Washington, D.C. -- National and Washington, D.C. gay and lesbian rights leaders are calling on closeted Members of Congress to come out as that institution debates the anti-gay "Defense of Marriage Act," or DOMA.
In a full-page ad in the July 26 edition of The Washington Blade, a gay newspaper, the activists are calling on closeted gays and lesbians in Congress to "end your silence and defend your community in this time of unprecedented hostility."
DOMA, passed by the House last week and expected to pass the Senate as early as this week, proactively denies same-sex couples the basic rights currently provided as privileges to heterosexual couples who choose to marry.
"This is apartheid legislation," said Joel Lawson, a Washington, D.C. activist who helped organize the ad effort. "DOMA codifies discrimination. It is 'special rights' for heterosexuals, and every Member of Congress has an obligation to oppose it, especially gay or lesbian members. We can no longer afford their silence."
"Gay and Lesbian Members of the House still have the opportunity to come out and shatter the myths that gave birth to DOMA," said Lawson. "Gay and lesbian Members of the Senate must speak out as that body prepares to vote on this anti-gay legislation."
Mickey Wheatley, a civil rights attorney and gay activist, added, "Lesbian and gay members of Congress have a special and historical responsibility to speak out from their own life stories against the outrageous attacks on gay and lesbian people that the DOMA legislation and congressional debate represent."
"The silence of the members of the Congressional Closet has been deafening," said Martin Childers, another Washington, D.C. activist. "They must come out. They must speak out. Our freedom and their integrity are at stake."