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The End of the Battle, But Not The War: DADT, Same-Sex Marriage and Bullying

Randy Phillips is a US soldier stationed in Germany who made this heart wrenching and personal video of the phone conversation he made with his dad on the phone.  He came out as a gay man, then asked him if his father still loved him.  He said he still loved his son. The video, seen below, has become viral sensation and was posted on what has become a historic day in civil rights and US military history: September 20th, 2011, the end of the seventeen year old Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Now LGBT soldiers can serve openly in the military without fear of being discharged, allowing Phillips to have that poignant moment with his father.

While this has been a great moment in our history, we’re still behind the times and face larger obstacles.

Because the federal government still has the Federal ban on same-sex marriage benefits (the Defense of Marriage Act), the spouses of LGBT soldiers cannot receive benefits in case their loved ones make the ultimate sacrifice. Although the Obama Administration has claimed they will no longer defend this, another Clinton-era law, there has been no legal action yet to get rid of DOMA. Same-sex marriage also remains a complex issue between the states. The North Carolina State Legislature has recently voted to put the ban of same-sex marriage on the May 2012 ballot for voters to approve on, this coming months after the New York State Legislature approved of same-sex marriage in their state. California’s Proposition 8 case is still in a legal limbo that many experts believe will end up in a landmark Supreme Court case that will define marriage in this country.

What is even more painful is the rhetoric of religious leaders and now Republican presidential candidates. Among the GOP candidates who have spoken out against same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general is Rick Santorum, the former Republican Senator from Pennsylvania. He made remarks in a 2003 interview about privacy laws where he famously said “I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts”, and compared homosexuality to incest and bestiality, a claim he still stands behind:

“…[I]f the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn’t exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold — Griswold was the contraceptive case — and abortion. And now we’re just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you — this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it’s my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that’s antithetical to strong healthy families. Whether it’s polygamy, whether it’s adultery, where it’s sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.”

(Read more from the USA Today interview here)

Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, who is against all forms of same-sex unions said this at a National Education Leadership Conference in 2004:

“We need to have profound compassion for the people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life, and sexual identity disorders. This is a very real issue. It’s not funny, it’s sad. Any of you who have members of your family that are in the lifestyle-we have a member of our family that is. This is not funny. It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say this is gay. It’s anything but gay.”

(Click here for more of her quotes on homosexuality from that conference)

Bachmann is married to Marcus Bachmann, who runs “Bachmann and Associates”, a Christian counseling clinic that, among other things, claims to help convert gays (who he has called “barbarians”) into straight people, a treatment that both the American Psychiatric Association and American Medical Association has called “ineffective” and “harmful”. 

But the most chilling response might be Bachmann’s terse and cold response at a California campaign rally to a voter asking what she would do as President against anti-gay bullying.  Her response was “That’s not a federal issue.”

Is anti-gay bullying not a federal issue?  Last September, a string of suicide shocked the nation. Asher Brown, 13, Billy Lucas, 15, Raymond Chase, 19, and Seth Walsh, 13, became household names in an anti-gay bullying suicide epidemic.  On September 22nd, 2010 (one year ago tomorrow), 18 year old Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi lept off the George Washington Bridge after his romantic encounter was broadcast online, becoming the catalyst in new movement against bullying.

Today is the one year anniversary of Dan Savage and his husband, Terry Miller’s YouTube project, “It Gets Better”, where people can make personal and inspiring videos showing how gay youth can grow to live happy and wonderful lives, and to reject bullying. Watch their touching Google Chrome video below:

14 year old James “Jamey” Rodenmeyer was one of the thousands of people who submitted a video to the “It Gets Better” Project, and wrote on his blog about being taunted and attacked for the past year. The Buffalo, NY, teen wrote that no one being available to stop the incessant torment in school and online.  On Sunday night, he thanked pop icon Lady Gaga via twitter and tumblr for her inspiration and quoted one of her songs in a Facebook post. He was found dead from a suicide the next morning.  (Read more about his brief but inspiring life here)

Watch Jamey’s “It Gets Better” video here:

On a personal level, I’m pleased that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is over, in that I’m pleased that the United States is finally starting to catch up to the rest of the industrialized world. For all of its freedoms, the US is still a country behind the times. But when we have teenagers committing suicide because of intolerant bullies taunting them, and people who want to run this country trying to stigmatize gays as unhealthy people, it saddens me.  I remember studying same-sex marriage and reading that since gays are usually more depressed about being gay, and then reading that is the REASON why they should be straight.  That’s like blaming the victim of being pushed in front of a oncoming train and praising the pusher.  No, it’s because social oppression that gays feel depressed.

I was teased in school and called “gay”, “homo”, “faggot”, everything you can think of ever since I was eight, and when I realized that I actually was gay, it made me want to be straight even more than anything.  I hid who I was throughout high school and I only came out in April 2010, towards the end of my junior year of college.  To this day, I haven’t met anyone who has rejected me for my sexuality, and I know that is a testament to how support matters when you’re coming out.  I don’t feel depressed anymore about who I am, nor do I feel like changing.  I just hope that public sentiment – which is shifting towards favor of homosexuality – is better reflected by political leaders and ordinary people who need to stop bullying.

Then again, why does what people do in the privacy of their bedroom and lives matter to politicians and bullies anyway?  Why did a soldier defending our country become a problem when it’s discovered they’re gay?  It defies logic that in a poor economy and troubles abroad that many still stop to prioritize institutional hatred against homosexuality.

Share your thoughts, and if you would like, pay a visit to The Trevor Project, the national suicide prevention organization for LGBT youth, and the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization.

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About Richard L. Vargas

Among many things, I'm a writer, blogger, news junkie, and pop culture enthusiast from New York City.

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