HEARERS OF THE WORD: Historical change comes slowly, sometimes

Recently political commentator Bill Maher spoke very critically about President Barack Obama. Maher, an unabashed Obama supporter, called the president out on topics ranging from health care reform to greater transparency in the White House.
To paraphrase, he said “This isn’t what I voted for.”
Perhaps the biggest bone of contention that Maher and many others who voted for Obama have with the president is over gay rights.
As a candidate Obama was a strong supporter of the “LGBT people,” or the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. He promised to end the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” policy and to fight for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. He hasn’t done either.
Clearly the recession has demanded the president’s attention, but many gays are growing impatient.
It’s an interesting historical footnote that the Big Bang of the gay rights movement happened in a New York bar reputedly owned by the Mafia.
On a Saturday night in June of 1969 police, as they frequently did, raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. That evening the largely gay clientele were just tired of being pushed around and their resistance sparked four nights of demonstrations and a sustained effort of political activism that continues today.
At that time, when consensual “sodomy” between adults was illegal almost everywhere, and the American Psychiatric Association still classified homosexuality as a “sociopathic” mental disorder, Obama was a grade-schooler in Indonesia.
The fact that Obama chose the Rev. Rick Warren, who has spoken sympathetically about gays – too much for some Christians, not enough for others – to deliver the prayer at his inauguration got tons of press. Warren opposes homosexual marriage, as does Obama, but hard-liners on both sides rarely appreciate moderation or nuance.
What didn’t get much press is that during rallies aimed at black Southerners candidate Obama had the Rev. Donnie McClurkin, a black gospel singer who said he had been “delivered” from homosexuality, singing at fundraisers.
I’m not sure what to make of all this but I know that political expediency usually usurps ideological – or religious – conviction.
Still, when one considers that things have changed so radically in the span of 40 years, it’s pretty incredible.
When Obama was a child Time Magazine still called homosexuality “a pathetic little substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life.”
Last year, Obama was elected president on a platform that advocated strongly for equal, homosexual rights. In the larger span of history, that’s pretty rapid change.
Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com

Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio