According to a pool report from a reporter who attended the event, an audience member started shouting in support of an executive order on gay rights halfway through Obama's remarks.Of course, Madam Heckler was suddenly very surprised that anyone would actually dare respond to her heckling. She didn't know what to do. She was shocked, shocked I tell you!
"One of the things I don't do well is this," the first lady said. According to a pool report of the event, she then left the lectern, moved toward the protester and said the person could either, quote, "listen to me or you can take the mic, but I'm leaving."
In an interview, Sturtz told the Washington Post, that she was stunned by the first lady's response to her heckling.Yeah, how dare the First Lady talk back to me when I'm trying to heckle her? OMG! Like, get! Out!
"She came right down in my face," Sturtz told the Post. "I was taken aback."
As usual though, the heckler has her defenders. CNN columnist LZ Granderson took a shot at the entire Democratic party on the issue of gay rights because, you know, not all Democrats are on board with gay marriage, while in the same breath he argued how much gay voters need to look at the Republican party because they don't all want to hang people for having consensual sex. Granderson further argued that the heckling, while not fair, is merely a form of asking President Obama to sign an executive order banning federal contracting with companies that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
So going by this logic, the party that produced the first president to support marriage equality is not worthy of our support, and the president who repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell, mandated that hospitals respect the rights of same-sex couples, and refused to defend the federal marriage discrimination law in court should be viewed suspiciously. But we shouldn't be so harsh on the party that is defending DOMA in court, almost universally opposed the repeal of DADT, supports anti-sodomy laws, and votes against anti-discrimination laws as a block. We shouldn't be so harsh on the party that supports "states' rights" to jail gay people.
Let me be blunt: when you stab your friend in the eye and make excuses for your foe, you lose a friend and your foe strings you up. The LGBT rights movement - and the entire liberal intelligencia - would do well to learn this.
There is an eerie parallel between this propensity of the gay rights agitators to scream at the president because he hasn't signed an executive order to end discrimination among federal contractors (even though even they admit 92% of federal contractors on the Fortune 1000 already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and 58% based on gender identity) and the desire, back in 2009 and 2010 of the same agitators for the president to sign an executive order ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell during wartime. The president did not sign that executive order because he made the calculation that it would take the wind out of the sail of the Congressional urgency to end DADT for good. He was right. He promised to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and he did.
The screamers' argument would hold some water if they weren't the same crowd that blocked progress towards workplace equality back in 2007. After the Democratic takeover of Congress that year, Democrats advanced a bill to outlaw employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Senators, including Ted Kennedy, regretted the fact that gender identity could not be included in the bill because it lacked sufficient support. Liberal bloggers and activists from New York and California exploded in an uproar and killed the bill because it was too imperfect. Activists in California and New York - where they were protected against employment discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity - basically told gay people in Texas and Oklahoma and other states that progress that could protect their jobs wasn't worth the paper it was written on.
Had the people who are now heckling the administration and supporting hecklers not been the same crowd that back then proudly blocked anti-discrimination legislation, you might find me with some sympathy for the hecklers. But the truth is this: I have none. I have no patience, nor sympathy for those who heckle this president and this first lady on gay rights, for those who justify that behavior, those who make excuses for the Republican party, and those who agitate against this White House for partial action when they themselves ended hope for millions of gay people to live free of employment discrimination. These people are hypocrites, reactionaries and yes, dangerous to making real progress on equality.
June is LGBT pride month. I have no intention of demanding anything less than full legal equality for all people - gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, men, women. But I will not stand by while "activists" in my community try to malign the president who has been the most effective advocate of LGBT equality we have ever had in the White House. I will not stand by while "columnists" from our community try to tell me why the party with marriage equality in their platform deserves to be shunned while the party with support for anti-sodomy laws deserves a second look. I will not tolerate it when in the process of asking for respect for ourselves, we disrespect the First Lady who's been our ally through thick and thin. I will not tolerate treating our best allies like they were our enemies.
You want something done on employment discrimination? Do us all a favor and use the time you would be heckling the First Lady to instead call your member of Congress and your senators. Got some time left? Go sign up to help at a campaign to replace an anti-equality member of Congress. You want action? Demand it from your Congress, and if they won't give it to you, work like heck to elect a new Congress that will.
Michelle Obama speaks for me. She stood up to a bully (yup, you read that right), and she has my undying gratitude for it.