A LETTER TO OUR PRESIDENT
By Harvey Fierstein
Read at the DEFYING INEQUALITY benefit on Monday, February 23, 2009.
Dear President Obama.
While fighting for the abolition of slavery, one politician qualified
his stance, "I have never been in favor of making voters or jurors of
Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with
white people."That politician was Abraham Lincoln.
Obviously time and experience brought Mr Lincoln to what would have been
called the extremist view; that freedom cannot be compromised just to
appease the majority.
And so he made a grander gesture reminding us of "...a new nation
conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are
created equal". Passing a law would change the course of slavery, but
those words changed the course of the history.
Mr Obama, I have heard you speak eloquently in favor of inclusion for
gays and lesbians. But then you sternly state your opposition to
marriage rights. It leaves me wondering if you are straining to be
politic or, if like Lincoln, your views still need maturing.
Days after your historic election an aide of yours told me that you plan
to do away with the military's DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL. I applaud the
gesture. But don't kid yourself. Redefining that policy will do little
to end discrimination against us.
With or without the Pentagon's permission gays and lesbians have been
serving in the military since the birth of this nation.
We may have served in silence.
We may have fought in secret.
But a complete ban of gays did not stop us from fighting and dying for
Abolishing DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL won't bring us into the military or end
discrimination against us.
Legalizing gay adoption won't end discrimination against our children in
Even legalizing gay marriage won't bring about the whole cloth change
our nation needs.
When you, leader of the free world, accept, tolerate and even invite
bigots into your fold changing a policy is not enough.
In any case, we don't need you to fight our small battles for us.
We will eventually win these on our own. Property matters, adoption
rights, and even gay marriage will be won in courts of law as they are
now being won in courts of public opinion.
Given time, our constitution, and the American values of fair play and
justice, will prevail. We will win equal rights.
But what only you can give us is the grand gesture.
Mr President, we need you to be more than another reasonable voice.
We need you to raise yourself up out of the mire of majority opinion.
We need you to rise above the daily politics of compromise.
We need you to mount that bully pulpit our blood, sweat and tears have
erected, and speak to the greater ideal.
America needs to hear you say, "We will no longer tolerate the
oppression of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, mothers and
fathers, aunts and uncles. They are our family. They are we and we are
The nation needs to hear you say, "We must prove ourselves worthy of the
title Americans; protectors of the weak, standard bearers of freedom,
and guarantors of equal rights for all."
Mr President, history will record the day you say, "From this day
forward no amendment, statute or law that seeks to deny full rights of
citizenship on the basis of sexual preference will be tolerated. Hatred
and bigotry are here forth banished to the dark recesses of small minds."
Let the Pledge of Allegiance light our way to tomorrow as "...one
nation, indivisible, with freedom and justice for all.'"
That, dear son of Lincoln, is the grand gesture we need from you.
We need a hero, and you have been elected.
Peace to you all. Love, Shel
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