Originally posted at: http://www.washingtonblade.com/2012/10/10/why-black-lgbt-americans-should-support-president-obama/
This past month marked the very first time I truly felt like a card carrying member of the Democratic Party. I know this may come as a surprise. After all, I am an African American man who just earned his doctorate and is at the beginning of what is sure to be a long successful career. I am a beneficiary of the things that the Democratic Party fights for.
However, I am a gay African American man. In the black community, I am seen, but rarely spoken of because of the unwritten Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy when it comes to LGBT individuals. In the larger LGBT community, issues that affect me and other black LGBT individuals and family often do not find their way into mainstream conversations. More importantly, LGBT issues have never really been top agenda items for Democrats on the national level.
That all changed last month in Charlotte, North Carolina, the state where a ban of gay marriage passed not that long ago. For the first time Democrats had made sure to include marriage equality in their party platform and have numerous speakers talk about extending rights to members of the LGBT community. This wasn’t an isolated incident.
LGBT inclusion in the platform and prime time speeches comes on the heels of a number ofmeasures to improve life for LGBT Americans by the Obama administration. The embracing of the LGBT community is something that should not be forgotten by the black LGBT community this November. Especially since, Black LGBT individuals and families suffer disproportionately from policies that make access to economic opportunity, education and health care challenging. And the fact that black LGBT youth face unfair criminalized in the juvenile justice system.
Having a supportive administration can go a long way to reverse the trends that are currently plaguing the Black LGBT community. For example, under the leadership of President Obama economic barriers have been broken by allowing members of the LGBT community to serve openly with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Additionally, the administration has made obtaining affordable housing attainable via a new HUD rule that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. These are just two areas that greatly affect black LGBT individuals and families that are improving because of the leadership of President Obama.
For these reasons, we need to stand with President Obama and give him the opportunity to keep improving the lives of the LGBT community for four more years and beyond. More importantly, we should be reaching out to everyone we know, especially those in the Black community who may feel they don’t need to vote or are considering not voting because of President Obama’s evolution on marriage.
Improving the lives of LGBT individuals and families is the right thing to do. Equality is not meant to be extended to select members of society, it is meant to be extended to all members of society. President Obama, his administration, and the Democratic Party understand this. They have worked together to help remove some of the barriers that prevent Black LGBT individuals from being productive members of society and be able to achieve the American dream.
And guess what the world has not ended! Shocking, isn’t it?!
Michelle Obama said it best in her speech at the convention, “Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it…and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.”
Improving the lives of LGBT individuals has been neglected for too long. We have a supportive administration that wants to change this. So now is the time to rally everyone you know and get out the vote for President Obama. Each vote for President Obama is a vote to ensure that the American Dream is no longer denied to the LGBT community.
Today, the Fighting Injustice to Reach Equality, or FIRE initiative, at the Center for American Progress released a comprehensive report about the policy priorities of black LGBT Americans outside of marriage equality. “Jumping Beyond the Broom: Why Black Gay and Transgender Americans Need More Than Marriage Equality,” specifically examines the issues of economic insecurity, educational attainment and outcomes, and health and wellness disparities this population faces, and offers a host of policy solutions to bridge the gaps.
The key finding of the report is that black LGBT Americans continue to experience stark social, economic, and health disparities despite significant gains in securing basic right for LGBT people over the past decade.
For example, black gay Americans earn $10,000 less than their black heterosexual counterparts and face higher rates of poverty and unemployment as well. Black lesbians are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases (i.e. heart disease and diabetes) than others, and black LGBT youth are more likely to end up homeless and living on the streets compared to other youth. These social, economic, and health disparities are often ignored as broader gay and transgender policy priorities—including marriage equality—receive the time and attention of advocates and the mainstream and LGBT press. They’re also neglected by racial and economic justice agendas that fail to include the needs and priorities of gay and transgender populations. In short black gay and transgender Americans fall through the cracks of silo’d policy and advocacy efforts – so we must make progress in bridging these gaps.
“Jumping Beyond the Broom,” shows how progress can be made by applying an intersectional lens that accounts for race, class, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity in federal policy analysis and advocacy.
The report also makes recommendations that Congress and federal agencies could adopt that would help eliminate the disparities between black gay and transgender people and others. Recommendations include ensuring full LGBT inclusion in social safety net programs; developing a comprehensive federal response to LGBT homelessness; adopting safe schools polices; implementing the Affordable Care Act in a fully LGBT-inclusive way at the state and federal level; and collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity across key federal surveys of the public. The FIRE Initiative will explore many of these policy issues in-depth in the months to come, including through additional publications and public events.