Stepping Out

Something just brought to my attention in the current issue of The Gay & Lesbian Reviewís “BTW” column was the announcement back in January of the US Military Academy’s nominees for its Second Annual Cadet Choice Award. This honor goes to the movie character that “best exemplifies West Point leadership.”

The entire 4,400 membership of the Corps of Cadets voted this year to consider as candidates: Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight; Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg in Valkyrie; Dr. Henry Walton in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; John Hancock in Hancock; James Bond in Quantum of Solace; and, last and not alphabetically, Harvey Milk in Milk.

An e-mail to the academy has brought neither the name of the final winner, nor any discussion of the choice of Milk (who certainly embodied the required leadership traits), nor how that choice resonates with the military’s current Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy concerning GLBT service men and women.

Like so many incidents, the Corps of Cadet nomination is indicative of the many cracks and fissures that are opening in the country’s wall of homophobia and nonacceptance. No one incident is decisive, but each is a step forward. Iowa has become the third state and Vermont the fourth to legalize same-sex marriage.

New York Governor David Patterson introduced a gay marriage bill in New York with the assertion, “What we have is not a crisis of issues—we have a crisis of leadership. We’re going to fill that vacuum today. I’m going to put a stop to it.”

In a press conference on April 16, Patterson stated, “For too long, the gay and lesbian community have been told that their rights and freedoms have to wait. For too long, New Yorkers have been told that this dysfunctional government is going to make them wait for openness and real transparency. This is the real reform. The time has come to act.”

But the steps go back as well as forward. It is important to remember that gay marriage and many civil rights are in limbo in California until the decision on Proposition 8 is in (sometime in early June). Where would its retention leave the 18,000 couples legally wed in 2008?
What of the new ruling in the District of Columbia? The DC Council unanimously approved an amendment recognizing same-sex marriages performed outside of the District, a ruling that—if Congress does not quash it—would set up an interesting dichotomy between gay citizens who have certain rights, and others, living in the District, who do not.
We continue to watch and wait—but if a segment of the Long Gray Line can muster votes for gay leader Milk, a glimmer of light is at the end of the tunnel.

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