Thursday, June 30, 2011

President Obama: 'I've Met My Commitments to the LGBT Community' No Sir, you have not!

President Obama: 'I've Met My Commitments to the LGBT Community'
No Sir, you have not!

The fact Sir that you can make such an absurd statement betrays a grotesque ignorance of the inequality that remains enshrined in American law on a Federal level. Even more disturbing is your apparent insensitivity and cynicism to such inequality and the suffering, despair, destroyed lives, broken families and, as we witnessed last fall, tragic suicides of LGBT youth.

Let us visit some of those inequalities:

1. In those states where Marriage Equality is the law, Same-sex couples are denied federal recognition of their marriages. This means that the IRS, Social Security, INS do not grant to those couples and their children the rights that are automatically granted to heterosexual couples. In the real world Same-sex, couples and their children are taxed at higher rates. Those couples do not receive the Social Security benefits that they and their spouse paid into over a lifetime. A legally married person in Massachusetts (or any of the other states that recognize [d] their marriage) can have their spouse deported by INS, effectively destroying that family and causing incalculable trauma to both spouses and their children for a lifetime.

2. You signed legislation from the Congress that authorized you to repeal the unjust Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law on 22 December of 2010. To date, DADT remains enforced and members of our community are currently being discharged under this discriminatory law. It is within your power, as President, right now to issue a stopgap order that would effectively end these injustices that are destroying the lives and careers of innocent people. You have chosen not to issue that order.

3. As President of the United States you command, what your predecessor Theodore Roosevelt called “the Bully Pulpit.” You could have used your position to promote the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act [ENDA] that would have protected huge swaths of members of our community from wrongful termination and denial of benefits. You choose to do nothing.

What is most disturbing is that you have, and continue, to squander the opportunities that the people of this nation have placed into your hands. You appear to place Reelection to the Office, in which you are called to serve, above the interests of the people whose votes; sweat and treasure put you into that Office. Here is the truth regarding your much touted signing of DADT [that you have yet to enact]:

"White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs expounded on Obama’s commitment to legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as he acknowledged that the president hasn’t yet reached out to senators to lobby them on the issue.

Asked whether Obama had made any phone calls to “swayable senators” such as Susan Collins (R-Maine), who voted “no” on moving forward with the defense authorization bill in September, Gibbs replied that he doesn’t believe the president has spoken to the Maine senator on the issue."

Moreover, what moved Obama on DADT is reported in The Daily Beast,

"It’s critical for LGBT people to remember that a fulfillment that always heads Obama’s list—the dissolution of DADT—happened not since folks were calm with a occasional wink, though since groups like Netroots and GetEQUAL spurred him into action. The boss had been formulation to wait until 2011 to pull for repeal. But Lt. Dan Choi, a plainly happy Iraq War maestro who became a open face of antithesis to a policy, altered a diversion in Mar 2010 by chaining himself to a White House fence and removing vital media pickup. There was nonetheless some-more coverage a subsequent month, when another GetEQUAL romantic heckled Obama’s inaction on DADT during a fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

And that’s when things began to shift. According to GetEQUAL’s cofounder, Robin McGehee, a contributor from a White House pool emailed her immediately after a Boxer occurrence to say, “DADT hasn’t even been on this president’s radar, though now it’s a usually thing he’s articulate about.”

Even now, you continue to drag your feet on DADT certification. Your inaction leaves some in our community wondering if you will trade repeal of DADT to our opponents to obtain some political concession.

The best argument that your most ardent supporters/defenders in our community can muster is that you are acting out of political expediency and that you have done more than any other President has ever done for our community; let us take a closer look at those claims. The former argument serves as an apt explanation of why most people use the term “politician” as a slur. The latter argument is easily dismissed by the progress of history and that is due to the real world sacrifices of activists, people of moral conviction, and elected officials like Governor Cuomo who have honestly served our community, the people of New York, our Nation and World consciousness.

The only time we hear from you is when you want to take the credit for other’s work, when you have your hand extended for a contribution, or you need volunteers to staff your campaigns and for us to give you our votes. The rationale, “The other side will work against your interests, he is the lesser of two evils. Therefore, you have no choice but to vote for Obama.” Lesser or greater, both are evil and the only way to defeat evil is to name it as such and reject it. We deserve better, but we will not get better until we demand it and refuse to accept miserable crumbs and excuses meant to quiet us.

Sir, our patience is wearing very, very thin. ACT! Start by announcing your public and unqualified support for Federal Marriage Equality. ACT! Pick up your telephone and call the Secretary of Defense and the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Certify the repeal of DADT and in the interim issue an Executive Order to immediately stop all discharges under this hatefully unjust law. ACT! Pick up your telephone and order the Department of Justice to drop charges against Lt. Dan Choi. IF you did these ALL of these today you would make a good start towards making true your claim, “I've Met My Commitments to the LGBT Community.”

Not until you can sign legislation for the LGBT community, as your predecessor President Lyndon B. Johnson did when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for your community, can you honestly claim that you have met your commitments to us. That requires that you DO for us what President Johnson did for your community. That means that you must take risks, place your comfort and security beneath a real commitment to the ideals you beautifully enunciated as a candidate.


Diane J Standiford said...

You are so correct. I hope he has more good things in store for us.

