I'm not easily excitable, but I made a point of watching the CNN coverage of the President's signing ceremony today, October 28, as he put his name to the Mathew Shepard - James Bird Hate Crimes Legislation. As I watched the event on CNN, I also listened to coverage on Michael Signorile's Out-Q radio show.
The measure expands current hate crimes law to include violence based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. To assure its passage after eleven years of frustrated efforts, Democratic supporters attached the measure to the must-pass defense policy bill over the steep objections of many Republicans.
The president signed the bill using ten (I think) pens, and my heart pounded. When the various people standing around him, including the Secretary of Defense and many military officers, began to applaud I confess that I also applauded here at my desk. I'm not convinced that the bill will have any practical effect, that it will actually lead to a reduction in hate crimes, however, America should be as much about its ideals and its ideas. The Equal Protection of law and the constitution should be guaranteed for everyone. This bill takes another step in the right direction.
I have not always been a big supporter of President Obama. Despite his claims, he is no "fierce advocate" for our community. His administration has offered a very homophobic defense of DOMA; he's done nothing to halt "Don't Ask, Don't Tell;" he's remained totally silent about events taking place now in Maine and in Washington State that would strip gay people of hard-won rights in those states. For all the many promisees he made to our community, his feet must be held to the fire.
But today, this afternoon, I'm grateful to the president for taking this action. I'm grateful, also, to Senator Edward Kennedy, who championed this legislation for so many years before his death, and to Judy Shepard, who worked tirelessly to achieve this goal. This is a bright day for the Gay Nation.