No straight path to civil rights for gay Americans


Life would be easier to follow and less confusing to live if there weren’t so many detours.  But things happen when they happen, regardless of when we think they should have happened: witness the latest victory in the struggle for civil rights for homosexual Americans.

Legalized discrimination against gays in American society has been taking a beating and is on its way out, and with last week’s vote by the U.S. Senate to join the House of Representatives in repealing the Clinton-era law which prohibited homosexuals from serving our country in the armed forces if their sexual orientation became public, we’re one step closer to equality.  Once the bill gets the president’s signature (later this week), it’s up to the administration and the Defense Department to make the necessary changes to enforce the law.  That means things won’t change right away, but they will change.

“I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as the debate opened.  “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”

No gloating over winning one battle while the war remains to be won.  We can expect to hear a lot more thanks to a well-financed new group connected to Media Matters for America that promises to act as a “national rapid-response war room” taking on false and homophobic messages in the media and the political arena.

My happiness at the Senate vote was tempered by the recognition that so many members of Congress still found a reason to be against it—you can check the roll call vote in the Senate here, and the House here.  But big changes like this don’t happen overnight or all at once, and I try to keep that in mind when I see blog posts and headlines calling on the next Congress to reinstitute the law or ominously warning that this change will force God to stop blessing the American military (honest to God!) leading to the imminent and total destruction of our nation.  No doubt there are some with the same feeling about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but I’m not going to let any of them them ruin the moment, or the movement.

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