Thursday, December 6, 2007

Michael Guest: Bush's Example of How He Won't Support Equal Rights

Michael Guest, an openly gay man who counts his partner among his family, was appointed by George W. Bush to be the ambassador to Romania in 2001. News accounts of that appointment ceremony say that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell referenced Guest's partner positively in his little announcement speech.

Guest retired earlier this month after 25 years in the State Department. One is tempted to add Guest to the list of bureaucrats and appointees and elected Republicans who have jumped the sinking Bush/ultra-right ship in recent months.

Indeed, a little digging would likely produce a laundry list of odious Bush policies Guest has supported (or at least refused to resign over). And Guest's role in assisting the US intelligence services to operate so-called black sites in Romania where torture is believed to have occurred is unknown. (The State Department and the CIA have always been tight.)

But the story isn't about Guest's politics.

During his retirement ceremony, Guest said of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

“For the past three years, I’ve urged the Secretary and her senior management team to redress policies that discriminate against gay and lesbian employees. Absolutely nothing has resulted from this. And so I’ve felt compelled to choose between obligations to my partner — who is my family — and service to my country. That anyone should have to make that choice is a stain on the Secretary’s leadership and a shame for this institution and our country."

Guest's long-time personal courage in standing up for equal rights and treatment of LGBT people earned him the 2003 Task Force Leadership Award.

But as I ponder this situation it becomes clear to me that what Guest views as a "stain" cannot be separated from the politics of the administration he served. It cannot be separated from the administration's disdain for human rights in general.

What makes anyone think that an administration that has belittled and abused human rights convention in order to justify torturing people would not do the very same to LGBT people, whom neocons and the religious right, the base of the Republican Party, hate with unbridled ferocity.

Recall that opponents (like ultra right TV and radio personalities Pat Robertson and James Dobson) of basic laws that would merely add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing civil rights and hate crimes legislation justify their opposition by more or less claiming true believing Christians have the right to hate and commit violent acts against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

What makes Guest think these same people would go so far as to treat him and his husband fairly?

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