Today in Gay and Women's Rights

I know we've all been preoccupied with that dude who's going to be the Republican veep candidate when the convention rolls around. But a few lines down, there's been some sweet news. 

In a first, we now have the very first openly gay brigadier general in the army. New general Tammy S. Smith had her wife Tracey Hepner pin the medal on in the ceremony. Just the thought of it makes me feel all quavery. How sweet is that? (Thanks to Rex Wockner for bringing this to my attention.) Here are some relevant quotes from The New York Times article about it:

[Smith] said in a statement that the Defense Department had made sexual orientation a private matter, but that “participating with family in traditional ceremonies such as the promotion is both common and expected of a leader.”

Sue Fulton, a spokeswoman for OutServe, a two-year-old organization of lesbians and gay men in the military, said Sunday that it was “highly unlikely” that General Smith was the only gay officer of her rank. She called General Smith’s public acknowledgment significant.

“I would say that it’s important to recognize ‘the first,’ because then the next person doesn’t have to be first,” said Ms. Fulton, a 1980 West Point graduate. “Once we get over each ‘first,’ each hurdle of ‘Well, that’s never been done before,’ it makes it a nonissue going forward.”

Second, for the first time ever, there will be an equal number of men and women moderating the U.S. presidential and vice presidential candidate debates this fall. It's also the first time in twenty years that a woman will moderate a presidential debate. You may have heard already that CNN's Candy Crowley will be one of the moderators, and that ABC's Martha Raddatz will moderate the veep debate. In a very nice little footnote, three high-school girls from Montclair, New Jersey believe that their petition, with 180,000 signatures, helped the debate commission make its choices. As they told NPR:

AXELROD: When little girls turn on the TV and see a man up there asking the questions again and again and again, for 20 years, it sends a very clear message that for whatever reason this is a man's job. And it's time for that message to stop being sent.

CORNISH: We talked to Axelrod last month when she came to D.C. to press her case. Today, she told us that although they never heard back from the commission, she thinks their message got through.

Let's hope it doesn't take another twenty years before equality strikes again.