A debate is raging on whether to have a national gay March on Washington in October. Most leaders I have spoken with are against the idea, preferring to keep scarce financial and human resources in the states. Others, such as myself, are largely ambivalent. A galvanizing force, however, is giving new life to this idea and his name is Barack Obama.
The President is in serious danger of motivating a huge mass of gay people to stream into Washington for the simple joy of standing in front of the White House and giving him a piece of their minds. This frustration may lead to an embarrassing situation for the President, where former supporters mount the largest anti-Obama pep rally not fronted by Sarah Palin.
Today, an array of GLBT leaders expressed their dismay with the President by pulling out of a Democratic National Committee fundraiser. The action is in protest of a noxious legal brief submitted by the Department of Justice. It implausibly defended the heinous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by using anti-gay arguments that likely drew a standing ovation from Rev. Pat Robertson.
DOJ's paper included a comparison of gay relationships to incest and opposed same-sex relationships on the absurd basis that it would cost taxpayers money (Don't gay people pay taxes?). HRC also sent a pointed letter to Obama highlighting the betrayal felt by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
"I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument, presented in federal court, implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones," wrote HRC's President, Joe Solmonese.
The deteriorating situation is exacerbated by confusion about who will push for equality. The Obama administration claims to be awaiting congressional action on a number of issues, including ending employment discrimination, eliminating DOMA and repealing Don't Ask/Don't Tell. Meanwhile, Senate majority leader Harry Reid is waiting for Obama to act, as well as the House of Representatives. The GLBT community has become a hot potato that the Democrats do not seem to want to touch.
Aggravating matters was John Berry, the highest-ranking gay official in the administration. In an interview with The Advocate, he said that Obama's timetable to enact his pro-gay campaign promises is "before the sun sets on this administration." So, now we have to wait 4-8 years, while watching him suck up to Rick Warren on Day 1?
For what seemed like forever, Democrats told us that when the big bad Republicans went away, our lives would improve. Well, the Republican nightmare is over, so why do I still feel like I'm in the middle of a political Friday the 13th movie?
The Democrats took our money, our votes and our volunteer hours and now they tell us to wait patiently, like good little gays. As far as I'm concerned, if the donkeys can't deliver now, they can kiss my ass. The Democrats run the show in Washington and if they will not act like a majority party, then they do not deserve to be one.
This is not about making unreasonable policy demands, but about the Democrats recognizing the daily struggles faced by gay people. A new report by The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs said, "violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people increased 2% from 2007 to 2008, continuing the trend of a 24% total increase in 2007."
Yesterday, I read about a lesbian who was barred from visiting her partner in a Fresno hospital, and as a result her partner received the wrong medication. Last week, I was in conservative Western Michigan where I spoke to young people who were nearly driven to suicide as a result of anti-gay attitudes.
We need a president who recognizes these evils and demonstrates the courage and leadership to enact the change he so eloquently promised during his campaign.
If Obama continues down the current path it will come at a steep price. When Bill Clinton settled for Don't Ask/Don't Tell, it solidified the growing perception that he was "Slick Willie." By turning his back on the gay community, Obama will play into the idea, stoked by Hillary Clinton and exploited by John McCain, that he is a man of beautiful, yet empty words.
What Obama fails to understand is that when poetry does not translate into policy, and hope turns hollow, the American people will begin to tune him out.
I'm still undecided about the wisdom of a march on Washington, but I am decidedly fed up with my political "friends" marching all over my dignity and taking my support for granted. If the majority party does not cough up the votes to protect our families, we should close down our generous coffers.
Update: Today, Obama will sign a presidential memorandum to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, but he will stop short of pledging full health insurance coverage.
This is a good start. Of course, the health care thing is perplexing, as gay people have been known to come down with colds too. However, let's not be ungrateful. Thank you Mr. President for this wise step. We do appreciate it and your action today has not gone unnoticed.
That said, we are not satisfied. If you agree that we are human beings and American citizens - than why should we not share in equal rights and be able to protect our families - just like anyone else? Why must we have any laws on the books that single out GLBT people and discriminate? Why not work in a swift manner to end discrimination and have it be your legacy? Why must another day pass where we are second class citizens?
Mr. President, we know you are capable of greatness. You are already an historic figure and a man of enormous achievements. We want to celebrate your administration and help reelect you.
But, the time has come to move beyond the campaign trail and do what is moral and just. We are watching and waiting and we hope we can celebrate you as the fierce advocate that you portrayed yourself as to gain our support.
There is still much work to be done.
