Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pres. Obama has Not Betrayed LGBT, But Congress Has

This is another take on the story from a gay attorney on the issue of Pres. Obama and how he has "sold out" the LGBT on the issues. I have maintained and posted and argued that just isn't true. But, here is someone with maybe a little more authority than me.

Obama hasn't left us

Then, this past Friday, I awoke to word at AmericaBlog, the Web site of gay activist blogger John Aravosis, that "Obama defends DOMA in federal court" and "invokes incest and marrying children." I was appalled. Aravosis also wrote in another post that the DOJ was "lying" when it said that Justice "generally ... defend[s] the law on the books in court." Then I looked at the brief. I agreed with Aravosis that the brief went too far in some of the language it used in its defense of the statute. But, looking at the law and past cases, I disagreed that the Obama administration had a real choice about whether it would defend DOMA in court and that DOJ's brief "compared us" to incest and pedophilia. And, because some in the community have kept pushing those stories -- despite contrary opinions from Laurence Tribe, Nan Hunter, Robert Raben and others -- I've spent the past week attempting to dispute those claims..

It is clear that the brief defending DOMA, despite whatever legal and political realities might underlie its filing, struck a nerve with the LGBT community. It was an old nerve -- Clinton's DOMA signing -- scraped raw once again. People have felt genuinely, personally injured by the very fact that the brief was filed, and their defenses have led them to fight. But the brief is not reason enough for a rupture between President Obama and the gay community. For those who believe in full equality for LGBT people in our country, it's time to move the discussion beyond the fight over that DOMA brief.

Wednesday night, President Obama -- sitting in the Oval Office with Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solomonese and out gay Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank, among others, behind him -- took the first step toward moving the discussion forward. He signed a memorandum ordering agency and department heads to, among other steps, "extend the benefits they have respectively identified to qualified same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees" where possible under current law. Even Michelangelo Signorile, the longtime LGBT activist who once outed then-closeted Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams to point out the first Bush administration's hypocrisy, agreed that these actions have shown that "we have made our point."

I think we have made our point. Fair, consistent, vocal criticism leveled against those who do not help advance LGBT equality works. Whether spread on the Internet or across statehouses or at a march, we have shown -- and they have shown -- that our voices send a strong message to this White House. Rep. John McHugh, the Army secretary nominee, himself has issued a statement affirming his desire to change the law that doesn't allow gay people to serve openly in the military.

Wednesday's events made it clear once again that the Obama administration has heard us. The administration has taken a step forward, and so should we. Demonizing Obama or openly gay leaders like Frank, Baldwin or Solomonese (which is not the same as fairly criticizing them when we disagree with their actions) is not the way to move the ball forward.

Despite criticisms of Obama's memorandum issued Wednesday, it was a solid, if small, step forward in which he shared with the nation his desire to see DOMA repealed and, before that even, the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act passed in Congress. As Rep. Baldwin explained Wednesday evening on "The Rachel Maddow Show," Obama's voiced support for the bill sends a strong signal to Congress -- one that she believes will help propel the bill forward.

I am not saying we don't have to hold his feet to the fire, but as I have pointed out before, Pres. Obama is just ONE part of this chain. He can't do this alone. It is very easy for people to say, "oh, he can just sign an executive order and fix it", well, no he can't. DADT and DOMA are LAWS, and they have to be overturned by LAWS, and that takes action by Congress, so as I have pointed out before, call your congress person.

We have 2 openly gay people in Congress, Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank, and yet neither of them are pushing any kind of legislation through for either of these laws to get them overturned.

If you are gay, and you feel betrayed, why don't you contact them? They are betraying you much more than Pres. Obama is. How long are you going to wait for them to act in your behalf? Pres. Obama, once again, stated he would sign the legislation when it got to him, that's what he is supposed to do. Now, the ball is back in Congresses lap. Get him a bill.


Brian Krenz said...

The language used in DOJ's DOMA brief was clearly over the line, but you are exactly right that there really isn't much Obama can do until Congress sends him a bill.

DOMA will be overturned. The reality is that making laws and governing and politicking are slow processes. It will take some time, but it will be overturned.

majii said...

Harry Reid said earlier this week that some members of the H. of Reps. were drafting a bill to repeal DADT, but that it is not possible to do this in the Senate because he cannot get any co-sponsors. IMHO, I think the best way to handle DADT and DOMA is not by way of executive orders, which can be changed by the next POTUS, but through the legislative process because then it becomes part of federal law. Also, many fail to realize that the judicial and executive branches are separate and independent parts of the government which were implemented to provide a system of checks and balances. Obama, according to the Constitution has no power over the Justice Dept., except for making appointments to positions there. I fully support the LBGT desire for full citizenship and protection because to do otherwise is a violation of the Constitution and what America is supposed to be.

Anonymous said...

Hi Annette, J here :) You're so right. K. Gillibrand (my senator! whom I am suddenly super-proud of!) has stepped up. Maybe this will, at the least, start embarassing the more senior members of Congress.

Seriously, Congress? Does no one remember Schoolhouse Rock?!