29 October 2009

Don't know, don't care.

I used to think that Barack Obama generally understood the issues surrounding LGBT civil rights, but he just didn't particularly care (except to the extent his vague expressions of support for somebody else to do something helped him raise money).
Now I must concede I was wrong.
He doesn't understand the issues. Want proof?
EXHIBIT A: Yesterday, President Obama had this to say in front of a military audience with regard to his signing of the Matthew Shepard Act (which adds perceived sexual orientation and disability to the existing federal hate-crimes law).
After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we've passed inclusive hate crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are.
That short sentence is wrong in at least 4 ways:
1. The MSA wasn't a standalone bill that triumphed over "opposition and delay," it was amended to the Defense Authorization Act to force its natural opponents to vote for it.
2. A victim's nationality, race, and religion have been relevant to federal hate-crimes law since 1969.
3. Hate-crimes laws are simply sentencing enhancements, which provide for an additional punishment to a convicted violent crime perpetrator. It doesn't become relevant until the crime is complete, so it's kind of a stretch to say hate-crimes laws "protect" anybody, except in the general sense that any successful prosecution protects society.
4. The MSA doesn't selectively protect based on "who they love." If a heterosexual is gay-bashed by mistake, the perpetrator/s can now be subject to a sentencing enhancement. Who a victim loves is utterly irrelevant.
EXHIBIT B: While running for president, Obama promised:
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.
Maine duly passed legislation recognizing same-sex couple's full equality in family and adoption laws, which law is now being contested via a "people's veto" referendum as Question 1.
Has Obama "used the bully pulpit to urge" support for Maine's equality legislation or condemn efforts to strip that right from LGBT citizens?
In fact, the administration apparently doesn't know what the hell is going on in Maine. Obama's chief law-enforcement officer, Attorney General Eric Holder, doesn't know what Question 1 is. He got buttonholed yesterday by Corey Johnson. They shared this exchange:
JOHNSON: You were in Maine earlier this week and were asked about Question 1, which would take away same-sex marriage. You didn't comment on it at the time but would you like to clarify?
HOLDER: Well, what I said was that the President has indicated, and I personally favor the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and that is something we are working to do.
JOHNSON: And the referendum in Maine — would you like to speak further on that?
HOLDER: I don't really know enough about the referendum over there to comment.
Vague support for somebody else to do something, coupled with an absolute failure to comprehend the actual issues. Par.

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