Sometimes life moves so quickly that you can forget how much is
changing around you. But this weekend we will have a powerful reminder:
President Obama's appearance at HRC's national dinner. His joining us
that night says that although last year, we were outsiders to our own
government, this=2 0year, we are a part of its vision.
It shouldn't be difficult to see why the president of the United States
speaking to the nation's largest LGBT rights group is a good
development for LGBT people. But at this point in time, it is hard for
many among us to see. The substance of the feeling is this: he promised
us the world, and we gave everything we had to elect him. But what has
I've written that we have actually covered a good deal of ground so
far. But I'm not going to trot out those advances right now because I
have something more relevant to say: It's not January 19, 2017.
That matters for two reasons: first, the accomplishments that we've
seen thus far are not the Obama Administration's record. They are the
Administration's record so far. If you ask "is that all" my question to
you is "is that all you think we're going to push for?" It isn't.
More importantly: today, and for the next seven years and three months,
Barack Obama is the most powerful person in the world, with the largest
bully pulpit, and the most power to effect change. To do the work, we
have to work with our supporters in Congress and with the
Administration. Whatever you think of the Administration's first nine
months, you don't pass laws by sitting out. You pass laws by sitting at
And you don't get to the table at the expense of your principles. You
don't get the President's ear at the expense of your expectations. In
June I wrote a letter to President Obama describing HRC's disagreement
with his decision to defend DOMA in federal court, and with the
offensive and inaccurate arguments the government put forth. It's hard
to read such a lettera public onefrom an ally.
But when the President signed a memorandum providing family protections
and an inclusive non-discrimination policy for federal
employeespolicies for which HRC and our sister organizations had
advocatedI was proud to be present. Our disagreement about DOMA did
not require me to ignore a step forward for transgender federal workers
and for same-sex partners. In turn, the President invited me because he
recognized HRC's accomplishments in promoting those fair policies, and
because he would not exclude a civil rights advocate for speaking up
about our community's rights.
Those protections were a good first step. Passing the hate crimes law
is a monumental one. I continue to believe that with this president, we
will do much more. As we prepare to dedicate HRC's Edward Kennedy
award, I know that this president shares his mentor's commitment to
promoting justice for LGBT people.
I predict great things coming out of our work with this President, but
that does not mean that I am satisfied today. Our community cannot be
satisfied so long as DOMA is on the books and an inclusive ENDA is not.
This is something we share with all those who advocate for civil
rights. No civil rights advocate can be satisfied as long as there are
children who eat their only meals in their failing schools each day. No
civil rights advocate should be satisfied until all of us have health
care and no one has to declare bankruptcy because of a hospital bill.
We are not satisfied until this country keeps its promise to everyone.
Advocates for health care, education, LGBT rights and other civil
rights issues are getting used to this new landscape, where passing our
legislation is possible, but still hard. We've learned that end of life
counseling can be twisted into "death panels" and hate crimes into
"pedophile protection." We've come to understand that we didn't win it
all in November but that we can win now.
I am sure of this: on January 19, 2017, I will look back on the
President's address to my community as an affirmation of his pledge to
be our ally. I will remember it as the day when we all stood together
and committed to finish what Senator Kennedy called our unfinished
business. And I am sure of this: on January 19, 2017, I will also look
back on many other victories that President Barack Obama made possible.
PS: C-Span will cover President Obama's address live. Tune in on
Saturday night at 7:55 p.m. And if you are travelling to DC to
participate in the National Equality March, click here for details
about the resources HRC will be providing, including the tools you need
to become a citizen lobbyist, advocating for all of the rights that you
came to march for.