Saturday, June 6, 2009

What's up with the white house?

As I've posted before, there are a lot of people becoming frustrated with the slow pace of GLBT rights federally. Obama, who promised to be our "fierce advocate", has proven to be a soggy supporter at best. He's been called out by Frank Rich and scolded by Andrew Sullivan for the "fierce urgency of whenever".

The White House wants credit for expanding the hate crimes legislation to include gay folks, but this is not and has not been one of our "major" issues. Our MAJOR concerns are repealing DADT (Don't Ask Don't Tell), to allow our community to serve openly in the military, repealing DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), so our marriages and partnerships are eligible for federal recognition, and passing ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act), so you can't be fired simply for being gay. This was all on the white house web site....which they quietly removed it, until a community outcry restored it. The gay community isfeeling that the White House wants us back in the closet, to be trotted out again when they need the money.

Now, we all know there are important, huge issues facing this president, and these are arguably more important than GLBT rights. Yes, we get that. And we aren't arguing that this be the front-and-center issue.

But look what's happened. Gay marriage advances in 5 more states, when Dick Cheney sort of supports gay marriage, and in return, we have the anti-gay marriage groups point to Obama standing in opposition... and we find out that (like the infamous quote pointing to John Kerry) , he was for it before he was against it. In fact, Obama's opposition to marriage equality is trumpeted by the other side, and is an albatross around our necks. Nothing is said about DOMA.

Meanwhile, high-profile military officers like linguist Lt Dan Choi and pilot Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach are dismissed in a time of war and there is no movement against DADT. The latest semi-scandal suggests that the tepid Human Rights Campaign has been co-opted to campaign AGAINST the repeal of DADT.

We're supposed to be content with the Hate Crimes act, when in fact, this White House had nothing to do with it. And frankly, we're so easily bought off, it wouldn't take much more than a few kind words, even without anything concret, for us to go back to the rear of the line, where everyone leaves us. Just a few crumbs of encouragement...

Are they being anti-gay? Or are they being incredibly subtle? I'm starting to wonder. Obama has a wrestler's way of using the opposition's weight against them. He doesn't take strong positions or spend political capital if he can avoid it, but co-opts the other side until the movement becomes inevitable. Is that what he's doing here? If so, then our ire as a community may be part of the gameplan, lulling the bad guys into a false sense of security.

Re. DADT, we have a lot of noise and anger about Choi and Fehrenbach . Then we hear the nominated secretary of the Army is a Republican Congressman --- more ire, until we learn he reportedly thinks everyone should be able to serve. Most Americans agree. Movement becomes inevitable....?

Re. DOMA, there are hearings in Congress to examine bi-national couples, who essentially become exiles because the American partner can't sponsor their partner. These are of course opposed by the bad guys, because they fear any weakening of DOMA. Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton is establishing policy that gives same sex partners the same rights and benefits regarding postings. Again, DOMA is tacitly under attack. Movement becomes inevitable?

Andrew Sullivan has coined the idea of Obama playing "rope-a-dope" with his political opponents, drawing them in before the knockout, making escape impossible. I'm not sure that's what is happening here, of course. But Obama's a smart politician. Our cause is still toxic to the middle he needs to woo. So it might....might..... be the case that he's actually facilitating some incremental movement without wanting to be seen to be doing anything.

And I guess time will tell.

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