15 June 2009

Yet more "fierce advocacy."

In February 2008, Candidate Obama issued the following open letter to the LGBT community:
I’m running for President to build an America that lives up to our founding promise of equality for all — a promise that extends to our gay brothers and sisters. It’s wrong to have millions of Americans living as second-class citizens in this nation. And I ask for your support in this election so that together we can bring about real change for all LGBT Americans. Equality is a moral imperative.
...as president, I will place the weight of my administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to outlaw hate crimes and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act to outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws. I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples — whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage.
Unlike Senator Clinton, I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)...I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does. I have also called for us to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and I have worked to improve the Uniting American Families Act so we can afford same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married couples in our immigration system.
...having the right positions on the issues is only half the battle. The other half is to win broad support for those positions. And winning broad support will require stepping outside our comfort zone. If we want to repeal DOMA, repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and implement fully inclusive laws outlawing hate crimes and discrimination in the workplace, we need to bring the message of LGBT equality to skeptical audiences as well as friendly ones...
...I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all LGBTAmericans....I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country. To do that, we need leadership that can appeal to the best parts of the human spirit. Join with me, and I will provide that leadership. Together, we will achieve real equality for all Americans, gay and straight alike.
[emphasis added]
As luxurious, deep-pile, wall-to-wall bullshit goes, that was beautiful.
It's still bullshit, though. Here's the deal: there are two major upcoming statewide public votes that deal with substantive LGBT equality.
1. Referendum 71 in Washington state is a so-called "everything but marriage" law. It legislatively expands the rights of domestic partners to include unpaid sick leave for family crisis, family health insurance benefits, and allows partners to realize certain pension and death benefits. Pretty basic stuff.
Unsurprisingly, a group of religious zealots banded together to fight the expansion of DP benefits. They call themselves "Protect Marriage Washington," although this law has nothing at all to do with marriage, gay or otherwise. PMW has cannily and illegally concealed the identities of their donors, but even that can't mask the stench of the Catholic and Mormon churches. Here's the kind of paranoid whackadoo shit PMW proudly includes on their site: Val Stevens writes, "Are the homosexuals finally going to take control of our culture and push their depraved lifestyle on our children and families?" That's Washington State Senator Val Stevens, proving that no matter where or how high you go in America, you can still find some Alabama circa 1953.
2. In Maine, without being compelled to do so by a court, the legislature passed a law allowing marriage equality and the governor signed it in May.
The Roman Catholic church leaped into action to spearhead a religious coalition to repeal that law by referendum as Question 1. The marriage equality law already specifically states that no religion can be required or obligated to solemnize a same-sex marriage, but the religious jagovs argue that the law still somehow encroaches on their freedom to discriminate. Oh, and it's bad for the children. Seriously.
So what has President Bully Pulpit done as Fierce Advocate-in-Chief regarding these twin attacks on LGBT equality and separate-but-equality?
Well, after being badgered by Kerry Eleveld of the gay news outlet The Advocate, the White House finally released this written statement:
The President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples, and as he said at the Human Rights Campaign dinner, he believes "strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away." Also at the dinner, he said he supports, "ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country."
Yep. That's it: a list of passive verbs from Obama's recent speech to a gay PAC, reheated for the gay press. Now, I'm not saying I'm surprised that's all he could be bothered to do. During the Prop 8 fiasco, Obama's "fierce advocacy" was likewise limited to issuing a slightly different written list of passive verbs to a different gay group.
Mr. Obama, privately cheerleading friendly audiences is not helpful. As you said, having the right position is only half the battle, the other half being winning broad support by engaging skeptical audiences.
You also said "we." Get out of the wagon and pull.

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