Essays on GLBT topics
A mother's open letter to
President Obama, 2009-JUN-23
Randi Reitan, a mother and gay rights activist, wrote the following open
letter to President Obama in mid-2009. This was shortly after:
|The Justice Department strongly defended the federal Defense of
Marriage act (DOMA) in court, |
|The Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy was being actively debated, and
|President Obama signed a memorandum that gave limited benefits to
same-sex partners of gay and lesbian federal employees.|
Dear President Obama,
I watched you preach on Father's Day and my heart was touched by your words.
I listened with a mother's heart. I have been blessed with four dear
children. Not a day goes by that I don't thank God for the gift my children
are to me.
You told the congregation that the family is the most important foundation.
You said we must take responsibility for those we love and we must set an
example of excellence for our children. We must give our children dreams
without limits and we must teach them the importance of having empathy for
others. We must teach them to stand in another's shoes to know another's
pain and their challenges so we can lift them up.
You said when you were younger you thought life was all about yourself and
now you realize life is about leaving this world a better place for our
Your words touched this mother's heart but they also made me wonder if you
are truly living your words.
I wonder if you are living those words as you listen to the gay community.
There isn't a newspaper across this great nation that has not shared the
news of the gay community's fight for equality. You must have heard their
pain when your administration affirmed DOMA with their brief. You must have
heard their pain as one after another brave and loyal gay soldier has been
kicked out of the military because of DADT. You must have heard their pain
as Prop 8 snatched marriage away from gay couples.
My youngest child is gay. As parents we were ignorant about homosexuality
when Jacob came out to us as a 16 year old young man eleven years ago. We
embraced him and we told him we loved him that night, but we were clueless
about what it meant to be gay.
We had to educate ourselves. Another part of your message on Sunday
addressed the importance of education. I ask you now to educate yourself
When we visited with the medical community on our journey to understanding
we learned that homosexuality was simply the sexual orientation our son was
given. We learned it was not a choice that Jacob made. We were told it was a
given for him and we as his parents should encourage him to embrace his
orientation and live his life with dignity and respect.
This began a new chapter in our lives. We learned to live in the empathy you
extolled. We met hundreds of young gay people who have had such difficult
lives because of the ignorance of our society. We have listened to pastors
condemning gays and teaching others to do the same. We have felt the pain of
discrimination as our son has been harassed with words and attacks. We have
listened to young people with tears in their eyes share that they have been
rejected by their own parents. We have watched as our son tried to enlist as
a gay man and was instead led away in hand cuffs.
We also took responsibility as you asked parents to do on Sunday. We have
spoken out, marched and led rallies. We have been arrested numerous times
doing civil disobedience to try to bring the issues of injustice to light.
We have poured our financial resources into programs and agencies that work
to educate the people. We have lobbied at the Capitol in our state of
Minnesota and in Washington, DC. We have written hundreds of letters to law
makers, pastors, teachers and now to you our President.
Our country needs your voice on this issue. I am impatient to see my dear
son live his life with full equality. Can you imagine if one of your
daughters had equality and the other did not? That is the reality for every
family with a gay child. It is heartbreaking and it is wrong.
You may not be able to lift DADT today. You may not be able to end DOMA
today. You may not be able to bring marriage back for the gay community in
California today. But, as our president, you can move legislation that would
right those wrongs. You can sit down with my son and others and listen to
their stories so you can stand in their shoes with empathy. You can address
this nation about the terrible discrimination the gay community faces in our
country. You can live out your campaign promises on some level.
Your final lesson in your sermon was on the gift of faith and hope. You
spoke of a hope that insists that something better is waiting for us. You
spoke of your faith and your love of Jesus. The Jesus that I know would not
make outcasts of God's beloved children. The gay community has been made
into outcasts by many in our churches. We need to hear from you that no one
is less than another. The greatest commandment that Jesus taught was to love
one another as He loves us.
You talked about the importance of fathers teaching their children. If you
don't address the issues of equality for the gay community, the
discrimination will not end. Your daughters are watching you. They are
learning from you and so are all the sons and daughters in this country.
You can be a president who not only embraces equality but who fights to see
the day all God's children actually live it. To be able to bring equality to
a group of people should be seen as not only a duty of justice but an honor
of the highest level. You must be the one to lead our country by setting an
example of excellence in treating all Americans with equality in all areas
I sat on the lawn in front of our nation's Capitol on that cold day in
January when you took the oath of office. My heart filled with hope that day
because I believed the words you spoke as you campaigned. Those words seem
hollow to me now.
