Friday, December 7, 2007

America's Holiday Greetings to GLBT Americans

According to the Washington Post, Secretary of State Rice sent us a special holiday greeting this year:

Michael E. Guest, a tall, soft-spoken man with salt-and-pepper hair, looks every bit the diplomat. At the young age of 43, at the start of the Bush administration, he was named ambassador to Romania, and since he returned in 2004 he has trained new ambassadors before they ship out overseas.

But last month, after 26 years in the Foreign Service, he did something uncharacteristically undiplomatic.

Guest resigned from the State Department, giving up a career he loved, in order to protest rules and regulations that he believes are unfair to the same-sex partners of Foreign Service officers, giving them fewer benefits than family pets. He had spent the years since his return from Bucharest trying to win changes in policies, appealing directly to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but said his proposals were met with indifference and inertia. . . .

Within the State Department . . . same-sex partners -- or unmarried heterosexual partners -- are refused anti-terrorism security training or foreign-language training and are not evacuated when eligible family members are ordered to depart. Unlike spouses, they do not receive diplomatic passports, visas or even use of the State Department mail system. They also must pay their own way overseas, get their own medical care and are left to fend for themselves if a partner is sent to a dangerous post such as Iraq.
Congress, too, didn't get the memo that says "all men [and women] are created equal." This week,
House and Senate negotiators yesterday nixed a measure to expand hate-crime protections, removing it from a Pentagon policy bill that is now likely to pass both chambers by wide margins.

Negotiations on the defense authorization bill had bogged down, with House Democratic leaders worried that they did not have enough votes to pass the bill if it included the hate-crime measure. The bill, which has been vigorously supported by gay rights groups, would have extended hate-crime protections to victims based on gender, sexual orientation or disability.
When I read this kind of thing, I wonder how it can be that anyone whose civil rights were denied for so long, and whose rights in many cases are still unrealized, can fail to see that extending full civil rights to other human beings is the right thing to do.

It was right in the 1960s. The country knew it, including the hundreds of thousands of gays, bisexuals, transgender people, and lesbians who stood up for and fought for civil rights for African Americans. We knew that what the bigots said didn't make a bit of difference to the bottom line. Even when they hauled out the Bible to justify slavery and called black skin "the mark of Cain," we understood that what they said was sheer bigotry. Those among us who were Christians--that is, Christians and not Leviticites or Deutoronomists--could see plainly that Jesus taught something radically different. We had gotten the memo that said "all men [and women] are created equal," and we knew there isn't a footnote reading, "unless you happen to disagree."

It seems there are always some who do disagree, some who can always find a passage of scripture somewhere to abuse in order to justify refusing equality--even common civility--to some of the people all of the time.

Those folks never seem to notice that each generation has had its bigotry target and its justifications, and that in each, those justifications were always regarded by millions as perfectly rational and often biblical. Yet every single time, bigotry has been proved wrong. You'd think we'd notice the pattern.

For these folks, however, it's always different "this time." "This time," there's a reason, it's in the Bible, it's different, yes but, blah blah blah. They don't seem to have noticed that as time passes, unfailingly the veil of misunderstanding lifts and we see, still yet again one more time, that etched on the great constitution of the human heart is the Truth that bigotry is always wrong.