On Tuesday we saw four ballot initiatives on marriage equality win and the election of Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin as the first out lesbian in the United States Senate. Both are events I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. Other wins of note are those of Sean Patrick Maloney in New York; Mark Takano in California; Mark Pocan in Wisconsin; and, of course, the big prize, the re-election of President Barack Obama to a second term. These are all victories not only for the LGBT community but for America.
Now the work begins. With Congress still divided, the president will have his work cut out for him. Obama will never have to run for office again so it is the hope of many that he will use all the powers of the presidency, including the bully pulpit, to move forward a progressive agenda that will set the nation on a positive path for the foreseeable future.
The LGBT community had a big role in his win, from our votes to our money, and we, along with many others, can expect the president to demand action on an inclusive ENDA, a repeal of DOMA, immigration reform and environmental issues. We will expect him to demand action on tax reform, balancing the budget and moving forward on long-term solutions to extend the life of Medicare and Social Security.
This is a huge agenda and one that may not all happen, but there is no reason to hold back on fighting for all those issues. If Congress doesn’t do its job, at least the people will see a clear agenda from the White House and can speak up to change the Congress in 2014.
Many considered Obama’s first term too timid. There are many things he gets credit for and the people gave him a second term because of what he accomplished. Ending the war in Iraq, passing healthcare reform and keeping us from falling off a financial cliff were enough to earn my enthusiastic support. But clearly many in the country didn’t feel that way. Now the president has the opportunity to show them that he has the resolve to move on a host of issues that will carry the nation safely through the 21st century. It is time to stop talking about these issues in only nuanced terms but rather to move forward boldly. Leadership is staking out strong positions and recognizing that while the people and the Congress may not be with you at first, with reason and appropriate compromise, you can get them to follow. People respect strength and resolve and that is what the president will need to show in his second term.
The LGBT community needs to support him while at the same time push for more action. We need to help him convince the Congress about the issues we care about and focus our attention on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. It will not be enough to get the White House to speak out, though that is crucial, but we need to inundate the Congress with our message and let them know that the time is now for them to act because we demand our full civil and human rights. It is not enough to wait for the courts to act but we must push Congress for action on a myriad of issues as well. As a community we must strengthen our ties with the Latino community and work to advance women’s rights and other civil rights as we all fight for the rights of individuals to live their lives with full and clear legal protections.
Our Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our Constitution declares, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
We hold up these documents, along with the amendments to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as a blueprint for democracy. We call for the separation of church and state because our nation was founded by many who came here fleeing religious persecution at home. So now is the time to bring these documents to fulfillment in our own country and to ensure that each of us can claim “our unalienable Right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”