Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hate Crimes and LGBT Equality

The Dharun Ravi case of webcam spying on a gay roommate's sexual activiity at Rutgers University is only the latest salvo in the debate over what constitutes a hate crime against an LGBT person. It is a sad commentary on our society that a simple web search of the words gay and hate crime will bring up loads of material that spans a broad reach of time and life experience. From name-calling and bullying to torture and murder, there is ample evidence that being perceived as having a non-heterosexual or gender-nonconforming demeanor is enough to place an individual in mortal danger.

Hatred-spewing politicians have done much to exacerbate this climate of harassment and intimidation. The prohibitions against same-sex marriage are now actively used as a wedge to divide citizens but this issue is only the tip of a very-deep iceberg. Ultimately these political attacks have created a climate where it is always open season on queers. With the added stress of economic recession everyone seems to need a scapegoat and, in our community, they have found it.

As disgusted as I am by the Republican contenders, I have to admit that I find the rationalizations of Democrats like Obama, the most nauseating of all. Little wishy-washy, frightened Barack is still "evolving" on the subject of marriage equality, an evolution that doesn't even keeps pace with geologic time. Speaking to an LGBT audience, he sang the praises of his administration, stressing that LGBT folks can now openly "serve their country." Oh yes, how wonderful! Now only if we had healthcare rights, job protection and protection against housing discrimination, not to mention that old bugaboo about 'till death due us part. These civil rights would certainly be a start, if the dude truly wanted to show that his heart was in the right place.

Unfortunately, Democrats have sold out LGBT rights at every step of the struggle as Frank Rich eloquently outlines in his article, "Whitewashing Gay History" which describes the many ways that self-proclaimed liberals have actively and willingly helped to keep a part of the population subjugated and oppressed.

Long-time activists like myself have real time memories of the ways that this oppression has reared its ugly head among leftists. Advocating open support of queer rights has always been an issue fraught with scary undertones for the heterosexually inclined. I remember the days when, if a straight person dared to express support for gay rights, their proclamation would more often than not begin with, "I'm straight but..." Well now it's past time to get off that straight butt and do something constructive for a segment of the population that does not enjoy equal protection under the law.