Monday, June 15, 2009

LGBT Population Still Furious at Obama and DOJ - We Must Make Our Own Change

The weekend nor pride celebrations have helped ease the anger against Obama and his Department of Justice for their insensitive defense of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), which used far right-wing arguments and discriminatory legalese to kick out a federal case challenging the 1996 act.

David Badash blogging at The New Civil Rights Movement says, "’s time for us to stop questioning Obama and start accusing him."

Famous activist David Mixner wrote, "The brief in defense of DOMA filed by President Obama's Department of Justice could have been written by the Rev. Pat Robertson. Using the worst of stereotypes, it intimates that we don't have constitutional guarantees, invokes scenarios of incest, of children and advocates that we don't have the same rights as others who have struggled for civil rights."

Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend asks about our fair-weather progressive friends, "Lots of progressives run screaming from the issue of race, for instance, running for cover out of fear of appearing racist; why should we be shocked that the LGBT community is getting a taste of the "just wait and be patient" dismissiveness as we watch progressives put the "lalalalala" fingers in the ears because they don't want to discuss the filthy, degrading arguments in the brief. They aren't about to go there, because there is no defense, and of course THEY AREN'T HOMOPHOBES, right?"

The Washington Blade observed the responses to the DOMA defense on Twitter, finding tweets such as:

@hildeborg: "What upsets me is not that you lied to me, but that from now on I can no longer believe you." Nietzsche. Prfct quote 4 Obama defending DOMA

@lesbiandad: My 5 stages of grief over Obama's DOMA backstabbing: denial > anger > bargaining > anger > ANGER

But at least we do have more than fair-weather friends coming to our side and agreeing with our outrage. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, both potential candidates for California governor, spoke out against the Justice Department's brief at Los Angeles Pride over the weekend.

"I think it's a big mistake," Newsom said, while Villaraigosa stated, "I'm concerned about some of the arguments being made by the Justice Department."

But even more striking, an attorney and former White House advisor to Bill Clinton, Richard Socarides, writes on America Blog:
[The DOJ's brief] had such a buckshot approach to it, a veritable kitchen sink of anti-gay legal theories, that it seemed expressly designed to inflict maximal damage to our rights. Instead of making nuanced arguments which took into account the president’s oft-stated support for repealing DOMA – a law he has called “abhorrent” – the brief seemed to embrace DOMA and all its horrific consequences.

I was equally troubled by the administration’s explanation that they had no choice but to defend the law. As an attorney and as someone who was directly involved in giving advice on such matters to another president (as a Special Assistant for civil rights to President Bill Clinton), I know that this is untrue.
...The president makes a policy decision first and then the very talented DOJ lawyers figure out how to apply it to actual cases. If the lawyers cannot figure out how to defend a statute and stay consistent with the president’s policy decision, the policy decision should always win out.
Our outrage against the president and the Department of Justice is not simply based on betrayal and a reactionary emotional hysteria, it's also based on a long history of our population being used by politicians to gain office only to be thrown under the bus later (Hello Clinton! Hello lack of LGBT history in schools!).

But even more specific to the situation, our scathing anger stems from Obama and the DOJ ignoring legal precedent which allowed our "fierce advocate" of a president, who believed DOMA to be "abhorrent", to argue for us and set the path for our victory. But instead, he disregarded precedent and simply did not care to act upon it.

Many keep stating that Obama was always against same-sex marriage, so our anger is not justified and we should've known that he would behave this way (as if that were an excuse). My response: you don't have to be for marriage equality to be against DOMA. DOMA violates the Constitution by throwing out the Full Faith and Credit Clause, "which addresses the duties that states within the United States have to respect the 'public acts, records, and judicial proceedings' of other states." DOMA allows states to ignore same-sex marriages, or any marriage for that matter, legally conducted in others. That's a violation. Among many others. Good enough reason to be against DOMA.

However, Obama was for full equality for the LGBT population. The Daily Kos put together to following montage of Obama's stated support.

In the end, we are justified in our outrage. We are hurt that such discriminatory language was unnecessarily used against us by a president of "change." We weren't stupid in believing Obama when he said he would be our "fierce advocate" because no presidential candidate had been so outspoken for our rights, and Obama had the track record to prove he was for change.

However, we will be stupid if we believe him again. Our anger won't be justified if we allow "patience" to guide our next decisions only to be betrayed again. As Cleve Jones recently told Joe.My.God, "If you think you're going to get anything out of Obama in the second half of his term, you don't know anything about political history. In a year, he'll be in full re-election mode."

And I agree. It's time to be active. It's time we create the change that was promised us but obviously now denied us. It's time we focus not only on the state by state battle, but also the federal level. We have an opportunity. But it's not going to last much longer.

Image: From Los Angeles Times.


  1. Seriously we need to give the man a chance. He is, after all, only a man. Plus he's got a lot on his plate and it has only been 5 months since his first day. We cant expect him to push aside all other agendas and jump to the front of the line with ours.
    ~Peace and love.

  2. Yeah, he has all those "important" things on his plate: he's too busy to worry about minor little things like justice and equality.

  3. I dont think thats fair. You make it sound like he is just blowing LGBT rights off completely. If you've been following this issue then you know that's not true. We can't just expect everything to be fixed with his "magic wand".