June 28, 2009

CNN's Frediricka Whitfield talks to GLADD incoming President Jarrett Barrios about President Obama's upcoming meeting with leaders of the gay community on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

WHITFIELD: Gay pride activities shift into high gear this weekend with marches in New York, San Francisco, gay marriage tops a long list of issues affecting the gay and lesbian community. Joining me from Boston is Jarrett Barrios he is the incoming president of GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Good to see you.

JARRETT BARRIOS: Hi Fredricka, how are you?

WHITFIELD: I'm doing good. So, as early as this Monday. This is a big weekend and the big week coming up for you, because this Monday you are among those invited to White House to talk to the president about what?

BARRIOS: About fundamental equality in a time that it's the 40th anniversary of Stonewall.

WHITFIELD: What do you expect to -- what kind of commitment do you expect from the White House? Or what kind of advancement are you looking for from the White House? Because there has been some criticism in recent months the White House has not been doing enough, quickly enough as it pertains to gay and lesbian rights?

BARRIOS: You know, I think that first of all we are appreciative, or I for one, am appreciative that the president has decided to commemorate Stonewall. This is a very important symbolic act from the White House. Stonewall goes back to 40 years this week to when few folks who used to go to a bar and couldn't go -- breaking the law when they went to a bar, stood up to the police and stood up to blackmail and discrimination. And we mark this, we remember this, as sort of the first time we started asking for equality.

And I think what's going on today is the same thing. It's really asking the president, and really, America, to recognize the same basic rights, the stuff that all of us take for granted as Americans, but that gay and transgender Americans can't take for granted.

In 30 states it's legal to kick somebody off their job just because they're gay. In 37 states just because they're transgendered and that really goes against the grain of what America is about.

You know, if you live, you work hard, you play by the rules, you should be able to be valued for what you do and shouldn't be kicked off the job. That's the kind of stuff that we are talking about.

WHITFIELD: A few things have transpired, not just this coming week, the plaintiff at the White House acknowledging the 40th commemoration of Stonewall, but also at the early part of this month talking about Gay Pride Awareness Month making sure the rest of America would acknowledge that. And then there was, I guess there is still some indecision about "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and where the White House stands on that. Do you feel like you're getting mixed messages from the White House? Or do you have an opinion on that?

BARRIOS: Sure, sure. "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is a statute that forces service members who are gay, out of the military. These are -- many of them, decorated veterans who are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq at a time when we need them. Seventy percent of America thinks they should stay in the military and it's our belief, or it's my belief that the politician should follow the public on this one and that we should repeal that.

Now that's the charge of Congress, but I think that leadership on all accounts, from America, from the president and from Congress could really help.

WHITFIELD: OK, and what do you look forward as you meet with the president. Do you have high expectations or any expectations at all, what's the plan?

BARRIOS: Well, I got two expectations. First of all I am getting my 17-year-old son, who is the one who is most excited about going, I think he'll be the most excited kid in the room, is going to get to meet the president.

I'm a little more interested in what the president has to say, because there are a lot of things that need to be done to make America follow through on its promise to its gay, lesbian and transgender citizens. We've a lot of work to do, not just discrimination in employment, but issues around marriage. Loving, committed couples in 45 states have no protections, the ability have no protections at law to take care of one another.

These are issues which present not just the president, but state legislatures, and citizens around the country. We need to take our case, not just to the White House, but to America. That America is ours too and that the promises of America. The things we learn in grade school, liberty and justice for all, that there is no exception for gay people. That all means all. And that what we would like is just the opportunity to, when we work hard and play by the rules, to really have the same chance to be protected and take care of our families.

WHITFIELD: Jarrett Barrios, thanks so much, of GLAAD, thanks for your time. Appreciate it. And good luck on your meeting at the White House this week.

BARRIOS: Thank you.

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