We’ve survived 8 years of the Great Regression

Posted on 08 Jan 2009 at 1:04pm
By Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

After two terms of ‘Bizarro World’ with Bush in the White House, it’s time to get back to the real timeline as Obama takes office

From the day of the Supreme Court ruling that put George W. Bush in office until today, I had the distinct impression that somehow the universe’s timeline was interrupted.

It seemed as if suddenly we were living in the "Bizarro World" where everything I had taken for granted suddenly changed.

That got even stranger after Sept. 11, 2001, and I have lived with that feeling of disorientation until the latest election.

So now, with Barack Obama’s inauguration coming in just 11 days, I decided to take a look back and a look forward.

What have the Bush years really meant for me and my friends? Well, the past eight years have brought some interesting asides but little major change.

Oh yes, you can get married in Massachusetts and Connecticut and for a short time in California. But other than that, no major strides forward have been made in fundamental LGBT rights. It’s almost as if we were still where we were at the end of the Clinton presidency in 2000.

The Bush years have been one long regression for LGBT Americans and it’s time that came to an end. Now, with the new Obama administration poised to take office, I have higher hopes.

But I know nothing is set in stone and I suspect nothing will be handed to us on a plate.

LGBT people still lack some of the fundamental rights of being an American citizen, and now that we have exited the "Bizarro World," perhaps we can get a few things done.

First would be getting rid of the weird double-speak rule of "Don’t ask, don’t tell" in the military. It was intended as a compromise for LGBT service people, but instead it has become a Catch-22 that makes it even more difficult to serve the country in the Armed Forces.

My hope for the New Year — and the new administration — is that DADT will be more closely examined and tossed into the dust bin of history as a "really bad idea" that was instituted by a previous Democratic president. (Bush has no lock on "Bizarro"!)

Next to go should be the whole "State’s Rights" canard and making our country a more homogeneous place when it comes to having a relationship recognized and having legal rights. The DOMA, Defense of Marriage Act, must go.
Ooops! Another Clinton era holdover!

More fundamentally, we need a Civil Rights act for LGBT people. The struggle for ENDA, the Employment Non-discrimination Act, was a start, but ultimately it failed to produce results.

It’s time we started getting back to the real "gay agenda" — full citizenship with all the rights and responsibilities that entails.

Now that we have a more sympathetic administration coming to Washington, perhaps it’s time for another mass civil action, like the previous Marches on Washington. This time, there will be a Democratic-controlled Congress and a Democratic president — and just maybe someone will take us seriously.

Whether by design or by accident, LGBT issues have been thrust into the news this year, and the stunning win for Proposition 8 in California might just have finally awakened the spirit that was embodied by the "Girls of Stonewall" and Harvey Milk.
I find it inspiring that the wonderful movie about Harvey Milk’s life opened just after the election. Perhaps his life can inspire another generation of LGBT activists to get some changes made.

It’s time we got back to the real timeline and out of the Great Regression of the Bush years.

Economically, we have been thrust back to almost the same point we were at when Bush took office. Spiritually, we have been distracted by divisive policies and manipulated by religious bigots using fear and outright lies to divert our journey.
Diplomatically, we have squandered the once good name of our country in a profit-motivated series of unjust wars. Politically, we have been diverted from our march toward democracy and justice for all — that American ideal of "building a more perfect union."

Perhaps, just perhaps, with continued work and the occasional gentle nudging, LGBT people can realize the full benefits of the American citizenship we were marching closer to prior to the Bush years.

I harbor no illusions that the Obama administration will wave a magic wand and magically make everything better. I do believe things will change, but only if we help guide them.

Now, let’s put the Great Regression behind us and get out there and let our voices be heard. It may be time to once again carry the message to our lawmakers in person — millions of LGBT voices all speaking for the same goal, all insisting on equality and justice.

With luck, maybe someone in Washington will take us seriously for a change.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member for Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 9, 2009.

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