Dear President Obama,
As we evaluate what happened in Maine as marriage equality, via Question 1, went down with a similar margin as is did in California with Proposition 8, a vivid memory from over thirty years ago comes to mind, in the way a locust comes to a field of corn.
When I was a young father, I used to smoke around my children and in the house. I smoked in the car and at work. I smoked everywhere.
As my children grew, I would lecture them on the dangers of smoking, even as I went to the hospital for asthma and two strokes in my forties from smoking. I did begin smoking in a different room than the one in which my children were playing. I did all these “better” things, but I never quit. I never took action to model a “best” behavior for them.
I believe that this is what you have done to the gay and lesbian community. You’ve talked a lot about your support of the LGBTQ community. You’ve signed ENDA and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. You’ve done all this, but you have not repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and you have not repealed the Defense of Marriage Act. I remember mentioning that we would see how you’d done by this time in my commentary of May 2009, “DOMA, DADT, and the President of the United States.”
You have given tacet approval to everyone in the United States to stand by their arrogant bigotry by not taking action. Maine’s response to Question 1 raises our questions about your commitment to the tasks at hand, especially considering that on your White House contact website, there isn’t even a category for civil rights. Our issues are relegated to the cruel word, “Other.” It makes me believe that some of us American citizens are seen as “those people.”
For the record, every single one of my children ended up smoking. Although they are now in their 30’s and 40’s for the most part, and making their own choices, they initially learned from me that smoking was o.k. I am saddened every day by that fact as they end up in the hospital with asthma and bronchitis. I am saddened that they may develop emphysema or lung cancer and die the way their great-grandparents did, and as I, it appears, shall do as well. I am saddened that their children, of which there are nine between them, will learn the same lessons from my children as mine did from me. The impact of my smoking has become generational.
Are you going to allow the impact of your inaction toward the necessary civil rights issues before you to become generational, as well?
With my husband, David, we signed our Domestic Partnership documents in August 2005. In August 2006, we were married in a religious ceremony, and in doing so, we became husbands to one another. You, Mr. President, however, have no record of that marriage. Neither does anyone else, except in the hearts of those in attendance. Is that the life you would want with Mrs. Obama?
Next time you have a cigarette, (and because I, too, continue to struggle with my nicotine addiction, I know there will be another cigarette, Mr. President), each time you take a drag, think about the gay community. Each cigarette represents another gay person who is being discriminated against. Each puff represents one more day that American citizens are being kept from equality. Every butt you throw away is the dream of a gay couple whose hope for their 50th wedding anniversary that has been dashed.
So, I raise my filled ashtray to you, President Obama, in hopes that you will both stop smoking and make the changes to our laws that will provide equality to all people in America.
James S. Ch. Glica-Hernandez