Obama was elected because of his message of hope and promises of change. One of those changes was the extension of equal rights to all citizens, to include LGBT Americans. However, we are less than 5 months into his presidency, and the Obama Administration has already gone back to the gay community a few times in attempts to smooth things over after the administration either hindered or blatantly ignored gay rights.
Let’s start with before the election, when Obama chose to remain silent on Prop 8. We knew it was a vexed issue and we wanted him elected, so we conveniently ignored it. Then, at his inauguration, there was the Rick Warren fiasco, which angered us, but we ultimately shrugged it off.
And what about each of the gay marriage wins since he assumed the presidency? Why has he remained overtly silent with each of these major victories? Maybe because he is choosing not to get involved with the smaller issues in order to make it a bigger, federal issue? Besides, the economy had been plummeting and we accepted his gift of nothing because we assumed he was merely preoccupied.
Next, there was the complete disregard of gay issues during the online “town hall” in March. Then, Obama’s campaign promises to repeal DOMA and DADT were quietly removed from the White House’s website. The Administration claimed WhiteHouse.gov was to list successes rather than plans, which we all knew to be a load of crap, but we let that slide too.
Now, Obama’s Administration has filed this brief with the Department of Justice in support of DOMA…and the issue has won the Administration a plethora of backlash, so Obama sent his highest-ranking openly-gay official, John Berry, to speak with The Advocate over the weekend.
Let me just stop here for a second and say that (1) I find it rather tragic that the highest openly-gay member of the Obama Administration is the director of the Office of Personnel Management. Yeah, it may be a huge position, but it is by no means very up there in rank as far as the presidential cabinet is concerned. It’s almost as if Obama thought, of man to show that I promote equality I am going to have to throw a gay person in here somewhere…what do I have open still? And, (2) in what respect is the director of the Office of Personnel Management qualified to be the de-facto representative to the gay community? Is it merely because he is gay? This issue is clearly a legislative issue and a Department of Justice issue, not a personnel management issue. Do we not deserve a representative that can actually work for us at the White House instead of just the one gay guy you could find?
Alright, back to the issue at hand: This is what John Berry told The Advocate:
- There is no secret deal between Obama and the HRC to delay DADT to next year in order to focus on the hate crimes law right now.
- The first goal of the Administration is to “get [their] federal house in order…the president is going to be announcing something in the very near future that is going to be a very significant announcement…” making “sure that we get the benefits for the LGBT community that are equal to all other benefits provided to other federal employees.”
- Berry says the focus is on: hate crimes, ENDA DADT, DOMA. Hate crimes should be this week.
- Finally, “the pledge and the promise is that, this will be done before the sun sets on this administration…”
So wait…that sounds like none of this may be accomplished this term and they are assuming another four years in office, does it not? That is unacceptable and putting off issues as important as equal rights for all citizens or promises made during a revolutionary campaign is unfair and belittling to the gay community. If anything, it furthers the notion that gay citizens are second class citizens and their rights are not as important as those of heterosexual citizens. And, you may say that we need to give the guy a break…but the problem is, we already have given him numerous breaks, and every time we do, we get ignored and the Administration sets us back a few years with actions such as the DOJ filing (which didn’t need to vehemently support DOMA and compare gay marriage to incest or invoke marrying children).
Berry responds to the Administrations inaction saying:
“We ought not waste energy and angst attacking him when we should be focusing the energy and effort on getting 218 votes in the house and 60 votes in the Senate, and that’s where we ought to target the energy and the strength of this community and this president is with us, this is our agenda and it’s his agenda.”
But the gay community has done nothing BUT support Obama. We have significant weight within the electorate, and we represent a lot of money that many are arguing we should not be so generous with (as evidenced by the major gay rights groups pulling out of the Democratic National Convention).
Berry concludes, “We don’t have the votes to do Hate Crimes right now, we don’t have the votes to do ENDA, how are we going [to get “don’t ask, don’t tell]?”
WHAT?!?!? WHY THE HELL NOT?!?!? We have a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress, so WHY CAN’T WE GET OUR LEGISLATION PASSED INTO LAW? It’s because they don’t care. As Andrew Sullivan said,
“I suspect that this was a function not of malevolence but of negligence. The truth is: this administration is not hostile to gay equality; it just doesn’t give a damn about it.”
Well, it’s about time we had our voices heard. We need to see some real actions taken by this Administration to support equality for all citizens, and we need to see it soon. I agree with Bill Maher who said, “I’m glad Obama is president, but the ‘Audacity of Hope’ part is over. Right now, I’m hoping for a little more audacity.”