This year should be a year of celebration and hope for gay rights. Though it was passed in the end of 2010, the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” goes into the planning and execution stages this year. A policy that was created in 1993, 18 years ago, is finally on its way out. It is widely accepted throughout the American people that the individuals that are fighting and dying for our freedom to be out and proud should have the same freedoms they are defending. Now, finally, this is again reflected in our laws and policy. It still almost seems like a dream that the policy is finally dead- or at least in the process of dying.
Concealing one’s identity is something that all queer people understand. It is horrible to ask someone to stay in the closet to defend their country, but the effect of this policy was much more than having to make a personal choice to lie and hide one’s identity. This policy also greatly affected the loved ones, partners and families of our queer service members. As a currently active [therefore anonymous] Marine wrote, “The sacrifices gay and lesbian families make just to get through each day are more than most people can even fathom, and we do it in silence. I live every day with the knowledge that I could be fired simply for being honest about who I am. I lie about my loved ones and myself in order to survive.”
Another accomplishment in the recent weeks was the expansion of visitation rights at hospitals. The new federal regulation requires that all hospitals receiving federal funding such as Medicaid or Medicare must allow visitation rights to the partners and friends of critical patients regardless of their sexual orientation. This is a big change from the previous policy at most hospitals that allows only relations by marriage or blood to visit critical and dying patients. This allows people to decide who they want to visit them if and when they are in critical condition.
After putting this policy into effect, Obama’s first call was to Janet Langbehn. Lisa Pond, her partner of 18 years with whom she had raised three children, died alone in a hospital in Miami, Florida in 2007. Neither she nor any of their children were allowed to visit Lisa while she was dying of an aneurism that she suffered during a family cruise. She sued the hospital but the ferderal judge said there was no law that required the hospital to allow the visitation. Today such a law exists. From now on, none of the members of our community will have to die alone while loved ones wait outside.
Also riding the DADT wave was a recently changed to the U.S. passport forms. The State Department also just changed the passport application from “Mother” and “Father” to “Mother or Parent 1” and “Father or Parent 2”. This allows people to identify as having same-sex parents.
This all may be wonderful progress in terms of civil and human rights but it shouldn’t stop here. There are some other rights for which we still need to fight. As a queer community bound by the Jewish values and morals, we must act to continue expanding the rights of all queer Americans. We must support other changes such as more gender-neutral language on federal forms, assurances that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide proper assistance to gay and lesbian people and their children during disaster relief efforts and a nondiscriminatory policy for the Transportation that addresses the treatment of transgender air passengers.