Earlier this month while First Lady Michelle Obama was speaking at a private residence in Washington, DC a person interrupted her remarks. The First Lady stepped down from the lectern to confront the individual. The person who interrupted the speech was identified as Ellen Sturtz, a woman associated with the LGBT activist group GetEQUAL.
I've read a lot of different opinions on this subject. I've seen the Facebook posts of some of the people associated with GetEQUAL praising Ms. Sturtz for her actions and other posts questioning why would someone would go after the First Lady when she has no role in the governing process. This sparked some good lengthy Facebook discussions.
My thoughts on this?
As Jonathan Capehart wrote in his opnion piece for The Washington Post, they are both right. Ms. Sturtz also authored this opinion piece for the same newspaper defending her actions. It is understandable why she did what she did:
As a gray-haired, 56-year-old lesbian, I don’t have time to wait another generation for equality — it’s been almost 40 years since similar legislation to ENDA (Employee Non Discrimination Act) was first introduced in Congress. And being polite hasn’t gotten us any closer to it becoming a reality.
LZ Granderson, one of the few openly gay sports writers and regular contributor to ESPN and CNN, had this to say in a piece:
Heckling the first lady wasn't fair because she isn't responsible for policy. But the incident sent a message to those who are responsible: We are people, not pawns.
Again, these people bring up good points by the parties involved. Both Ms. Strutz and Mr. Granderson highlight that at times the LGBT community is thrown under the metaphorical bus during the negotiating process in crafting legislation.
While the incident did shed light on the rarely discussed topic of job discrimination, it appears that it has backfired among liberal leaning persons and especially with the Black community.
Right now relations between the LGBT and Black communities are soured over of the fallout coming from the stalled Marriage Equality bill in the Illinois State House. Democrats controlled 60% of the 118-seat chamber but the bill was not put to a vote. The bill passed the Senate and Governor Pat Quinn stated he would sign the bill once it reached his desk. It appeared that Illinois was on the cusp of becoming the 13th State to embrace marriage equality and the third in the Midwest, but time ran out on the session. The bill has been given an extension to 31 August, but it is likely that again time will run out and the vote could come in the fall.
One of the stories that surfaced on why the marriage equality bill was scuttled is because of the false narrative over that it was the Black community who did not support this measure. Actually.... among the 20 Black members in the Illinois State House, 11 were prepared to vote yes with the undecided's and no's split 5-4. That's more than half and you don't have to be a math major to figure that out. The NBC station in Chicago pointed it out in this article and that less than a third of the state house's White members supported the measure.
And if you REALLY want to see someone lay down some knowledge, read this from my fellow pigskin prognosticator one Ms. Monica Roberts of Houston, TX.
One more thing, a poll conducted by NBC-Wall Street Journal from March 2013 shows that Black voters support gay marriage 51-37. The same question was asked in 2009 and it was a third giving support. This further shatters the myth that Blacks are not in favor of equal marriage rights.
The incident between the First Lady and Ms. Sturtz did not improve the rocky relationship between the two communities. University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler made this observation where she criticizes GetEQUAL's tactics.
The logic employed by GetEQUAL to think that their wish to see ENDA enacted by forcing the issue with this type of protest backfired. Now, not only are they being criticized by other LGBT groups, they have the wrath of African-Americans who are weary and disgusted with the disrespect shown to the president and the first lady. Most importantly, they have found out that Michelle Obama is a real woman, with real feelings. Perhaps in all of their advocating, they have forgotten that point.
Now I get this statement made by some of the GetEQUAL members that we should hold our elected officials accountable. There is a problem with going after the First Lady: she is not an elected official. Does she advocate for some of spouse's positions? Did she give a keynote at the 2012 DNC? Yes, but she isn't the first person in the role of First Lady to do these things and she won't be the last.
Again, to quote Professor Butler, "Challenge the president, not his wife."
The reason why GetEQUAL is challenging this president is over the ENDA Executive Order that President Obama has yet to sign. While on the campaign trail during his first presidential run five years ago, Obama promised to sign such a document if elected when he was asked by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus back in February 2008.
