Thursday, May 03, 2007

Quite an Honor

White House may veto hate crimes law - Politics -

Just this week George Bush got around to vetoing only the second bill of his entire presidency. The tally so far: Refused to allow funding for stem-cell research and wouldn't accept a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. I disagree with both of these stances, but at least they are based on something resembling a principle. (I know, the principle behind opposition to stem-cell research is a lie and the one behind Iraq is a dream, but let's be charitable.)

Now he's threatening his third veto. What's so important as to warrant this reaction? A bill that would add gender and sexual orientation to the hate crimes law already on the books in this country. Now, I get that Bush doesn't believe there should be a hate crimes law at all--in fact, strictly as a matter of law, it's hard to argue with him--but we have one. Why should it apply to hate crimes against some groups in the line of fire but not others?

Let me put it this way. If you're straight, you may not want to vacation in Alabama--but you could if you wanted to. But for a gay couple, the wide world of domestic travel is actually quite narrow. We're confined to all the blue islands amid the sea of red that is the United States. Sadly, much of the beauty of this country is hidden in the middle of all that red. And even if we get past the hotel clerk who's suspicious of two men checking in together, even if we get a room with two beds, and even if we remain as non-demonstrative as possible in public, the entire time we're in red America we have to be on guard. What kind of vacation is that? I can bite my tongue for a week, yes--but you never know when a word will pop out that you don't intend. When we moved in together, for example, the sliding rear door of the moving truck caught his finger and he shouted in pain. Having been in the same state for all of 24 hours, I already couldn't stop myself from exclaiming, "Honey, are you OK?"

"Honey." That one word could have gotten us killed if spoken at the wrong moment--even in the suburbs, but especially in the Deep South. And it popped out of my mouth one day into living together. What do you think would happen today?

Bush could sign this legislation and send a message to his own band of supporters, as they are exactly the people who need it: Even if you don't like the idea of homosexuality, violence against gays and lesbians simply for being who they are is absolutely unacceptable.

This legislation is symbolic, and not signing it is a symbol, too. A fist in the face of gays and lesbians, to be exact. You may not recognize it on your hands--Iraq may already have dyed them red, and the folks who will die because their conditions were not cured because you would not allow the research that could have saved them may have deepened the rouge--but the blood of the gays and lesbians who will suffer because of this veto is on your hands, too, Mr. President.

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