I ask you with tears in my eyes, with pain in my heart and with a mother's
enduring love for her dear children..... please bring equality ... true full
equality to my son and to all in the gay community.
A few responses by readers of Ms. Reitan's letter:
|"yakaloot:" "Your letter is so sincere and heartfelt. Thank you
for sharing it with all of us. Thank you for sending it to the President.
Mr Obama seems like a genuine and honest man, so I have no doubt that he
will get rid of these homophobic policies that hold so many back from
living a life of equality. Millions of us, straight and gay, are waiting
for the day he fulfills his promises to the gay community. It cannot come
soon enough. Putting it off longer just doesn't make sense. What is more
'pressing' than equality for everyone? Thank you for writing."|
|"We-are-the ones:" "What a beautiful letter.
Please send a copy to Congress as well, both the House and the Senate as
only Congress can pass legislation to repeal DADT and they can so
quickly and completely."|
|"Purcy:" "What a beautiful letter! Thank you for sharing. Your
pain, your pride, and your perseverance are very touching. Your family is
lucky to have you! I am anxious for the day when equality for everyone is
a reality. I've never understood how it could make anyone feel better to
know that anyone else was denied something they took for granted. Yes, we
need to continue to hold President Obama accountable. Yes we can, and yes
|"ahuymbleopinion:" "Beautifully said. Thank you for all your
efforts on behalf of your son and all our sons and daughters for
acceptance, love, respect, and equality."|
|"oafishead:" "This post actually got me to think about gay
rights in a new light. Even though I have always supported gay rights, it
made me think of President Obama as a father and his own personal take on
the issue. He talks the good talk, and he certainly seems to be a good
father. I wonder how this good father will feel if, in a few years, one of
his daughters tells him she's gay? Will he feel he worked as he should for
gay rights? Look at Cheney, a sourpuss if there ever was one. He loves his
daughter. Obama is working, in my opinion, as slowly as he can get away
with to help gay citizens to achieve equality. Will he think his efforts
were/are enough if his own daughter(s) happen to be gay? That to me is the
problem. Gays are still "them" to President Obama. He'd feel completely
different if gays were "us". I hope he never has to feel the rage I felt
when my youngest brother died of AIDS during the Reagan administration,
which completely ignored the disease for 8 years. After all, it was just
"them". Not real people, not real citizens. Gay rights is family values.
Gays are us."|
|"IraqVet4Truth:" "Randi, thank you for your words. I'm deeply saddened
that we live in a society that pays so much lip service to liberty,
justice, and freedom, yet we still fall victim to prejudice and hatred
that have been engrained into our culture (thank you very much, dogma.)
Stay strong, dear friend -- there will come a day when the hate-mongers
and bigots are silenced by a united majority -- those Americans who are
willing to not only say, but to shout proudly that we are all created
equal. Just as with the civil rights movement and women's suffrage -- the
fight is not with our government, but with ourselves. Bravo to you and
your family...you are on the right side of things and humanity will thank
|"RJVegas": "How I wish my mother had had your wisdom. Although I had a
GREAT and loving mother, she could never get beyond what the Bible says
about homosexuality. However, the word homosexual didn't exist back in
biblical times. Translations and the intent of the writings were never
taken into consideration during the compilation of what we now know as THE
Bible. I applaud your love for your son and your willingness to tell it
from your heart. Thank you for a wonderful posting!"|
The Huffington Post, where Reitan's open letter was published, is a
liberal information source. Thus there was only one out of 100 responses that was
|Whinger:" "Biblically speaking, "Thou shalt not sleep in a bed with a man as a
woman" accordingly it's sinful in the eyes of God, but, no more sinful
than adultery or any other sin you care to name, and in the eyes on
non-believers no sin at all.
In any event we all have the God given right of free will to do as our
conscience guides, it is not for anyone to sit in judgment or condemn
someone for daring to be different." |
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not
necessarily still active today.
- Randi Reitan, "I Ask President Obama for Full Equality for my Gay
Son," Huffington Post, 2009-JUN-24, at:
Originally posted: 2009-JUN-24
Latest update: 2009-JUN-24
Author: Randi Reitan