I hope you will pardon me if this seems a bit forward, but after everything we’ve been through together the past ten years (you know what I’m talking about, so let’s not hash it all up again; sometimes I bore myself being a liberal in these United States), you’ll understand if I feel entitled to speak openly with you. You and your lovely wife are, after all, the political figures I can most picture myself attending a neighborhood potluck with. We could talk about women’s rights and heirloom tomatoes, you know?
Anyway, what I want to express is my overwhelming disappointment in your response to the issue of gay and lesbian rights. Now, please don’t feel that I’m pooping all over your work. I know it’s a big job, and I know you’re dealing with some top-drawer tea-drinking sociopaths. I get that we’re fortunate not to have the Homecoming Queen as our vice president. And I do appreciate the intelligence, subtlety of reasoning, and, frankly, class you’ve brought to the office of president. During your campaign my husband and I took our young children to the rally you held, with Mr. Biden and both your wives, in front of the Detroit Institute of Arts. And what a glorious day it was in Detroit! The Secret Service agents I spoke with good-humoredly suggested it might be best not to try hauling two toddlers and a Radio Flyer wagon filled with child-related necessities beyond the metal barriers to get closer to the dais surrounded by sharpshooters, so we settled on the grass, watching the proceedings on a giant television monitor. We bonded with a family from Canada, who shared our excitement at the possibility of a new chapter for our battered country. Midtown Detroit was crowded with walkers that day, and even the few protesters gave up and left early because there was no dampening the enthusiasm. You probably already know that Detroit is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country. But you wouldn’t have noticed on that day.
So there’s that. And it’s what I’ve clung to for two years now–your ability to bring people together, to break down the divisions and make us believe we could work together. But I have to say now that your approach to extending civil rights to all Americans leaves a lot to be desired. I seem to recall a lot of hoopla surrounding your plans to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Speeches were given before applauding crowds. Proclamations were issued. You said, sir, that you would end the policy. Yet nearly two years into your four-year term you have not only not ended DADT; you’ve got your administration tangled up in the courts over your apparent refusal to end it.
This would be bad enough for its evident hypocrisy or futile attempt to placate the unplacatable gay-haters among us or whatever reasoning you’re using to justify breaking a promise to the people who elected you. But then there came the rash of suicides and your lukewarm contribution to the It Gets Better YouTube campaign. Now, again, I recognize that it is an extraordinary move on the part of the president of the United States to take part in a grassroots Internet movement to improve the lives of young gays and lesbians. But, Mr. President: Why did your video have to come after that of your secretary of state? Is no one advising you on these things? Do you not know that YOU should be setting the tone for your staff, not vice-versa? Ms. Clinton delivered a strong, impassioned, take-no-prisoners defense of LGBT youth. You talked about how nobody deserves to be bullied. Well. Duh.
Now let’s talk about the civil rights part of this. I assume you know, as the child of a mixed-race couple and as a constitutional scholar, that the last of the U.S. miscegenation laws were repealed by Loving v. Virginia in 1967. Obviously you know you were born in 1961. So here we are forty-three years after the legalization of marriage between people of any racial or ethnic background. The United States has its first biracial president. As a mother, I was consciously aware from the start that either or both of my children could be gay. So could yours. And yet you–our first black president–stand poised to deny my children their fundamental civil rights as citizens of the United States. It’s a simple thing, to stand up for the rights of your fellow human beings. Yet in your eyes they should remain still separate, still not equal.
Power is a funny thing, isn’t it?