NOTE: Originally this post was the focus of a website Alex Garcia and I were going to launch tomorrow. We even have the site built! We wanted to publish an open letter to President-Elect Obama with the LGBT community's expectations of his presidency; we didn't want him to forget about us. The site would have allowed folks to write their own letter to Obama's transition team and upload their YouTube videos for video letters to Obama.
After the Seven Weeks for Equality missive was released over the weekend and Obama's website was updated with a comprehensive LGBT civil rights agenda today, it seemed rather silly to duplicate the efforts. Instead we decided to stand down and keep an eye on how things progressed. I'm interested though... How many of you would have been willing to sign onto the open letter?
Dear Mr. President-Elect:
Congratulations on your history-making triumph over centuries of racial injustice and cruelty by being elected to the highest office in the land. You are living proof that the time has come for Americans to reach beyond the limits that some of us would impose on one another. As a people, we need to truly live your campaign motto of "Yes, we can!" without limitation on sex, race, gender identity, age, disability, religion and -- yes -- sexual orientation.
During this election cycle, great strides were taken to erase the limits put on two groups -- race and gender. But another group was not afforded the same privilege. Once again, our relationships and our human need to love were put to a popular vote with a judgmental majority winning the day.
As citizens of this great land, LGBT people subscribe to the basic tenet that "all men are created equal" and yet we find ourselves far less than equal -- not welcomed by some of our neighbors and colleagues -- not embraced and encouraged to live our dreams, but, instead, publicly condemned and denigrated. Neighbors and strangers alike advocate eliminating recognition of our relationships by putting anti-gay signs in their yards. Ministers who alleged to represent a loving God encourage violence against us.
Worst of all, violent crimes against us are often ignored or treated lightly by authorities and law enforcement. In school, our children are ridiculed and taunted by classmates and teachers with impunity; one California middle-school student was recently shot in the back of the head during English class because he was seen as too feminine. Earlier this year an African-American transgender woman was severely beaten by two on-duty Memphis police officers; she was recently found murdered. Ten years after Matthew Shepard was assaulted and left to die tied to a Wyoming fence post, our nation has yet to say that anti-gay violence is unacceptable.
The time has come for all Americans -- including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans -- to truly be equal in the eyes of our government. We demand our full measure of civil rights; we demand equality.
We are neighbors and family members, prostitutes and preachers, soldiers and stylists, your employees and employers, and the unemployed. We want nothing more than our part of the American dream - the freedom to strive for our utmost without living in fear of murder or mutilation. We want the right to keep our jobs and our homes. We want the ability to serve our nation honorably. Most of all, we want the acknowledgment of our families as equal to other families in America.
Mr. President, not one of your predecessors has had the courage to demand that Congress recognize the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Instead, previous Presidents outlawed recognition of our relationships, allowed us to serve our nation only if we hid our orientation, did as little as possible to deal with HIV/AIDS, tacitly approved of hate crimes against us, and actively fought legislation to protect us from employment discrimination.
But we note the many promises that you made to the LGBT community during your campaign, and your courageous mention of us during your first speech as President-Elect. We hope and trust that you will keep those promises.
The LGBT Community
Big thanks to Patricia Nell Warren and Sara Whitman for their input and help in shaping and editing the open letter.