Some of my friends have been discussing what should be the "gay agenda"-or even if there needs to be such a thing-after we obtain marriage and military access. Well, yes, there are a number of concerns that will still need to be addressed, but I think the whole discussion is a little premature.
Nationwide marriage will be a long time coming. It is still not permitted in 45 states, and expressly forbidden in a majority. So obtaining marriage will be a long, hard slog through the courts and legislatures, and probably several public referendums. States with sizable evangelical populations, especially in the South, will be resistant. And the U. S. Supreme Court is not likely to rule on the issue until a substantial majority of states have already approved gay marriage-just as it ruled against sodomy laws only after most states had already struck down their own sodomy laws.
And while I hope I am wrong, I fear that any change from Don't Ask, Don't Tell will not be a clean rejection of the anti-gay policy but some sort of compromise measure that doesn't allow complete freedom for gays. Even if there is a clean rejection of the policy, there are plenty of pockets of anti-gay sentiment in the military that will need to be addressed. The evangelical dominance at the U.S. Air Force Academy is only one example.
But putting those issues aside, are there other issues of concern to gays that our community should address? One obvious one is second-parent adoption for gay couples. It is absurd and simply discriminatory to say that one parent can adopt a child but not the other if the adopting couple are gay or lesbian. The main person who would benefit from such a policy change would be the child who would be guaranteed a loving parent with legal rights to the child if the adopting parent dies.
Another issue is the decent treatment of aging gays in nursing homes and elder care facilities. All of us, if we are lucky, will live into ripe old age and want to be treated with dignity and respect. But not everyone will share my own positive experience in a nursing home. The elderly are the least gay-accepting demographic in the country, and while that may slowly change, it is not changing very fast. Aging gays will need patient advocates to make sure they are getting treated as they deserve, and visitors to keep up their sprits and do occasional small favors. In addition, many aging gays have a need to feel useful and relevant in some way, not just feel that they are being put out to pasture. We as a community need to find ways to make use of that desire.
A third candidate issue is the treatment of gay and lesbian youth in and around schools. We all know plenty of stories of young gays and lesbians who are bullied and harassed in schools but whose schools do little or nothing to correct the situation. The youths need mentors, and people willing to take their concerns to school administrators and counselors. We also need to press for the inclusion of gay materials in school curriculums-history, literature, social studies, etc., to help inhibit the development of anti-gay attitudes.
Even assuming that every gay person who is in prison or jail is there for a good reason, no prison sentence should carry the additional penalty of sexual assault. Several studies have attested to the presence of sexual assault of gays and other vulnerable prisoners-assault by other prisoners and sometimes even by guards and prison staff. This is a situation that needs to be monitored and addressed.
And finally, we need to find ways to address the homophobia in evangelical and Pentecostal churches in the black and Latino communities. This is not something white gays can do. It is something that African American and Latino gays themselves can do most effectively. But we can help (when asked) with financial contributions, advice, etc.