In the midst of a turning point in our nation’s history on LGBT rights, there was a candidate who spent months courting the gay vote and speaking out in favor of LGBT issues. Being an astute politician, he knew exactly how to use the most beautiful and exciting rhetoric to his advantage, and though he made some missteps, he was able to secure the gay vote.
His speeches and stances on the issue seemed to show that he’d be favorable toward us, but just under the surface, if one paid close attention, there was a shallow emptiness in his words. He said the things that everyone, everywhere wanted to hear and he said these things forcefully and emotionally.
Gay rights groups had very high hopes for this candidate. It is, after all, rare to have a presidential candidate so outspoken on our issues. We’ve needed ENDA and hate crimes protections for a long time, as well as many other things, and he was going to do it. We were and still are in many respects in a country where there’s no protections for LGBT citizens whatsoever. No job protections. No housing protections. No marriages. When you can be killed or fired for being gay you’ll pretty much listen to any nice speeches extolling the virtues of LGBT people. So we believed that change was coming.:
Gay and lesbian leaders described the election of [the President], an advocate of homosexual rights, as a historic moment in the history of gay politics. As recently as a decade ago, strong advocacy of gay rights was considered political suicide for just about any candidate, let alone one for the Presidency.
"This is a rite of passage for the gay and lesbian movement," said Urvashi Vaid, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "For the first time in our history, we’re going to be full and open partners in the Government."
And make no mistake, gays worked hard to win him the presidency. Gay people gave up their money and time to get him elected. We are busy just trying to stay alive, trying to keep a job, yet we spoke out in huge numbers with our money, activism and votes. He won a historic presidency in which gay participation was up:
Gay men and lesbians, whose political allegiances had been split between Democrats and Republicans, rallied to [the President] with voter registration drives and more than $2.5 million in contributions. In the end, they also voted for him in large numbers, according to the first nationwide poll that asked people leaving voting places if they were homosexual or bisexual.
And then, gays started to hold his feet to the fire and tried to make him keep his promises to us, promises like letting gays serve openly in the military, and passage of ENDA. It wasn’t the right time. We were told to just wait. He had to get the economy back on track. And then something else. And then something else. Over and over.:
Homosexual groups yesterday called on [him] to move quickly on his promises to end, by executive order, the ban on homosexuals in the military and to press for a gay and lesbian civil rights bill. They also urged him to more quickly in beginning a "Manhattan Project" to fight AIDS and naming a Federal chief to direct it, as he promised.
Despite promises to lift the ban on gays in the military, witch hunts continued:
In Okinawa, Cpl. Craig Haack was subject to a full-scale witch hunt; a Navy investigator seized and read his diaries and letters in front of him, confiscated his computer and software and even took a pair of his platform shoes, arguing that they were evidence of homosexual conduct. Corporal Haack was discharged when his term expired.
There have been at least 37 violations of the "don’t ask" policy, and the Pentagon is pressing for the discharge of at least one gay service member although it concedes that his supervisor asked him about his sexual orientation.
He claimed to hate the ban on gays in the military and swore to get rid of it, and yet he did not. Gay servicemembers continue to suffer to this day. And it looks like there’s still not much hope for getting rid of the policy. Promises need to be followed by action.
He didn’t work to pass an ENDA bill nor end the ban on gays in the military.
Then, the candidate spoke out repeatedly about his opposition to same sex marriage:
I have long opposed governmental recognition of same-gender marriages
Gays endured hit after hit against us, instead of protections we have more anti-gay policies. Gays still can’t serve openly and federal recognition of marriages became illegal.
Yes, Bill Clinton’s presidency was a rough time for gay people.
Scottie Thomaston (indiemcemopants) is a 26-year-old Alabama blogger who has written about politics on various blogs since age seventeen. A disabled, ‘out’ gay man, his principal themes have been LGBT rights, torture, NSA spying and the challenges of disability. His pieces have appeared on Daily Kos (where he also moderates a community series on disability), Firedoglake; and on his own blog, "Ignorance is…" The quality of his writing earned him a 2010 Netroots Nation scholarship from Democracy For America and a citation in the New York Times Opinionator column. He is actively building his career as a professional new media journalist.
You can find him on Twitter: @indiemcemopants