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Push for Progress
July 2, 2009
by John Long

Push for Progress
It’s time for Obama to act on LGBT issues — and for you to help improve Kansas City Gay Pride.

This week President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the first Gay Pride Month reception for about 250 guests at the White House in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that began the gay and lesbian fight for equality. Obama is the second U.S. president to recognize the LGBT community. Bill Clinton began the dialogue when he declared June 2000 as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.

Obama and Clinton’s similarities don’t end there. Clinton also campaigned on removing the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military, saying “there’s room for all at the table.” Unfortunately for Clinton, though, this issue got his administration off to a bad beginning with the Pentagon, Armed Forces Generals and of course, Congress. As a result, the ludicrous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was created, and thousands of able LGBT Americans have lost their jobs and ability to serve their country.

Obama is obviously being astute enough not to repeat history and is carefully going through the exercise of considering removing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But for the estimated 70 percent of the LGBT community who elected him based on his promises to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, enforce hate crimes legislation, include transgender people in the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) and more, the problem is that nothing has happened in his first six months in office. And as the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has pointed out, since January, an estimated 265 gays and lesbians have lost their jobs in the military under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Jarrett Barrios, incoming president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and a former Massachusetts state senator, stated in a press release about the reception: “During his speech today, President Obama said that the road to equality is not only about changing laws, but about changing hearts. Indeed, legal advances are vitally important, but full equality requires us to move our culture — through conversations, living openly in our communities, and through media representations — to a place where gay and transgender Americans are accepted and understood.

“Our community will continue to advocate and will be watching closely to ensure Obama makes good on the promises he discussed today and during the campaign. At the heart of the issues discussed today are everyday Americans who want the same chance as everyone else to earn a living, be safe in their communities, serve their country, and take care of the ones they love.”

So President Obama, thank you for hosting this reception. We don’t take your efforts for granted. But we expect more.

One of the reception guests was Air Force Lt. Col Victor Fehrenbach, who spoke on MSNBC about meeting the president and asking for his support before he loses his job. He was informed in September 2008 that he would be discharged because he is gay. Fehrenbach explained to the MSNBC anchor that he personally received Obama’s support that his administration would be eliminating the ban, but in Obama’s words, it’s a “generational” issue.

This explanation for differing points of view on LGBT issues brings me to an issue right here in Kansas City: our recognition of Gay Pride month. Is it time to review the Gay Pride festival and revamp it for 2010?

Some suggest that there’s no reason for a gay pride festival. Others don’t even call it “Gay Pride,” but only the “Pride” weekend. Have people forgotten why Gay Pride festivals and parades began?

On page 7, you will see my interview with Rick Bumgardner, president of the 2009 Kansas City Gay Pride. That article will let you know how you can work on next year’s festival. Like any event involving thousands of people, entertainment, food and more, Gay Pride has gone through many changes over its 31 years. Scores of volunteers and gay pride committees over the years have done their best to make each festival memorable and financially solvent.

As social networking sites like Facebook and others gain popularity, especially among young people, this year in particular, they provided a place where people could rapidly share ideas, and some were not complimentary or encouraging to the festival attendance. To make matters worse, a local HIV/AIDS service provider held its own fundraiser on Sunday, the third day of the Gay Pride festival, and many people were all over Facebook saying they were going to that event instead of to Gay Pride.

So what do you think? Share your opinion with me and our thousands of readers. And if you care about the Gay Pride Festival, organizers would welcome your attendance and participation at their monthly meetings.
The Tenth Voice

The Tenth Voice

The Tenth Voice

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