I salute Pres. Obama on many initiatives and bills passed, Lilly Ledbetter, withdrawing troops from Iraq, shoring up financial markets, helping families facing foreclosure and so on. All important and needed. What is not needed is more of the same, ignoring GLBT issues he promised us during his campaign like "I support the complete repeal of DOMA". Promises not kept are promises broken and should Obama not follow through for the millions of American, taxpaying, hardworking members of the GLBT community, he surely will deserve the backlash he will reap.
posted by TexasCowboy, at
6/17/2009 3:45 PM
I agree, Tex, we have waited enough. I can't understand why O. is trying to placate the evangelical right and build consensus from a group that will never vote for him. As he well knows, he can't please all the people all the time, BUT he needs to come through with the repeal of DADT, DOMA, and finally spearhead legislation for equal rights for gay and lesbian people (includes the bt's). And that's for starters! When one starts hearing McCain's daughter and Dick Cheney pipe in for gay marriage, we just know that the Democrats aren't doing anything about us and the opportunists are jumping on our bandwagon. It makes me sick! Wayne, I'd say we march on Washington. Tired of being patient.
posted by richard schillen, at
6/17/2009 4:05 PM
I think it's time that we admit the obvious: Barack Obama is a fraud. He campaigned boldly and decisively, but now that he is in power, he is more intent on ensuring that he offends no one, and, in the process of doing so, satisfies very few. This man promised to "bring change to Washington," and he hasn't even remotely done anything that even resembles real change. We and the rest of the country have been bamboozeled.
Contrast this fraud with Spain's President Zapatero, who boldly pushed for same-sex marriage legislation despite the throngs of religious protestors in the streets of his country, and even touted the accomplishment when he successfully ran for reelection. Obama is hardly the leader that we were hoping he would be.
A real leader would have already halted gay discharges from the military. He would have signed an executive order instead of claiming that he's simply waiting for Congress to act. Harry Reid's recent statement that there are "no Senate co-sponsors" for repeal of DADT has revealed Obama to be a bald-faced liar. I am not terribly surprised, given the nature of most American politicians, but I am disappointed.
posted by Chris L., at
6/17/2009 4:42 PM
That March on Washington is a MUST!!!!!!!!!!!! I don't want to hear one word on why Obama is not doing anything but sitting on his ass regarding our issues. Those days are over folks. Our patience has been tried to no end and is no longer present.
posted by ewe, at
6/17/2009 9:49 PM
The 14th amendment. Obama is a former professor of constitutional law. His concerns are not with or for us.
posted by ewe, at
6/17/2009 9:51 PM
My spouse and I are terribly disappointed in Obama's failure to even BEGIN to address LGBT concerns in this country. From Donnie McClurkin (sp.?)to Rick Warren to the DOJ comparing marriage to incest, all Obama and his lot have done is to show teir contempt for GLBT Americans. I'm tired of earing, "It's just te first 100 days!" No, com Sunday it will be a good 150 days and we are STILL waiting...
posted by Merlyn, at
6/18/2009 1:19 AM
"Thank you Mr. President for this wise step. We do appreciate it and your action today has not gone unnoticed."
I noticed it, all right.
I recognized it as a slap in the face...a tossing of a bone. SOME benefits? But not health and retirement? To a select few, to a miniscule segment of our community?
I am not grateful for yesterday's bone. I don't consider it a gift, or even an advance. I consider it placation, and a slap in the face, at that.
Yesterday I wrote the President and clearly conveyed that I am heartbroken; in November I was elated, on Inauguration Day I was offended (i.e. Warren) and hopeful, and today I am appalled.
Obama has already lost my faith, and it's, what, only five months into his Presidency.
When a group of individuals is being oppressed, that group should NEVER be asked to compromise or wait on their civil rights, regardless of what obstacles the nation is currently facing.
Disagree about giving him a break. He's promised things he can't quite deliver. June was already pride month, how many feds are going to come out of the closet with NO JOB SECURITY, and the passport is just a cheap knockoff of a court order name change. Obama deserves a big Gay Pride parade!
posted by Frank, at
6/18/2009 11:06 AM
What galls me with Obama is that he tries to inject the word "equality" every time he's under pressure by LGBT voters to do something as he did when he signed the executive order granting some meager rights to gay federal employees. Somehow, he equates that with equality as he does with civil unions. To me, that is a loud and clear message that he believes in segregation only for gay citizens. He should stop with the bullshit and be honest and tell us that segregation is perfectly fine as long as we're gay and are only entitled to something less than the rest of society. The man is delusional and needs to take another look at the Warren court decision. He's learned nothing and has pandered to the religious right by allowing god to be in the mix....no different than the Clintons. Obama, just like the Clintons hasn't learned to put aside his personal beliefs that have NO business in determining the outcome of a basic civil right. Religious beliefs have NO place in the political process or electoral system.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
6/19/2009 8:47 AM