The critiques of the ENDA Executive Order is that it would protect 16.5 million workers, mostly those who have contracts with the government. Many high profile companies have some form of non-discrimination policies on their books, but more can be done.
An ENDA Executive Order is a temporary solution as it protects only a portion of the workforce. The solution would be to craft legislation that protects the ENTIRE workforce.... ahem, pass ENDA in Congress.
Now in the Obama administration's defense when it comes to LGBT Issues, they have demonstrated an outstanding record compared to the previous presidential administrations in my lifetime (Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and W. Bush) COMBINED.
This president has done more for the civil rights of the people that I hold near and dear to my heart. Can more be done? Yes, always.
Time, resources, and energy would be better spent going after those who are fiercely anti-LGBT than those who are already supportive. I can think of 235 people in the United States House of Representatives and 45 people in the United States Senate who will not co-sponsor pro-LGBT legislation.
In addition, if we want nice things we need to give this President a Congress that will work with him; not a House that constantly votes to defund ObamaCare at every whim or a Senate that has a minority political party FILIBUSTER just to start debate on legislation.
In other words: vote the obstructionist Republicans out in 2014 so that we can return the Speaker's Gabble to Nancy Pelosi and increase our majority in the US Senate to 60 seats so that the GOP can no longer roadblock the things we need to function as a country.
Recently GetEQUAL had 8 of their members arrested at Speaker John Boehner's DC office to bring attention to ENDA legislation in Congress. It is a nice start, but it might be a method to deflect attention away from the fallout over the First Lady being heckled by one of their activists.
Right now everyone I know in the LGBT community and their allies are awaiting the rulings from the Supreme Court regarding the cases Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop 8) and Windsor v. United States (DOMA, Defense of Marriage Act). The court could release the opinions later this morning or this coming Thursday or the last Monday of the month. I'm checking SCOTUSBlog every day to see what is going on. Lambda Legal has this infographic on their website listing the probable outcomes of the two cases.
While Minnesota, Delaware, and Rhode Island passed legislation embracing marriage equality, Nevada is on the path to put marriage equality on the ballot as soon as 2016, and Colorado passed a civil unions bill, for the most part various pro-LGBT legislation is stalled due to awaiting the outcomes of these decisions. The paths for Prop 8 victory have various paths. I would prefer if the court issued a wide ruling similar to what they did back in Loving v. Virginia (1967), but based on what I have been reading the court is probably going to go with a narrow ruling that affects California.
Then again.... the ObamaCare ruling last summer produced a 5-4 ruling with the majority opinion authored by Chief Justice Roberts. Sorting by ideology, Roberts is to the right of traditional swing vote Justice Kennedy. A lot of people on my side of the aisle were anticipating a 5-4 ruling OVERTURNING ObamaCare. The 5-4 ruling supporting AND Chief Justice Roberts authoring the majority opinion was a shocker. So, we don't know how these LGBT cases are going to be decided.
The best way I can sum up on how the Supreme Court will rule on these cases is from former NFL head coach Jim Mora. This is from his stint while he was with the Saints:
You think you know, but you don't know and you never will.
We're in a holding pattern right now because of the uncertainty surrounding how and when the court will decide these cases. Also, there are other cases that the Supreme Court is releasing this month most notably one concerning the role of Affirmative Action in college admissions and Voting Rights Act. Have you ever read a Supreme Court opinion? It puts some of my posts to shame. The court has to explain in great detail why they made the decision that they did and it is based on things like established precedents, other court cases, legislation, and most importantly, the US Constitution. That takes A LOT of research and writing.... a whole lot of writing. The court heard the DOMA and Prop 8 cases back in March 2013. That was two more cases added to the several other ones heard for this term starting in October 2012.
So, for now it has been the "Waiting Game." And understandable, folks like Ms. Sturtz can't wait.
The purpose of my post was to highlight the issues surrounding the First Lady being heckled by Ms. Sturtz. It is not as black-and-white as those who argue their sides. There are many complex issues surrounding this topic because people are inherently complex beings. I hope that both sides can see what the other side is arguing and look at some common ground to work towards instead.
Because maybe... both sides are right.