Readers of this blog know I just adore my friend Pedro Julio Serrano. Yes! Even though I totally ruined his recent surprise birthday party when I called to tell him I couldn't make it. The thing is that his partner Steven, who had sent the invites out, hadn't quite told PJ about the party. Steven now hates me, I'm sure.
On Friday, PJ was back on "Pura Politica" with host Juan Manuel Benitez and he was right on target when discussing President Barack Obama, last weekend's LGBT rights march in DC, comments made by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, and a worker's strike in Puerto Rico.
Of course, I've taken the liberty of translating the exchange (see above). Below is the translated transcript...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: In the 'lightning round' section, the [mayoral] candidates had to respond 'Yes' or 'No' to whether President Barack Obama had done enough for the rights of gays. Let's listen [video of last week's mayoral debate]. In other words, Mayor Bloomberg thinks he hasn't done enough, Bill Thompson says yes. With us, PEDRO JULIO SERRANO from the [National] Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Thank you so much for being here, Pedro Julio [PEDRO JULIO: Thank you, Juan Manuel]. And tell me, what's so important about this question in a mayoral debate...
PEDRO JULIO SERRANO: Well, clearly, politicians from the City of New York have to demonstrate complete knowledge of all topics, no? And the topic of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and bisexual community is an important topic, no? And, clearly, looking at a change in administration, with a Bush administration, which used us as a scapegoat for political gain, we now have a president who has promised to be a 'Fierce Advocate' for the rights of the gay community. So, clearly, there is true value in that... that in a city that many see as a place where the rights of the gay community can be recognized faster than in other places in the nation, they see New York City as an important place. That is why it has relevance in a mayoral debate.
JMB: Ah, did he screw up? Bill Thompson? When he said that Barack Obama has done enough? Because those of us who were there were able to hear some kind of 'Ooooh!' in the audience, as if they were left feeling disappointed with that answer.
PJS: I believe that the president hasn't still been able to do too many things because Congress still hasn't sent him legislation for the president to sign; so, this question here also has to be put into the context that Congress first approves a law, and then the President has to sign it or veto it. So, clearly, he could do more since - with an Executive Order - the president could - right now - stop the firing of lesbian, gay and bisexual people from the military [JMB: 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell']. He could eliminate it until Congress passes the legislation. But he could stop it momentarily while Congress takes action. So, clearly, there are things that the president could do, and there are things that have to wait for Congress, and you have to evaluate [the president] in a more open way.
JMB: Because President Obama, on Saturday night, this last Saturday, gave a speech before the Human Rights Campaign organization and promised once again that he wanted to end 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' - which is that law, that order in the military which says that gays, bisexuals, lesbians, transgender people can serve in the army as long as they are not open about their sexuality. He promised it once again. Do you believe in that promise? Or not?
PJS: Yes. I believe it. And I think we will be finally be able to evaluate Obama after he finishes his term if he met all the promises hr made to the gay community. President Obama has truly been a person who has spoken in front of African-American audiences, and before churches, no? about the importance of eradicating homophobia and that we all are treated equally. I think President Obama is still not at a place in which he is demanding complete equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, but he has been the first president who has mentioned the word 'transgender', who has promised to eradicate discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. So we are clearly seeing an openness that we didn't see in the last 8 years and that we hope, truthfully, that he is able to meet with his mandate - when he is done - towards securing equal rights.
JMB: OK, but many in the community don't think the same way as PEDRO JULIO. That the president is not delivering on his promises and, the day after he gave that speech we talked about, before the Human Rights Campaign, tens of thousands of people marched in the capital to protest what they see as too slow a rhythm on these reforms. A lot of them, in this community, were not in agreement with this protest. Why, PEDRO JULIO...
PJS: Well, I have to say that I'm clearly convinced that a tardy justice is no justice. In other words, I am in agreement that this has to be addressed immediately. I would like it if tomorrow - more than that - today! I wish we already had all rights that the rest of society enjoy. But, clearly, we also have to see that there is a political process, and in the state of rights that we have, laws have to be approved, and the president would then have to sign them. So, clearly, the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force was also marching there in Washington, which is the organization for which I work, and we were clearly demanding, not only from the president but also from Congress - and i believe looking past Congress and the president and the political system - demanding from society that they embrace us as the human beings we are; as their sons, brothers, friends, co-workers, who are also part of this society, and that we deserve the same respect and dignity than everyone else.
JMB: And, before we leave, you also marched in Puerto Rico on Thursday...
PJS: Indeed. The gay community joined the national strike in Puerto Rico because the great majority of the community in Puerto Rico is a... is part of the working class, no? and has seen itself affected. I have friends, and family members who have seen themselves affected by these firings, no? which have been unjust and immoral, and, clearly, in the gay community, the situation is aggravated, because they not only are fired but they also lack legal protections right now so that they can protect their employment and their lives, and can have access to the same sustainment that the rest of society enjoys.
JMB: As always, PEDRO JULIO, many thanks for coming back to "PURA POLITICA".
Pedro Julio Serrano has his own Spanish-language blog (here) and was the first Spanish-language blogger to join the influential group of bloggers at The Bilerico Project.
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