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Credit Where Credit Is Due

There are many to thank for America’s evolution toward marriage equality
by Nancy Ford

It was an early, pre-Pride Month presidential present.

“When I meet gay and lesbian couples, when I meet same-sex couples, and I see how caring they are, how much love they have in their hearts, how they’re taking care of their kids—when I hear from them the pain they feel that somehow they are still considered less-than-full citizens when it comes to their legal rights, then, for me, I think [that] has tipped the scales.”

That’s what U.S. President Barack Obama told anchor Robin Roberts last month on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Good morning America, indeed!

True, progressive legislators and political leaders often deliver a friendly proclamation to the LGBT community to commemorate Pride Month. But this year, a sitting president of the United States announced he supports the right of same-sex couples to marry each other. Thank you, Mr. President.

Why did it take so long? Some say he was just Biden his time.

President Obama’s hand may have been tipped a little early by his vice president’s unfiltered Sunday morning TV roundtable endorsement of gay marriage that preceded the GMA announcement. But VP Joe Biden got it absolutely right when he told NBC’s Meet the Press host David Gregory on May 6: “I think Will & Grace did more to educate the American public more [about same-sex equality] than almost anything anybody has done so far.”

Thank you, Mr. Vice President (Hey, can I call you Joe?) for recognizing the contribution of Will & Grace in the quest for LGBT equality.

There’s no denying America loves and protects its stereotypes. Viewers who were disgusted or offended or even challenged by Will & Grace could easily remind themselves it was only a TV show. It was Pretend Gay. Gay Light. That’s why the show wasn’t called Will & Jack.

Nonetheless, thank you, Will & Grace. And thank God for reruns.

But Joe, consider that even bigger thanks go to Ellen DeGeneres. If not for The Ellen Show, there would have been no W&G.

Fifteen years after the uproariously controversial “Puppy Episode” in which Ellen Morgan announced her lesbianism, Ellen DeGeneres is gay married, and has been anointed America’s Sweetheart, not just America’s Lesbian Sweetheart. On Ellen, her wildly successful and influential daily television talk show, DeGeneres not only continues to promote equality for all Americans, but also makes shopping at JC Penney seem like a desirable experience. Thanks, Ellen. Your reward is Portia.

While both the president’s and vice president’s personal statements were historic, it was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who fired the big guns for LGBT rights in her December 2011 address at the United Nations in recognition of International Human Rights Day.

Putting a long-overdue salve on wounds inflicted by her husband Bill’s other unfortunate Double-D legacies, DOMA and DADT, Secretary Hillary greased the global skids for Obama’s announcement when she said to the world:

“Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same. . . . No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity.”

Thank you, Secretary Clinton, for stating unequivocally that the time for full equality has come. Even the Supreme Court of Nepal has ruled that equal rights apply to its LGBT citizens, as Secretary Clinton told us in that U.N. address. Further, she said, the government of Mongolia is pursuing new legislation that will tackle antigay discrimination.

Nepal! Mongolia! Global progress!

Well, kind of. Following the May defeat of a bill that would permit North Carolina’s gay and straight unmarried citizens to protect their relationships with a civil union, North Carolina pastor Charles L. Worley of that state’s Providence Road Baptist Church floated his own Final Solution to LGBT equality:

“Build a great, big, large fence—150 or 100 miles long. Put all the lesbians in there,” Rev. Worley told his congregation on May 13.

So far, so good. Sounds like many women’s music festivals I’ve emceed. Great, big, large fun!

“Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals,” Rev. Worley then preached, “and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. . . And you know what? In a few years, they’ll die out. Do you know why? They can’t reproduce!”

Pastor Worley, do you kiss your sister Joanne with that nasty mouth? And what is it about fences that conservatives love so much, whether they run the length of the Rio Grande or are wrapped around Guantanamo?

Here’s a little biology lesson for you, Rev: If we’re all in the same pen, we lesbians and queers and homosexuals will indeed reproduce and form our own families. It’s called begetting. Look it up, it’s in the Bible. We will also organize and plow and plant and build a community center where we will stage an all-trans production of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi. Fence that.

But thank you, Rev. Worley, for reminding us that there’s still much LGBT work to do.

Secretary Clinton ended her U.N. plea for LGBT equality with a message to those whom Rev. Worley and his followers would round up like Mad Cow-tainted cattle:

“And finally, to LGBT men and women worldwide, let me say this: Wherever you live and whatever the circumstances of your life, whether you are connected to a network of support or feel isolated and vulnerable, please know that you are not alone. People around the globe are working hard to support you and to bring an end to the injustices and dangers you face.”

So many people deserve kudos on this long-overdue occasion: Thank you, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary Clinton. Thank you, Will & Grace and Ellen DeGeneres, and all the brave LGBT men and women who came out long before being gay was remotely safe or comfortable or fashionable.

There’s only one thing that could make President Obama’s announcement even sweeter. Robin Roberts, are you listening?

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