On the need for equality:
When yet another Arabic translator was thrown out of the Army this month for being gay, Jon Stewart nailed the self-destructive Catch-22 of “don’t ask”: We allow interrogators to waterboard detainees and then banish a soldier who can tell us what that detainee is saying. The equally egregious Defense of Marriage Act, a k a DOMA, punishes same-sex spouses by voiding their federal marital rights even in states that have legalized gay marriage. As The Wall Street Journal reported, the widower of America’s first openly gay congressman, Gerry Studds of Massachusetts, must mount a long-shot court battle to try to collect the survivor benefits from his federal pension and health insurance plans. (Studds died in 2006.) Nothing short of Congressional repeal of DOMA is likely to rectify that injustice.On American Idol (AKA Pop Culture):
In the talent competition’s climactic faceoff, the song picked for one of the two finalists, Adam Lambert, was Sam Cooke’s soul classic, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
On parallels to the Civil Rights Movement:
Cooke recorded it in January 1964. Some four months earlier he had been arrested when trying to check into a whites-only motel in Shreveport, La. “It’s been a long, long time coming,” goes the lyric. “But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.” Cooke, who was killed later that same year in a shooting at another motel, in Los Angeles, didn’t live to see his song turn into a civil rights anthem. He could not have imagined how many changes were gonna come, including the election of an African-American president who ran on change some 44 years later.
Cooke might also have been baffled to see his song covered by Lambert, a 27-year-old white guy from San Diego, on Fox last week. But the producers of “American Idol” knew what they were doing. With his dyed black hair, eyeliner and black nail polish — and an Internet photographic trail of same-sex canoodling — Lambert was “widely assumed to be gay” (Entertainment Weekly), “seemingly gay” (The Times) and “flam-bam-boyantly queeny” (Rolling Stone). Another civil rights movement was in the house even if Lambert himself stopped just short of coming out (as of my deadline, anyway) in the ritualistic Ellen DeGeneres/Clay Aiken show-biz manner.In the end, Lambert was runner-up to his friendly and blander opponent, Kris Allen, an evangelical Christian from Arkansas. That verdict, dominated by the votes of texting tween girls, was in all likelihood a referendum on musical and cultural habits, not red/blue politics or sexual orientation. As the pop critic Ann Powers wrote in The Los Angeles Times, the victorious Allen also has a gay fan base, much as Lambert has vocal Christian admirers.
As Wolfson reminds us in his book “Why Marriage Matters,” Dr. King addressed such dawdling in 1963. “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait,’ ” King wrote. “It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ ”
The gay civil rights movement has fewer obstacles in its path than did Dr. King’s Herculean mission to overthrow the singular legacy of slavery. That makes it all the more shameful that it has fewer courageous allies in Washington than King did. If “American Idol” can sing out for change on Fox in prime time, it ill becomes Obama, of all presidents, to remain mute in the White House.