A Response to the President’s State of the Union Address

February 4, 1997

By The Rev. Dr. Mel White
Minister of Justice and Reconciliation
The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches

Mr. President,

Last night you were silent again about the plight of twenty million gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Americans. With your Inaugural Address that’s eighty-four minutes of speech-making into your second term and you haven’t even mentioned our name.

Why didn’t you include sexual orientation when you condemned "racial, ethnic, and religious" intolerance? Why didn’t you praise our contributions to the life of this great country when you said (quite rightly) that "diversity is America’s greatest strength"? Why, after five State of the Union addresses, was there still no lesbian or gay man seated beside Mrs. Clinton in the Senate Gallery to be honored by you before the people of our nation?

Once again, we thank you for what you did in the first term to support our struggle for equal rights, but we are growing more and more fearful that during your second term you will ignore our cause completely. Last week in Little Rock, old friends and colleagues who know you best assured us that your heart "is in the right place about lesbians and gays" but in your first term we learned that we could not trust your heart when you broke your promise to end the military ban, when you refused to take a stand against Colorado’s Amendment Two, and when you supported the Defense of Marriage Act.

We’re grateful that you asked Mr. Gore to meet with a handful of our leaders three days before the Inauguration. In that meeting (that was closed to the media) he assured them of your continuing commitment to our cause. But the Inaugural events that followed make us wonder again about the extent of that commitment.

Why weren’t gay or lesbian clergy invited to attend, let alone to participate in the Annual White House Prayer Breakfast or the Inaugural prayer gatherings? Why was our massed gay and lesbian band asked to play before the parade (behind parade lines) instead of marching down Pennsylvania Avenue where the crowds and the media could see them? Why was the Gay Men’s Chorus asked to perform early Sunday morning in a small auditorium in the National Museum of American History and not at any of the primary Inaugural events that you and the press might attend? Why didn’t you and Hillary even bother to spend five minutes at the Triangle Ball where 1,000 lesbian and gay celebrants were dancing on Inaugural night? We didn’t expect you to stop your Presidential motorcade at Dupont Circle that same night to light a Justice Candle with us, but you were invited and as you sped past we prayed fervently that you might do justice in your second term for God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children.

A first step would be to end your terrible silence. Please, Sir, at the next possible opportunity mention us by name and speak the truth about us.

When you meet with members of the 105th Congress to urge them to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, say it: "Lesbians and Gays are faithful, creative, hard-working employees who are being fired from their jobs on the basis of sexual orientation alone."

When you meet with judges to urge them to do justice for all, say it: "Lesbians and Gays are loving, committed partners who are demeaned by sodomy laws and law-abiding citizens who are denied their basic, civil rights on the basis of sexual orientation alone."

When you meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to urge them to end the military ban, say it: "Lesbians and gays serve their country with honor and courage in every branch and at every rank in the military, yet they are hunted down and hounded out of the service (wasting lives, ruining careers, and costing hundreds of millions of dollars) on the basis of sexual orientation alone."

When you meet with business leaders to urge them to grant domestic partnership rights to their employees, say it: "Lesbian and gay couples are married in the sight of God, their friends, and families, yet they are denied the 175 to 250 rights and protections of marriage on the basis of sexual orientation alone."

When you meet with the Governor of California and other governors and state officials who believe the extremist rhetoric that homosexuals "threaten family values," say it: "Lesbians and Gays are proven to be responsible, loving parents who are losing custody of their children and being denied the right to adoption and foster care on the basis of sexual orientation alone."

When you meet with county supervisors and mayors of the nation’s towns and cities, say it: "Lesbians and Gays are good citizens, responsible tenants, and great neighbors who are being harassed by local anti-gay initiatives, evicted from their homes and apartments, and threatened by neighborhood bullies on the basis of sexual orientation alone."

When you meet with educators and school board members, say it: "Lesbian and gay students are the victims of misinformation, censorship, and intolerance in their classrooms, libraries, and playgrounds on the basis of sexual orientation alone."

When you met with your Attorney General and with state and local police officials to urge them to protect the lives and property of all Americans, say it, "Lesbians and gays are still among the top three victims of increasingly brutal hate crimes in cities and states across the nation on the basis of sexual orientation alone."

When you meet with religious leaders, say it: "Lesbians and gays are also people of faith who love God and serve God faithfully, yet they are being cast out of their churches and cut off from their faith communities on the basis of sexual orientation alone."

Mr. President, you began your State of the Union Address with these words: "We face no imminent threat, but we do have an enemy: the enemy of our time is inaction." Unfortunately, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Americans do face the imminent threat of intolerance, discrimination, and violence every day of our lives. Your heart is in the right place. Now, we need you to act courageously on our behalf.

We know it will cost you. Religious extremists like Pat Robertson and James Dobson will rush to their television and radio audiences with a call to close down your White House switchboard with a million protest calls a day. Don’t tolerate their intolerance. The American people are growing tired of their irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric. After the phone blitz ends, you will find that most Americans support your call for tolerance and understanding.

Please, Sir, let your silence end.

Sincerely,

Mel White
UFMCC World Headquarters
8704 Santa Monica Blvd., 2nd Floor, West Hollywood, CA 90069
P: 310-360-8640
F:714-494-4079


A Brief, One Page Response to the President’s State of the Union Address
By The Rev. Dr. Mel White
Minister of Justice and Reconciliation
The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches

February 4, 1997

Mr. President,

Last night you were silent again about the plight of twenty million gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Americans. With your Inaugural Address that’s eighty-four minutes of speech-making into your second term and you haven’t even mentioned our name.

Why didn’t you include sexual orientation when you condemned "racial, ethnic, and religious" intolerance? Why didn’t you praise our contributions to the life of this great country when you said (quite rightly) that "diversity is America’s greatest strength"? Why, after five State of the Union addresses, was there still no lesbian or gay man seated beside Mrs. Clinton in the Senate Gallery to be honored by you before the people of our nation?

Mr. President, you began your State of the Union Address with these words: ”We face no imminent threat, but we do have an enemy: the enemy of our time is inaction." Unfortunately, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Americans do face the imminent threat of intolerance, discrimination, and violence every day of our lives. The Vice President assures us that your heart "is in the right place about lesbians and gays." Now, we need you to speak and to act boldly for justice on our behalf:

to provide courageous, determined leadership in the war against HIV/AIDS;

to continue your support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act;

to help lesbian and gay partners win the 175-250 rights that go with marriage;

to defend our rights to child custody, foster care, and adoption;

to stop the military inquisition and end the military ban;

to use your influence to include us in hate crime protections;

to use your powerful voice against the extremist campaign to eliminate us;

to help defeat the move to re-establish and/or enforce the sodomy laws;

to help us gain the equal rights (not special rights) promised all Americans.

On Inaugural Sunday we lit Justice Candles in Dupont Circle and in homes and churches across America. Last Sunday, in an interfaith gathering in Little Rock, we lit more Justice Candles in your adopted hometown. Those candles will burn for the next 1,000 days of your administration. We hope and pray that you will see the light and use your second term to help win equal rights, not just for lesbians and gays, but for all who suffer sexism, racism and injustice in all its tragic forms.

Please, Sir, let your silence end.

Sincerely,

Mel White
UFMCC World Headquarters
8704 Santa Monica Blvd., 2nd Floor, West Hollywood, CA 90069
P: 310-360-8640
F:714-494-4079

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