marry.
When he was a candidate for the Illinois State Senate in 1996, Mr. Obama told a gay publication that he supported “legalizing same-sex marriages.” Twelve years later, right about the time he decided to run for president, he came out against marriage equality. But, as the president likes to say, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Where a Gallup poll in 1996 found that just 27 percent of the nation supported equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, a CNN poll last summer found that a majority now supports marriage equality.
The president — perhaps after introducing Daniel Hernandez Jr., the openly gay intern credited with saving Representative Gabrielle Giffords’s life — should declare that the trend is clear: this country increasingly believes that Mr. Hernandez and other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans should have all the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens.
Gay Americans are eventually going to win on marriage just like we won on military service, the president should tell Congress, so why not save everyone on both sides of the debate a lot of time, trouble and money by approving the entire gay rights agenda? Send the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, the Uniting American Families Act and the repeal of the odious Defense of Marriage Act to his desk for his signature.
He can assure the lawmakers that, yes, there’s something in it for Americans who disapprove of homosexuality too.
Social conservatives long to raise their children in a country where they don’t have to hear about homosexuality every time they turn on the news. I’d like raise my son in a country like that too. And guess what? In countries like Canada — where the fight over gay rights is essentially over, where there is gay marriage, open military service and employment protections — homosexuality hardly ever makes the front pages of newspapers. There’s nothing much to report.
Conservatives can’t get rid of us, but they can hear less from and about us. They just have to bend toward justice.

Dan Savage is the editorial director of The Stranger, a Seattle weekly.


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