The date is March 2, 2011, and gays are still being targeted for death in Uganda. Arabs are revolting for freedom, but you do not see many gay men or women marching in the streets. It is safe to say they are a few decades away from a Sydney type street festival.
Last night’s "Dan Rather Reports” looked at a disturbing trend on the rise in South Africa - lesbian woman are being attacked by men who believe that rape can “cure” or “correct” the victim’s sexual orientation. These attacks are being referred to as “corrective rape.”
With homosexuality banned in 38 African countries – and punishable by death in three of them – gay rights are hot button issues on the continent. And, even though South Africa is the only country in Africa that specifically bans all discrimination based on sexual orientation, there is still an alarming frequency of these attacks on lesbian women.
The show pointed out that “corrective rape” drew more public attention recently after the brutal murder of soccer star Eudy Simelane. Many believe she was beaten, stabbed and raped, because she was openly lesbian. Activists in South Africa are working to make sure these crimes are prosecuted, but unfortunately the victims are often reluctant to come forward due to strong cultural mores that still look down on homosexuality.
Here in Florida, gays can now legally adopt. But you do not see our holy governor rushing to the table to offer up same sex marriage. The last thing on his list is an agenda for equal rights. In fact, in many states that have elected Tea Party and conservative Republicans, there are legislative moves to knock out progressive LGBT reforms. In Iowa, don’t forget that the judges who voted for same sex marriage were voted out of office. In a dozen other states, funding for AIDS treatment and the LGBT community are being stricken.
We can celebrate the Pride Festivals in the next two months by reminding ourselves there is much still to fight for; by remembering that when you win a battle, the war is not over. Just as freedom requires vigilance, so too do the rights we have won need protection from legislative erosion. South Florida is not South Dakota. We are spoiled by our victories, anesthetized by complacence, fooled by the calm tides and pleasures of our harbors. The rest of the world is not so calm.
The President of the United States of America graces our front page again this week. He has won that honor by announcing that his administration will no longer defend DOMA- the ‘Defense of Marriage Act.’ There is no defense for it, lawyers say. They opine that it is unconstitutional. It is a courageous legal position, because it is customarily the duty of the Attorney General of the United States to defend the laws passed by Congress. It is of historical import and monumental significance that this administration has chosen to stand by the courage of its conscience.
The Administration’s decision on the DOMA law is noble and controversial. It has given those who oppose him politically a base to mobilize and a cause to fight for. Lines have been drawn in the sand. If there was ever a President we should get barefoot with, this is the one. Barack Obama’s move is proof positive, once again, that we elected the right man to espouse our cause, advocate our issues, and defend our rights. Not everything comes immediately, but to those who stand their ground on moral principle, eventually the world will there abide.
Barack Obama has not just named a gay man as his social secretary, he has appointed gay women to posts as U.S. Attorney in one state and U.S. Marshall in another. Gay men have been nominated to our federal courts as well, and the LGBT community has found a receptive and active voice in the White House. We can be proud of our progress and encouraged by our President. We can be emboldened by legislators and leaders who have undertaken the cause of equal rights for all. We have court battles to fight, but reasons to appreciate what we have won and are winning at home, even in Florida, where it took thirty years, but gay couples can now legally adopt children.
Beyond our shores, outside of Western Europe, still light years ahead of us, the world is still cruel for the LGBT community. The Internet has made it clearer, and the hate in Uganda today can be tweeted around the world in seconds. As long as we have mayors in Moscow defiling us, Arab countries lashing us, and African communities killing us, there is no time for complacence and comfort. We still have wars to win.