Saturday, October 22, 2011

The right tone

In the official White House photo above (by Pete Souza):
“President Barack Obama greets the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal recipients in the Blue Room of the White House prior to a medal ceremony in the East Room, Oct. 20, 2011. The Citizens Medal, the nation's second-highest civilian honor, recognizes Americans who perform ‘exemplary deeds of service.’”
This is notable because the woman standing fifth from the right (black pantsuit, with crutches) is Janice Langbehn whose story illustrates all that’s wrong with recognition—or rather, the lack of recogonition—of GLBT couples’ relationships.

President Obama was reportedly moved by Langbehn’s story and her struggle for justice, and it was one of the reasons he signed signed the memorandum mandating that most hospitals must treat same-sex partners of gay patients as family in their visitation policies. That memorandum was necessarily flawed, of course (mostly due to the infamous Defense [sic] of Marriage Act) but an important symbolic step, nevertheless.

I think it was a generous gesture for the president to honour the struggle of Langbehn because her fight is incrementally making things better for GLBT people, particularly couples. But this work is far from over, as the president well knows.

No medal can bring back Lisa Marie Pond, Langbehn’s partner of 17 years, nor will it ease the memory of the unnecessary and cruel treatment Langbehn received at the hands of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. However, it does demonstrate that her struggle for justice is worthwhile and valued.

But for progress on marriage equality, in to precent the horrible treatment that Langbehn and Pond received, the evil DOMA must be repealed, and the only way that will happen is if President Obama is re-elected and if liberal Democrats are elected to Congress. That’s not a partisan pitch, but cold, hard reality: NO progress can occur under any of the Republican presidential candidates or if the Republicans control Congress. In fact, if Republicans control the White House and Congress, things will get very much worse.

So it is right and proper and good to see President Obama honouring Janice Langbehn. It’s up to the rest of us to do the same by doing our part to make things better.

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