January 19, 2009
Dear Mr. President,
I’ve often said that, when we were remembering September 11, we were remembering the wrong day. September 12, 2001, was the day we all stood united in compassion for each other. While September 11th was the day when so many loved ones died, September 12th was the day when we showed how resilient are our hearts – a greater tribute to our dead than all the fretting over tributes and monuments and security strategies.
I am writing this on the observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday, which you have made a day of national service this year in anticipation of your inauguration. Today I feel that America is returning to the heart we showed on September 12th. Today I feel hope that we might meet the challenges that face us as a nation and a species.
As my act of volunteerism, I’d like to advocate today for a group to which I do not belong, except as an ally and fellow human, because, while they are staunch allies in many fights for civil rights and justice. they continue to labor under the weight of oppression in America. As Langston Hughes said, “America never was America to [them]”. I’d like to ask your support to gain the full slate of human rights guaranteed in our Constitution to our fellow citizens who are gay and lesbian.
I know gay and lesbian Americans who have been organizers many campaigns, including yours. They have been active in planting trees, restoring habitat and preserving species. They have attended legislative sessions to advocate for issues other than their own. But those whom they have supported with their time and money have too often not returned the favor. They want no special rights or treatment above and beyond what is the birthright of every other American. They simply want the full benefits and responsibilities of citizenship, which they are actively and selectively denied, too often by those whose religion should foster, rather than frustrate, acceptance of the outcasts.
Gays and lesbians have worked on your campaign but, as you know, they have been concerned, to say the least, by your invitation of Rick Warren, an avowed opponent of homosexual rights, to give the invocation at your Inauguration. Regardless of your reasons for giving him that place of prominence, I ask that you consider now the sensibilities of your allies. Remember the setback they endured by the passage of Prop 8 in California. Remember the years of struggle for the right to be who they are and to be accorded the rights taken for granted by straight Americans. Their struggle is similar to that of African Americans, who also were denied their human rights because of ignorance and bigotry.
I urge you to make your priority the liberation of our homosexual citizens to bring to our communities all they have to offer without fear of violence or exclusion from the fellowship of service that you ask of all of us. They have served America well and selflessly, and it is past time for America officially to correct the wrongs that they have too long endured from its citizens and government.
With hope for a better future built for and by ALL Americans,
John McAndrew, Santa Fe, New Mexico