I am of an age and have earned my stripes so that I can justifiably be a bona fide curmudgeon. But, instead of telling people to get off my lawn, something that, because I do not have one living as I do in an old apartment building in the downtown historic district of New Bedford would make me insane as oppose a curmudgeon, I feel it I my obligation when I see something wrong to change it, or at least make the attempt, and if I see people are acting from a position of not being informed, to inform them.
And, so, my rant and my attempt to inform and to warn those who just don’t “see it coming”.
In the mid 1980s I was teaching in Carson, California, part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, and living in Long Beach.
Although California was further along when it came to Gay rights, the term at the time being “Gay” as opposed the string of letters that would come along later, but it still had some ways to go when it came to total equality.
As the president of the Los Angeles teachers’ union had said at the end of our successful 1989 strike, and was applicable to the Gay Community at the time, we were not where we used to be, but we still had a way to go to be where we should be.
There was still work to be done, and so I got involved in the political and social life of the community.
I was a member of the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus and then that of Long Beach. I became the cartoonist for Long Beach’s local Gay Community newspaper, joined the city’s Gay political organization, and became a member of the union’s Gay and Lesbian Issues Sub-Committee, and was its chair when it became a full standing committee of the union. I went to events and rallies and marched in parades and demonstrations. I even found myself giving the occasional speech to hostile audiences.
I had seen the need for more change, and did what I could to better conditions whether political or social.
For a while I had a part time job at the “pop and pop” video rental store around the corner from my apartment in the days before the short lived existence of the big box places like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video.
There were two young employees among those at the video store. They were naïve on many levels, and were subject to accept certain stereotypes as necessary to being Gay, such as the devotion to what had been decided by someone were Gay icons, like Judy Garland whom they absolutely adored and on whose behalf they went into an angry defense when, while a video of her television show was playing on the store’s TVs, customers and other employees good naturedly pretended to get all wrapped up in the microphone cord just as we were all convinced we had remembered her doing on one show while a video of her.
They vociferously questioned the Gayness of the other employees and the largely Gay clientele for that loosely choreographed pre-flash mob days flash mob performance.
They were befuddled by the older employees’ being involved in political activism, especially as one of the two Gaybies informed us that we were living in an enlightened age.
A one employee corrected them on this, “Honey, you will not be ready when the political and religious right finds their excuse to take away what we have won and you enjoy.”
For some reason, the two young ones seemed oblivious to the growing animus toward those with AIDS, and were shocked when at least one member of congress from the area suggested a Manzanar style quarantine camp for people with AIDS, and when they witnessed a Gay man being beaten to the ground at a Pride Parade by zealots who quoted bible verses as they used their copies of the Bible from which they were quoting to do the beating.
Yet in spite of these and other examples that came with increasing frequency, they still held that these were merely blips in the enlightenment of the age.
I have often wondered in the subsequent 30 plus years how things tuned out for them, and if they were able to handle the real less enlightened age that was the actual reality.
Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump‘s nominee for Attorney General, firmly supports the First Amendment Defense Act that would allow for discrimination against the GLBT community on the basis of a firmly held religious belief. These beliefs do not have to be those espoused by the religion to which they choose to belong, but merely their own personal beliefs, no matter how far out there they are.
Landlords, business owners, healthcare providers, and employers would be allowed to refuse to provide goods and services if they argue that doing so would conflict with their chosen set of beliefs.
During my video store days, EMTs were called to a friend’s apartment, but upon being informed that his partner, who needed the help, had AIDS, they simply turned and walked out. The same could happen if this Act passes, simply because the person who needs help is Gay.
When David had been admitted to the hospital, he was placed in a room at the end of a hall where, as we were visiting him, janitorial staff brought in red bags filled with medical waste and placed them inside the room with him. When one of the visitors went to the nurse station to complain about this, he was informed by the nurse, after she looked at a few papers, that no one was in that room. He was in the hospital, but his non-existence had made him the victim of neglect.
That may have been then, and this may be now, but discriminatory conditions that could result in the denial of services and protection from hate crimes could come back big time if the First Amendment Defense Act becomes the law of the land, and the United State Attorney General favors it and refuses to question its constitutionality.
According to Senator Al Franken,
“Some have argued that FADA is necessary to protect pastors, ministers, and churches who fear that they’ll be forced to marry gay and lesbian couples. But the First Amendment already prevents clergy or churches from being forced to marry a couple if doing so is contrary to their beliefs. It always has. The Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognized that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states, did not change that”.
But Jeff Sessions Trump’s nominee for Attorney General believes,
“The purpose of the legislation was to prohibit the federal government from taking discriminatory actions against any person based on their belief or action in accordance with a religious or moral conviction. I supported this legislation because I believe that we can, and should, protect the rights of all citizens— including LGBT individuals and those with traditional views of marriage. I do not see freedom as a zero-sum game. I understand the critical and historic role of Department of Justice in upholding our nation’s civil rights laws. If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as Attorney General, I will enforce those laws to the letter.”
But, FADA would overturn the executive order signed in 2014 by former president Obama prohibiting anti-GLBT discrimination among federal contractors, and Trump has signaled support for it.
When it came to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, a bill Sessions opposed, he said,
“Any statement I made during debate over the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 reflected an opinion that I reached based on information available to me at the time. If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as Attorney General, I will work diligently to ensure that all Americans receive equal protection under our laws.”
He claimed he was against those things he opposed when it came to the rights of GLBT citizens because at the time he based his opposition on the information he had, but really hoped when he gets the appointment he will also get information that will possibly change that.
Like when it comes to the underreporting of hate crime,
“If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as Attorney General, I would expect to learn more about this issue and give it my careful consideration.
If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as Attorney General, the Department will be vigilant in the full enforcement of all federal laws. I will endeavor to direct and utilize the resources of the Department in the most effective manner possible to ensure the enforcement of federal law. The specific steps I will take to ensure the enforcement of any particular law will be decided after careful evaluation of any current practices of the Department and the effectiveness of those practices.”
Sessions had also opposed the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act in the Judiciary Committee in the 113th Congress that would have helped homeless GLBT youth because,
“I was concerned with what I believed to be overly broad and vague language in the bill that could have discriminated against faith-based organizations that help form the fabric of the United States’ social services, and would have undermined the goal of the bill by making it more difficult to protect and provide services for at-risk individuals.”
Before he will get educated and maybe reduce his opposition to GLBT rights, he has to get the job. I guess we will have to trust him on that.
And, he is very concerned about equal rights, but only when it comes to faith based organizations, but not GLBT people.
Combining him with Ben Carson as head of HUD, who believes housing rights of GLBT people are special while they are just regular for non-GLBT people, and whichever conservative justice Trump seats on the Supreme Court, the more conservative the better, and things do not look good for what gains the GLBT Community has made in the struggle for equality and which some young GLBT people think are there because either they have always been there or came about because of some enlightenment.
If Jeff Sessions gets the job, history will repeat itself, and the discrimination that will begin will have a champion.
So if you enjoy what you now have, accept that you could very well lose it all, and call your senators and tell them you do not approve of a candidate who will erase your rights, and insist they do not accept Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General because of the harm he will do and allow to you and yours.
Do not assume that even the most open minded and progressive senators will do the right thing. Pressure them to do it.
It is your future, not theirs.
I can guarantee that you will not like the way things could end up.
It might look like it if you haven’t been paying full attention, but this, like those many years ago, is not an enlightened age.