Right time for gay rights?

President Obama, having repeated his promise to end “don’t ask, don”t tell” on Saturday, got an additional nudge from the National Equality March on Sunday. Tens of thousands of gay rights supporters from across the country poured through the streets of the nation’s capital to demand equal rights for LGBT citizens. They have their work cut out for them. With a few small, scattered gains having been made, there are battlegrounds shaping up everywhere from Maine to California over the issues highlighted by the events of this past weekend.

My friend Joe, who celebrated 35 years with his partner last summer, asked why I haven’t written about gay rights. Boomers and Beyonders, he says, have a unique perspective. “We have won a few battles that won’t have to be fought again, but there’s a long road ahead and the netroots now taking the lead need to have strong support from the veterans.”

So here goes.

While reiterating his promise to end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Obama  gave no timetable for doing so. It’s time. Given everything else on his plate, those of us who support gay rights may be willing to cut the president a little slack, but this small step toward clearing some of the large injustices gays and lesbians have lived with since approximately forever is one Obama should be taking soon. 2010 sounds about right.

Other gay rights battlegrounds are active in Maine, where a ballot measure would repeal marriage rights for gays and lesbians, in Washington where a referendum must pass if full domestic partnership benefits are retained, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, according to Change.org, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “is planning a major statement on marriage in November, preparing to issue new language about how the church views same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, the new language is more of the same… hateful, tired and representative of a theology that views people who are LGBT as less than.”

Compared to the record of togetherness set by Joe and Robert, my marital history is pretty lousy. (Up until this, my final marriage, that is, and its extraordinarily happy 17 years.) So it is hard to see my marital state being threatened by theirs being legitimized. Joe and I were also part of an AIDS support group during the 1990s, and witnessed tragic injustices suffered by dying young men whose hospital doors were barred to those who loved them best. A lot more needs changing than just “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Michigan) was quoted by Elizabeth Williamson and Neil King in Monday’s Wall Street Journal as saying it was “now possible ‘to get a buy-in from the military’ to end a policy opposed by gays and many liberals since it was passed by Congress in 1993.” The monumental pile of global problems to be solved may keep Obama from seizing this good opportunity; gay rights supporters could keep that door open until he does act.

Global issues aside, one home front fact remains: LGBT Americans have been unjustly treated in innumerable ways, for innumerable years.

Getting rid of “don’t ask, don’t tell” seems a very good way to start putting things right.

Some Women's Views of Health Reform

First Lady Michelle Obama is making the news in support of her husband’s health plan, hoping to tap into the energies of one group who voted for Obama in large numbers: women. Reform is everyone’s concern, but in many ways it occupies a specific gender niche. As reported by Voice of America’s Kent Klein,

Mrs. Obama says health care reform is a women’s issue. “Women play a unique and increasingly significant role in our families.  We know the pain, because we are usually the ones dealing with it,” she said. The first lady spoke Friday to a gathering of women near the White House, and said the state of the U.S. health care system is unacceptable. “For two years on the campaign trail, this was what I heard from women:  That they were being crushed, crushed by the current structure of our health care.  Crushed,” she said.

A host of women’s groups, blogs, newsletters and web writers have also recently joined in. Posting in the National Women’s Law Center blog, Outreach Manager Thao Nguyen told the poignant story of hearing from a friend that she’d just married her long-time hesitant boyfriend. The marriage news was good news, but its terms took the joy out: having lost her job, it was the only way she could get health insurance.

Her point seemed so logical, but the entire idea was couched in such an insane reality I was simply speechless. Lucy is in her early 30s but she has a pre-existing condition so buying individual health insurance and the unfair, overpriced premiums that come with it was out of the question. Lucy has been living with Dan for 10 years, but unfortunately, he works for a company that doesn’t offer domestic partner benefits.

I couldn’t help but think: is this what our broken, unstable health care system means for millions of Americans around the country? As the economy continues to struggle, employers continue to shed jobs, and every day 14,000 more Americans wake up realizing that they are now uninsured and just one illness away from financial ruin. Are reluctant bachelors around the country going to put away their Megan Fox posters, cancel the “poker nights” (aka X-Box marathons we’re on to you), and start settling down?

My own run-in with healthcare weirdness is minor in comparison to most, but I still remember the shock. Making a routine call to renew the prescription for a bone-building drug I had taken for years to stave off osteoporosis, the message center person said she probably should warn me that rather than the $24 co-pay I’d been having per quarter my cost would now be $230. I do need these bones, but couldn’t see them worth $920 a year. I hung up and started drinking more milk. Had to get breast cancer, for which I now take a covered post- cancer drug which my oncologist prescribes… mainly to keep my bones healthy. Something is bizarre here.

Or maybe we women might bend the old macho adage a little: It’s broke, fix it.

VOA News – Michelle Obama Joins Health Reform Campaign.