Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reclaiming Moral High Ground: Human Means Human, Foundational Ideals of Democracy

Leah McElrath Renna at Huffington Post, re: President Obama's pending statements this evening, as he issues his memorandum about benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees:

This evening, when President Obama signs this memorandum, I will be listening for him to strongly convey the humanity of LGBT people, our relationships and our families. I will be listening for him to begin to lay the groundwork for making the case that the limitations imposed by DOMA are not only unfair but that they are in violation of the very ideals upon which our nation was founded. This is not about President Obama's personal feelings or purported religious beliefs about marriage - this is about the right of couples who are married at a state level to have those marriages recognized at a federal level. It is about the President's responsibility to state clearly that equal protection for all means for just what it says.

Yes. The humanity of gay people. A humanity equal to his humanity, so that when he talks about the golden rule as the center of world religions, he implicates himself: what he would want done to him, if he were a human being experiencing oppression, he ought to do to others experiencing oppression.

The limitations imposed by DOMA are not only unfair but they are in violation of the very ideals upon which our nation was founded, so that we cannot move ahead with any agenda to rebuild a viable democracy by violating those ideals in the blatant way we're now violating them, when it comes to the social place we accord those who are gay.

It's about humanity, about the moral claims the humanity of others makes on us, and the moral imperative that flows from those claims. And it's about the central ideals of our participatory democracy, which cannot be rebuilt if we continue casting those ideals to the wind in how we treat the group among us whose claim to equality and respect impinges most strongly on the nation's conscience at present.

These are the only places the administration can go, if it wants to retrieve the moral high ground. They're where it has to go, if it expects any aspect of its human rights-based agenda to succeed.