These days, as they observe the world and their own country, American homosexuals must appreciate Charles Dickens as he considers the mid-18th century: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
Certainly, the world is full of places where homosexuality is still not only a sin, but a crime. In many countries, it can be punished by prison sentences of up to life and by execution.
Even in countries where gays and lesbians (or GLBTs, for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender) are protected by law, they often suffer from harassment and discrimination.
Consider Uganda, for example: the worst of times, indeed.
The times are better in America. Homosexuality has managed to emerge from its closet, and many Americans, though certainly not all, think that's a good thing.
Generally, federal, state and local laws prohibit discrimination against or harassment of a U.S. citizen based on sexual orientation.
A half-dozen states have legalized same-sex marriage, which would have been unthinkable not so many years ago. In fact, recently ABC News reported that Matt Katz and Aaron Lafrenz of Brooklyn received a congratulatory note from President Barack Obama on their nuptials.
The note may have been sent by mistake; the president has been equivocal on the question of same-sex marriage. But he did preside over the overdue abolishment of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
And last spring Obama's Justice Department began declining to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between only one man and one woman.
Even though some three-dozen states still outlaw same-sex marriage, in the United States the last couple of decades have seen a shift toward acceptance and equality in our attitudes towards GLBTs.
So it must be disquieting for American GLBTs -- especially the ones already serving in the military, often in combat -- to hear Gov. Rick Perry's new unashamed and unchallenged 30-second campaign ad that asserts that "there's something wrong" when gays can serve openly in the military and yet children can't pray in public schools.
Of course the thing that's wrong is the ad itself: children are permitted to pray in public schools, and they do; but public schools, quite rightly and in accordance with a reasonable reading of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, don't sponsor or sanction prayers in their facilities.
The other thing that's wrong is Perry's implicit assertion that gays should not be allowed to serve "openly" in the military, or perhaps not even at all.
In fact, GLBTs will be disappointed if they look for any encouragement or support for their issues among the other Republican candidates for president.
The exception is the ever-consistent Ron Paul, who believes that the question of same-sex marriage should be left up to the states and who voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Otherwise, most of the candidates tread lightly on GLBT issues -- a gay vote is worth as much as a hetero vote -- but all of them have signed a pledge to the National Organization for Marriage that commits them, among other things, to support a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman.
With regard to the military, Rick Santorum is probably the most outspoken: he wants to reinstate "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," though he says that gay soldiers who have already come out would not be expelled. Would they want to stay in?
During the Fox News/Google Orlando debate Santorum's supporters booed the gay American warrior who dared to raise the issue.
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