Monday, June 15, 2009

John Berry, Obama's Highest Ranking Gay Official, Responds to DOMA Outrage

John Berry, Director of the Office of Personnel Management, the highest ranking gay official in Obama's administration, talked exclusively to Kerry Eleveld of the Advocate at Washington DC's pride Sunday. He addressed the many concerns of the LGBT population in regards to Obama, and in particular, the president and the Department of Justice's decision to defend DOMA.
We [Obama's administration] have four broad legislative goals that we want to accomplish and legislation is one of these things where you’ve got to move when the opportunity strikes, so I’m going to list them in an order but it’s not necessarily going to go one, two, three, four. Obviously, I think the first opportunity is hate crimes and we’re hopeful that we can get that passed this week. We’re going to try, but if not, we’re going to keep at it until we get it passed. The second one ENDA, we want to secure that passage of ENDA, and third is we want to repeal legislatively “don’t ask don’t tell,” and fourth, we want to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Now, I’m not going to pledge -- and nor is the president -- that this is going to be done by some certain date. The pledge and the promise is that, this will be done before the sun sets on this administration – our goal is to have this entire agenda accomplished and enacted into law so that it is secure.
When pressured to answer whether or not items would be pushed to a supposed second term, Berry was adamant by sticking to the point that the goal of the administration was to fulfill this agenda by the end of Obama's presidency, whenever that may be.

So in other words, they're hoping to have time but not really planning on when. Y'know, like putting off paying your bills until the last minute and hoping you don't get a late fee.

In regards to DOMA and the DOJ's brief:
...I want to talk to you about the DOMA brief. Our strongest argument against “don’t ask, don’t tell” is that we stand with the truth. And that we, more than anyone, know the cost of lying and the terrible pain it invokes.

This president took a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and he does not get to decide and choose which laws he enforces. He has to enforce the laws that have been enacted appropriately and that he has inherited. It would be wrong for me or any of our community to advise him to lie or to shirk his responsibility. He’s doing his job. He has made clear that he stands for the repeal of DOMA. It will be part of this administration’s agenda to accomplish that act.
However, attorney and former White House advisor to Bill Clinton, Richard Socarides, disputes this point, saying, "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."

Berry gets bleaker when asked by the Advocate, "And what about 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' is that being pushed back?"

Berry's answer, "We don’t have the votes to do Hate Crimes right now, we don’t have the votes to do ENDA, how are we going [to get “don’t ask, don’t tell]?"

Since Berry is basically human resources for the White House, we could hope and pray he's speaking in areas beyond his job description. But unfortunately, it's consistent with what we've been seeing from Obama's administration.

I'll reiterate what I've said before - change is not going to come from Obama. Change is going to come from us. Living in California, I know the importance of fighting on the local level, and I throw my full support behind repealing Proposition 8, whether at the ballot or through the federal case against it.

But we also must discuss how we, the LGBT population nationwide, the grassroots, are going to take the momentum behing the equality movement and fight for our rights on all fronts, local and federal. We've been waiting for our "fierce advocate" in the White House to act for us federally, but he has disappeared. So it's up to us to bring the change.

Are you ready?


  1. Maybe he didn't fully read the brief since his statement seem contrary to arguments made by DOJ last week.

  2. He informed the Advocate that his statements basically came from the White House. So unfortunately, and I wish it weren't true, it's doesn't matter if he read the brief or not. But I would hope he had in preparation for the interview.

  3. He's lying about Obama having to defend laws. Obama has already not defended laws:
    All Obama had to was send a memo to Congress saying that he wasn't going to defend it in court. Instead Obama willfully not only included all the old arguments but for good measure also added that it was bad fiscal policy.

  4. A large number of people feel lied to by Obama. We posted something about DOMA right after Robin Tyler spoke on it at the Dyke March. The feed back we got was swift and angry.