But speaking of Melissa Etheridge, what the heck was she doing there? I like Melissa; I’m a big fan. But I have no idea why her seat was not given to a lesbian journalist.
Of the four questioners, she was the least prepared and struggled most to articulate her comments. After attempting to discuss equality with a then-befuddled Richards, whom I now assume hasn’t gotten much sleep since Stonewall, she reached so far to engage him that she asked about the bark beetle infestation in his state. "It’s still a problem," he said.
Bark beetles, inequality â€” we all have our problems, don’t we?
But to Melissa’s credit, she was the only person on the panel to remind Hillary Clinton of something I’ve wanted to remind her of for years. When recalling how the first Clinton administration pumped the LGBT community full of high hopes 14 years ago and then slowly deflated us, Melissa told the senator, "We were thrown under the bus."
Yep, at least one Clinton finally got to hear what Melissa has been singing for years: "To love me, you have to climb some fences." But the fences are apparently too high to scale, even for the woman who might become the first female president of the United States.
By virtue of her gender alone, Senator Clinton should be more sensitive to civil-rights issues than her white male opponents, but if she is, she didn’t show it in Los Angeles. She’s against gay marriage, and her opposition to it is, as she put it, "a personal position." She’s in favor of civil unions with full benefits, but she also believes the marriage issue should be a state issue, not a federal one.
When reminded by Joe Solmonese that that same position was a "red herring" during the civil-rights era, and is now viewed as yet another attempt at diversion, Clinton responded with, "This has not been a long-term struggle yet."
Ouch. Fightin’ words!
In the senator’s mind, we haven’t yet sweated enough. And that leads me to ask these questions: Since when is equality something to be measured? What does the senator suggest we measure our inequality against â€” the difficulty of those now equal who had the misfortune of being in a similarly suck-full position previously?
What Clinton is missing is that a person is either equal to another or is not. In the same way a woman can’t be "sort of pregnant," an American can’t be "kind of equal." When we compare the fight for same-sex marriage to that of interracial marriage, we do so in an effort to shine a light on the obvious and prevent ourselves from being similarly victimized at length, not to flex our victimization.
What’s true â€” and what Clinton should have said â€” is that she’s in reach of the presidency, and her "personal position" is that getting there is far more important than helping us achieve a right she enjoys (the right to marry) by doing absolutely nothing.
And she’s not the only one who feels that way.
The absent Joe Biden and Chris Dodd believe civil unions are the way to go, and John Edwards, who assured us that he wouldn’t impose his religious beliefs on the American people if elected, doesn’t support gay marriage either. Funny, but I doubt any of them would feel that way if someone told them they couldn’t get married.
Obama, too, gushed in expressing his undying commitment to our full equality, but in the next breath refused to support same-sex marriage. He claims that the word "marriage" is the problem. "Semantics may be important to some," he said. Well, it’s clearly important to you, Senator. But that doesn’t make much sense to me.
I’m one of those annoying lesbian voters who believes that a candidate born in 1961 to a Kenyan father and a white, American mother, and who has spoken and written about struggling to reconcile the image he has of himself with the image others have of him, should not only recognize the discrimination faced by the LGBT community, but act without hesitation or excuses to correct the injustices he admits are similar to what he and others faced in the past.
A little over three years ago, Barack Obama stood at a podium at the Democratic National Convention and spoke the following words in his keynote address:
Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over 200 years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
I, like many of you perhaps, thought that a leader emerged that night. His words moved me, and his energy inspired me. But I wonder now how a man so acutely aware of the correlation between dignity and equality fails to be inspired by the gay-rights movement.