Tal said...

Obama's statement, which initially earned a laugh of disbelief from me, may not be so inaccurate. What commitment, exactly, has Obama made to our community? What has he promised us? I couldn't think of anything he had specifically promised or committed to doing.

Obama has been happy to have much expectation projected on him by others, lest we forget the "hope" and "change" campaign--promises without definition. But Obama has generally avoided taking direct responsibility for pro-LGBT initiatives.

The repeal of DADT, for example, was pushed through not by Obama but by the last Congress, and even then it was left up to a nail biting, last minute passage. Obama has further separated himself from the implementation of the repeal by deferring in all particulars to the Pentagon, with little coming out of the White House, except that it is, in fact, deferring. All the while, DADT has remained active and has been and is being enforced, even though the Administration would be well within its rights not to enforce it and despite the obvious injustices DADT is still perpetrating on service men and women.

The same pattern has repeated itself with DOMA. The decision to not defend DOMA in the courts came through the Justice Department, something to which the Administration again deferred. Yet the law still remains in effect, the executive branch through its various agencies continues to enforce it, and the White House has made no affirmative moves to repeal it or even really discuss it. Given that the Justice Department has concluded DOMA is unconstitutional, vigorous action by the Administration to repeal it would seem a prerogative, not an option.

Rather, true to form, Obama has left the issue of DOMA's repeal up to the courts, whenever they get round to it. As a lawyer, Obama knows that the courts rarely strike a law down in its entirety, but are usually only able invalidate it in pieces, based on the facts presented by the case then in front of them. As Obama must also know, this process invariably take years.

Obama has obliquely called for equality and has spoken generally about the rights of citizens. But he won't publicly support true equality where it matters most, on marriage, and has actually said repeatedly that he is against it, supporting only civil unions--which puts him to the right of Dick Cheney. This most 'pro-gay' of presidents is thus an impediment, not benefit, to the marriage equality movement.

Of course, it is true that Obama is the most pro-gay president in U.S. history. It is equally true that it doesn't take much to earn that distinction.

There has, I believe, been a rush by LGBT organizations to support Obama, like the Human Rights Campaign, of which I'm a member. And I can understand the emotional desire, even need to do so. It's nice to have president who shows up to give a speech to LGBT organizers and who's not openly hostile to people like us.

The essential truth, however, is that Obama has largely followed the changing tide in public attitudes on LGBT issues. I don't believe he has lead from the front or really expended much in the way of political capital on behalf the LGBT community. Of course, with LGBT organizations rushing to support him, he has no impetuous to do more than he's done.

So why not rest on his borrowed laurels? We've given him no reason to do otherwise. And in the process, he has signaled strongly to the broader political market that the body politic shouldn't expect much more on issues important to us.

Michael Dodd said...

My partner is a big Obama supporter (knows him from when they both lived in Hyde Park) and is always playing the political expediency card when I complain about the President. That seems to mean that the President is working for us by staying above the fray and keeping his hands clean while letting other people do the actual work. As far as I can tell, that is essentially the same as not working for us at all.

Obama is like the person standing by a pond where someone is drowning ten feet from shore. Looking around, he sees a twelve-foot rope, a six-foot rope and a two-foot rope. He tosses them the six-foot rope and thinks he has met his responsibilities, reasoning that it was longer than the two-foot rope.

Face it. We must swim on our own when it comes to same-sex marriage and not pretend that a six-foot rope is doing us any favors. Nor do I have to thank someone who freely chose a short rope rather than the longer one lying at his feet. (Especially painful when you realize that this person's parents had once been drowning and people -- including my partner -- risked their own lives making sure that the rope tossed to them was long enough.)

I may be forced to vote for him to avoid a greater evil (as is almost certain to be what the Republicans will nominate), but I do not have to give him my time or money. That will go to state and federal lawmakers who have actively done things to move forward and who openly support my full equality.

Michael McKeon said...

Geoff you are one of the most well spoken Men I know.

I agree with you and I think that we need to hold this presidents feet to the fire in A VERY PUBLIC WAY. My fear is the other side and their christian theocracy agenda.

Hope to see you guys soon.

All Love

Father Geoff said...

Dear Michael,

Be not afraid. They are the ones who should be afraid and the more intelligent among them know it. They have already lost, these desperate lunges are their death throws.

Joe said...

Are we really surprised? I say this as someone who voted for Obama both in my state primary & in the general election - simply put, Obama is not a leader. He doesn't take the initiative. He sits back & lets everyone else do the work for him, not just on LGBT issues, but other progressive issues as well. For example, look at health care reform. As the issue was being torn to pieces with lies by Republicans & their allies in big business & the media, where was Obama? And did he push for a single payer/Medicare for all system? Not one bit.

Let's face it, despite all the "hope" & "change" spiel, Obama is like most Democrats - a moderate Republican. His loyalty lies with corporations. Programs & policies that help your average citizen will not get much support from him. And since we, the LGBT community, is seen as less than, you get the "fierce advocacy" you've seen so far.

As long as we allow the corruption in the political process (unlimited monetary contributions to super pacs, 527s, & 501(c)(4)s; not having to disclose the identity of donors; etc.), we will have a political system that does not serve the majority of the citizens of the nation, not to mention vulnerable minorities like us.