Apr 212010
Authors: Sarah Millard

Late last week, President Barack Obama allowed same-sex couples to visit their respective partners in the hospital, a luxury that was previously only afforded to “traditional” couples.

This law is a step, albeit a small one, toward equal rights for the GLBT community.

During his campaign, then-senator Obama made radical and grandiose promises of change directed toward many minority groups in this country, including his gay and lesbian constituents.

The largest of these was the abolishment, if not severe reform, of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, along with hints of a wider array of rights for same-sex couples. For many in the GLBT community, an Obama presidency was the light at the end of a very long tunnel of oppression.

As of 2010, not much has changed. The issue of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was briefly brought up only to be overshadowed by the passing of health care reform and, more recently, a new nuclear arms reduction treaty and the upcoming financial reform bill.

Not surprisingly, GLBT rights have taken a back seat to more pressing issues concerning the state of this nation.

But there have been recent advances toward the opposite side of the spectrum. In March, a preschooler was kicked out of his Catholic school in Boulder because his parents are lesbians. In Mississippi, a high school prom was cancelled because a female student wanted to bring her girlfriend as her date.

More recently, rumors have been swirling around Washington D.C about the sexuality of possible Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagen in an effort to stir up the “conservative base,” according to CBS.

It seems as though, despite promises of change, neither Obama nor the public is ready for complete social acceptance of the GLBT community.

From a bystander’s standpoint, one could assume that radical change on the GLBT front will not happen this year, if at all, during Obama’s presidency.

While some political analysts are praising the president for not bringing yet another controversial issue to the main stage, many gay rights activists are angry for doing so little so late, and while it may be the best political strategy for Obama to wait until the health care debate has cooled down, it does little for his GLBT supporters.

One could also assume that, if the president does indeed take the matter of gay rights to heart, the product would look something like segregation in the 1960’s: separate but equal, by the name of civil unions.

Currently, marriage upholds 1,138 federal government-provided benefits for the couple while a civil union only contains about 300.

Furthermore, civil unions are only allowed in certain states, with gay marriages only allowed in five.

As Brown v. Board of Education showed us in 1954, the notion of “separate but equal” is inherently unequal. If we seek to uphold the sacred words of our Founding Fathers and make the claim that “all men are created equal,” then it is against the naissance of this country to deny a group of citizens something as precious as the right to marry.

While some may take the view that, “it is against God’s will to allow homosexual marriage,” we must then counter with an idea known as the separation of church and state.

Marriage allows for legal state rights, and could be done outside of a church or a similar religious area. Laws based on religious ideals in a country that was founded on the principle of church and state separation should not have legal standing.

The idea of gay rights is not part of a greater, gay agenda to take over the country, nor does it have the unintended implications of corrupting the youth to join a big, gay army.
Gay rights are not special rights, they are equal rights; equal rights that should be afforded to all citizens of this country.

While I understand that President Obama has a lot on his metaphorical plate, I feel that the window of opportunity for addressing gay rights is quickly closing. He, along with members of Congress, need to tackle this issue before it closes completely.

Sarah Millard is a junior political science major. Her column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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