by Eric Rader
Information on contacting the U.S. Department of Defense to speak out about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” can be found athttp://www.defense.gov/faq/comment.html.
In the American political world, winter is the season of important annual speeches by chief executives: The president delivers his State of the Union address to Congress, while governors deliver their State of the State speeches to their state legislatures.
President Barack Obama and Governor Jennifer M. Granholm recently delivered these required speeches, and rightly concentrated their attention on our difficult economy. While there have been some positive economic signs in the United States in recent months, it is clear that far too many people are unemployed in this country, and certainly here in Michigan.
As this crucial election year begins, it is useful to assess the state of the LGBT union in 2010. Just as there are some positive developments in the economy, there are also some signs of political hope for the LGBT community.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama announced his intention to end the military’s regressive “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, an important step to right a serious wrong. In the past, top military leaders have strongly supported maintaining this policy. Now, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen have both expressed their support for allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly and honestly in the military. In recent testimony before a congressional committee, both men spoke eloquently about the need to end DADT. It is important to hold these men accountable and ensure that this pledge is fulfilled, because this is as much a national security issue as it is about equality.
On the issue of gay marriage, there are signs of both hope and potential concern in 2010. A federal district court in California is considering a legal challenge to that state’s anti-gay marriage law, passed by voters in 2008. Based on news reports of the trial, the LGBT community has some reason to hope that the federal court will rule against the California law on equal protection grounds. Ultimately, this case will likely end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, a rather conservative institution these days, though the court is often unpredictable. In the meantime, it’s very important that Congress and the president repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, a law that makes it easier for the federal government and the states to discriminate against same-sex couples.
In the coming year, it is important for all of us to pay attention to elections at both the federal and state levels. This year, Michigan voters will be electing U.S. representatives, state representatives and state senators, in addition to a new governor, secretary of state and attorney general. The newly elected office holders will have a lot to say about our issues in 2011 and beyond.
Already, one of the Republican candidates for Michigan secretary of state has made a campaign promise to prevent transgender citizens from changing the gender designation on their driver’s licenses. To prevent this and other discrimination, the Michigan legislature can add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories to the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, as several legislators have proposed.
Get involved this year; find out how you can help elect progressive candidates who will stand up for LGBT equality. While it is not an exclusively LGBT organization, the Michigan Coalition for Progress has helped elect a number of pro-LGBT candidates to public office in recent years. You can find out more about the coalition’s work by going to their Web site at www.miprogresscoalition.org. By taking action this year, we can have a positive impact on the state of our union in 2011.