Monday, May 4, 2009

Obama's Silence on LGBT Rights Will Leave Him Out of History

President Obama recently finished his first 100 days in office and from the LGBT population's perspective, there's not much to celebrate. With his continued silence for LGBT rights and the recent erasure of promises he made to the LGBT from the White House website (which were later reinstated), he better doing something quick

Richard Socarides, adviser on gay rights to President Bill Clinton during his second term, wrote "Where's Our 'Fierce Advocate'?", an op-ed in the Washington Post which questions President Obama's silence on LGBT issues since his election.
In December, while trying to quiet the furor over his invitation of Rick Warren to take part in his inauguration, Barack Obama reminded us that he had been a "consistent" and "fierce advocate of equality for gay and lesbian Americans." But at the end of its first 100 days, his administration has been neither.

What makes this especially disappointing is that it comes during a crisis-driven "change moment" in our country's history that not only cries out for leadership but presents a particularly good climate for making substantial progress on gay equality.
Socarides recognizes that Obama has a lot on his hands but also points out that Obama's been willing to exploit the change in the political atmosphere to tackle many reform issues, including relations with Cuba to stem cell research. He points out that people are distracted by the economy and war and are willing to try new approaches.
The court ruling legalizing gay marriage in Iowa represents a real opening, an opportunity to get "undecideds" to take another look not only at gay marriage but at gay rights in general. As Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin remarked, many Americans may be asking themselves, "If the [Iowa] Supreme Court said this, maybe I have to think anew."
So why isn't Obama moving on LGBT issues? Because he's scared to repeat Clinton's 1993 Don't Ask Don't Tell debacle, and with the lack of an LGBT advisor, he's moving on a faulty strategy of cautiousness and silence. Socarides offers four points of advice to the president.
  1. Talk about gay rights again like Obama did during the campaign, underscoring his message of inclusion that got him elected in the first place. Since being president, he's only referred to the LGBT population when while defending his choice for inaugural speakers. That's it. NOTHING on the Iowa ruling, a landmark civil rights decision.
  2. Move swiftly to secure the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act as well as the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.
  3. Appoint a "high-ranking, respected, openly gay policy advocate to oversee government efforts toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality." Karen Ocamb on the Huffington Post nominates several good candidates for this post.
  4. Champion a comprehensive, omnibus federal gay civil rights legislation, similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Such a bill should also provide for federal recognition of both civil unions and marriages as they are authorized by specific states.
I couldn't agree more with Socarides. I'm increasingly growing frustrated with the Obama administration shaking in their boots over even the slight mention of LGBT rights when this should be the time to champion them.

The right-wing has fallen apart and any argument they present sounds juvenile. Historical advances are being made in the nation for marriage equality while polls for the first time ever are showing the support for same-sex marriage outnumbers those who oppose it.

President Obama ran a campaign branded on actual "change" and the nation bought the ticket, riding the "Yes We Can" bullet train to a better tomorrow. If the president doesn't do something quick, though, he's going to be rapidly left behind at the train station, while the "we" in "Yes We Can" evolves into a definition that excludes him.

He needs to follow-through, or the nation will leave him behind.

As Michael Lux told Karen Ocamb on her post about Obama, "either we believe in equal rights for all - or we don't."

I need to know you believe in my equality, President Obama. Otherwise, I'll achieve it without you.

See polls results for: "Do you think President Obama will keep his promises to the LGBT community in the U.S.?"


  1. I don't see Obama ever even taking to task the so-called promises he made last year towards the LGBT community.He is just another president along the lines of Clinton who ALSO promised to make a difference and change things do we see any change? Did anything happen with HIM in office besides an adulterous affair between him and Monica that became tabloid movie tv fodder?I think not please dont put your trust in a man who has already invited the worst human being ever during his inauguration does RICK WARREN ring a bell?I do not hate OBAMA I just do not believe his promises nor have we seen any proof or any changes that he promised to this community.Another lie in a long line of them will see if he does anything to make a difference in our lives I seriously doubt it at this point though.

  2. My struggle is to remain patient. He's only been in office 100 days. But at the same time, he's taken on other reform issues like Cuba, stem cells research and now exposing the Bush administration's torture memos. That's an awful lot to take on including the economy. But anytime an LGBT issue is brought up, the excuse is used, "We need to focus on the economy first." I don't buy it.

    What bothers me even more is his silence. That speaks louder than any spoken word.

    We've been burned many times before by unfulfilled promises. The deletion of the promises on for me was the confirmation of things to come. It's an all-to-familiar feeling.

    I hope he proves me wrong.

  3. hopefully he will my friend hopefully he will his silence speaks volumes though so far anyways.