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vote for LGBTQ rights

by Denny Meyer

I have met people who are gay, bi, and or transgender, who tell me, sincerely, that our LGBT rights are not the only issue that influences their voting choices.  Indeed.  There's healthcare equality, marriage equality, women's equality, tax equality, racial and ethnic equality, educational equality, and voting equality, among others -all things being equal; and then there's national security, when to go to war, trade imbalance and outsourcing jobs overseas, not to mention The Economy and separation of church and state; and other minor details like that.

I've met other folks, living under the rainbow, who just waive their hands dismissively and tell me, "Oh, I don't pay any attention to politics..."  That just makes my eyes bug out.

Isn't our diversity wonderful?  I just want to scream.

Recently, I met a guy at a gay senior dinner (I'm a gay senior) who announced to me that he was a far right conservative; but that my being solidly left in my views turned him on; he liked me, he told me.  He was trying to pick me up.  At the age of 66, I've heard every kind of pickup line there is; but this was creepy.  I got up, grabbed my prune juice cocktail, and changed my seat!

It has often been said that this election in particular provides a clear choice between totally different visions of American progress.  One party's platform blatantly states total opposition to gay rights.  The other party's platform boldly states clear support for our freedom to pursue all the rights and benefits that our fellow citizens enjoy. 

As a member of the 47% of Americans who rely on our government continuing to keep promises made long ago in my life, I'm voting for the party and presidential candidate who intend to keep those promises rather than cutting costs by throwing me under the bus.  I don't see myself as a 'victim' nor as a freeloader.  I'm a disabled veteran.  I worked all my life and paid taxes; not millions or billions tweaked by tax lawyers, just enough to keep me in cheap toilet paper like other ordinary folks.  While people I knew were running away to Canada, or lying and saying they're gay to get out of going to Vietnam, I left college and volunteered; I lied about being straight to be allowed to serve my country.  I served for ten years.  I have spinal degeneration from Huey jumping, I had cancer, and I'll spare you hearing about the rest.  There's a shitload of young American veterans today who volunteered to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan who are severely disabled due to their patriotism, bravery, and courage; and they call them freeloaders? Bloody Hell!

I was born in America to refugee parents who fled Nazi genocide to live here in freedom.  Yet, when I was a toddler in the late 1940s, things weren't so equal for everyone in America.  Racial, religious, ethnic, and gender discrimination abounded in jobs, justice, freedom, and housing.  In 1948, President Truman integrated our armed forces by Executive Order.  It took some twenty years, from that time, for civil rights to be enacted into law.  As I grew up, during those years, the concept of equality for all Americans slowly began to become a reality.  Americans served together, schools were integrated to ensure equal education, housing laws were enacted to prohibit discrimination; and most significantly, voting rights legislation enabled equal representation at long last.

My immigrant parents taught me that, "There is nothing more precious than American Freedom."  And that freedom was being fought for in the world I came of age in.  The markers of my teen-aged generation were watched by us on black and white TV, in the Autumn of 1963, as weeping Americans lined the railroad tracks to watch the funeral train pass following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; the third Selma to Montgomery March in the early Spring of 1965 where we saw white police assault black Americans; and the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.  Unknown to us in that time, but historically significant, was the birth of Barack Obama, in 1961, who would become the 44th President of the United States and end a century long ban on gay military service.  A year earlier, in 1960 when I was thirteen years old, I participated in my first march for civil rights on a peaceful picket line at a local mall in suburbia where I grew up.   I was hit in the head with a rock.

A friend and I formed a civil rights advocacy discussion group in our school back then.  We invited a black civil rights activist to take the railroad out from the City to our distant northeastern suburb to speak with us.  We gave him ordinary directions to walk or take a taxi the three miles from the train station to our school and come in the building's front door and up to our meeting classroom on the second floor.   That was when we learned our lesson about the world he lived in, as he patiently explained that no taxi driver would let him in his car; and he could not simply stroll through our suburban town on a sunny afternoon and walk into our school, the police would be called if he did.  That was the America I grew up in fifty years ago; when the man who is now President of the United States could not have come to the town where I lived without being questioned because of his color.

As for homosexuals, back then you could be arrested and jailed simply for gathering in a group, your name could be published in the local newspaper, and you could be fired from your job, and evicted from your home.  If you talked about marrying your same sex partner, people would think you were stark raving mad.  In the military, you'd be murdered if anyone found out, or you'd be dishonorably discharged and disgraced, unable to get a job sweeping the floor anywhere.

A lot has changed and I'm so glad to have lived to see it all and be able to live openly in pride now.  Some of the changes are very recent, just in the last few years, enacted or advocated by our current President.  There is still a lot that needs to change.  We are not done yet.  Current service members are still denied equal family benefits, simply because of whom they love.  Our marriages, legal in just a few states, are forbidden to be recognized by the federal government.  One party wants to move forward and progress to give us full equality.  The other party is united in wanting to permanently impose backward policies of discrimination.  You choose.  Its your vote, its your life, its your freedom.

Denny Meyer, former SFC USAR

  2012 Gay Military Signal