LETTER FROM MEL WHITE
TO PRESIDENT CLINTON
ON INAUGURATION DAY
Minister of Justice and Reconciliation
The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches
The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, President
The United States of America
Inauguration Day, January 20, 1997
Dear President Clinton,
Four years ago, lesbian and gay Americans cheered your acceptance speech and danced for
joy at your Inaugural celebration. This year most of us have ceased cheering and few will
come to dance. Instead, in Dupont Circle and across America people of faith are lighting
Justice Candles that will burn throughout your second term. We hope our flickering lights
will remind you:
First, that we are deeply grateful for what you and the Vice President have done to
bring lesbians and gays to the table and to support our struggle for equal rights.
Second, that there is much more to be done to win equal rights, not just for lesbians
and gays, but for all who suffer from sexism, racism, poverty, and discrimination in any
Third, that we will work and pray to help you do it.
If we were having this conversation in person at the White House, it would be easier to
convince you that our Justice Candles are not a protest or a confrontation. We will light
the candles to honor your high office and to assure you that we understand the difficulty
you have in serving all Americans fairly.
At the same time, if you stop by Dupont Circle to light a Justice Candle with us (at 6
p.m. on Inaugural Eve or 6 p.m. on Inaugural Night) you will see the grief in our eyes and
feel our pain and disappointment. Your first election brought lesbian and gay Americans
hope that you would take a courageous and consistent stand to help us win our equal
rights. At the beginning of your second term, we are struggling to keep that hope alive.
In 1992, during your first campaign, you promised to help end our
second-class-citizenship and in the first months of your presidency it looked like you
would deliver on your promise. You invited our leaders to the White House. You heard the
stories of discrimination and violence against us and you were genuinely moved. You
included us in your speeches. You appointed several lesbians and gays to high office. You
promised us a powerful campaign to find a cure for HIV/AIDS and to mobilize federal
resources to help end the suffering. You read the Pentagon and Rand Corporation studies
that prove irrefutably that lesbians and gays serve with honor and courage in every branch
and at every rank of the military, and you promised to end the ban.
However, when you tried to keep your promise, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James
Dobson, and other religious extremists launched another furious misinformation campaign
against us. It's nothing new. They used the same kind of false and inflammatory rhetoric
to oppose granting equal rights to women and people of color. Misquoting a handful of
biblical texts to support their intolerance, hundreds of thousands of callers jammed
switchboards and threatened orderly governance at the White House, the State Department,
and the Pentagon.
They flexed. You flinched. We understand. We've been victims of their media blitzkriegs
before. In order "to govern the nation," you thought it best to pull back
from your commitment to end the ban. You felt it necessary to sacrifice our equal rights
for some "greater political good." From that day, things got worse
instead of better. You didn't end the military ban as you had promised. You didn't take a
stand against Colorado's anti-gay Amendment 2. You didn't propose legislation to preserve,
protect, or defend our rights. In fact, when you signed the Defense of Marriage Act you
joined with our adversaries to deny us the 175-250 rights and
protections that go with marriage.
In the meantime, while your Inaugural committee calls us to celebrate "An American
Journey," we are still being discarded by our families, evicted from our homes, fired
from our jobs, excommunicated by our churches, hunted down and hounded out of the
military, harassed, beaten and murdered by bullies simply because we're lesbian, gay,
bisexual or transgender. Our teenagers still commit one-third of all teenage suicides;
and our sisters and brothers continue to be ranked among the top three victims of hate
crimes in cities and states across the nation.
Mr. President, the "greater political good" you gained by moving away from us
towards "the middle" continues to cost individual lesbians and gays a terrible
price. We are hoping and praying that your re-election will free you from such political
expediency to do what is morally right. We thank you for your promise to support again
this term the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. But passing ENDA would be just the
At this moment religious extremists are launching new campaigns to end our right to
child custody, foster care, and adoption. They are working on dozens of homophobic
initiatives, determined to restore and enforce the "sodomy" laws. The extremists
want to burn our books, censor our art and media, prohibit our public gatherings, close
our community centers and churches, and ban our AIDS education programs. In the name
God, they are calling for Americans to end our rights and eliminate our influence
altogether. The most fanatic are calling for our quarantine and even for our death.
For the next four years our Justice Candles will burn. We hope you will see the light
and use your second term to help win equal rights, not just for lesbians and gays, but for
all who suffer sexism, racism and injustice in all its tragic forms. More specifically, we
|to provide courageous, determined leadership in the war against HIV/AIDS;|
|to continue your support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act;|
|to help lesbian & gay partners win the 175-250 rights that go with marriage;|
|to defend our rights to child custody, foster care, and adoption;|
|to stop the military inquisition and end the military ban;|
|to use your influence to include us in hate crime protections;|
|to use your powerful voice against the extremist campaign to eliminate us;|
|to help defeat the move to re-establish and/or enforce the "sodomy" laws;|
|to help us gain the equal rights (not "special rights") promised all
We also light our Justice Candles to remind ourselves to pray for you and to back our
prayers with actions that support you in this just cause. We, too, promise to give more
time and money during the next four years to help win justice for all who suffer
second-class-citizenship for any reason.
Mr. President, we are afraid that the extremists may win their war to superimpose their
will upon the nation. But we are even more afraid that those who could expose and defeat
them will remain silent. Dr. King once said, "Shallow understanding from people of
good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill
Please, sir, try to understand why we are not dancing at your Inaugural Ball. We stand
outside the White House in the cold, holding up our Justice Candles, feeling a little
foolish, consoled by the words that Adlai Stevenson spoke at Eleanor Roosevelt's funeral: "She
would rather light one small candle than curse the darkness." We light our
Justice Candles in that same spirit of love and support.
PS: Our Founder, the Rev. Elder Troy Perry, sends his congratulations and sincere
regards on the occasion of your second inauguration. Last year he celebrated with you.
This year he is lighting a Justice Candle hoping and praying that "you will
complete the work that you have begun for God's lesbian and gay children." As you
will remember, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches is the largest
Christian denomination in the world with a primary ministry to lesbians and gays.
The Rev. Dr. Mel White, Justice Minister, Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan
Community Churches 8704 Santa Monica Blvd., Second Floor, West Hollywood, CA. 90069
Phone:310-360-8640 Personal Fax: 714-494-4079 E-mail: RevMel@aol.com
Return to the Homosexual News page