Obama NOT a “Fierce Advocate” for LGBT rights? Give him some time.

activism, lgbt, politics, religion Add comments (5)

barack_obamaA number of gay and liberal bloggers have expressed grave concerns that Obama has not been the “Fierce Advocate” for LGBT rights he claimed he would be in these first 100 days. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, former Clinton adviser on gay issues Richard Socarides expressed those concerns:

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.

It is the memory of 1993’s gays-in-the-military debacle (and a desire never to repeat it) that has both the president’s advisers and policy advocates holding back, waiting for some magical “right time” to move boldly.

This is a bad strategy. President Obama will never have more political capital than he has now, and there will never be a better political environment to capitalize on. People are distracted by the economy and war, and they are unlikely to get stirred up by the right-wing rhetoric that has doomed efforts in the past.

And people 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.”

First, let’s consider that 100 hundred days of the Obama presidency accounts for a whopping 6.8% of his entire first term. In all likelihood we will have hate crimes legislation written into law before we reach 10%. Certainly that must count for something. If Obama takes a firm stand on LGBT-supportive issues like gay marriage, as Socarides and others would have him, I fear the consequences would be more damaging than not, unifying the Republican party and religious conservatives in such way as to make them even more obstructionist, while simultaneously attracting more of the faith-based crowd who are typically apolitical. And it would alienate those people on the right who have drifted toward the middle and who likely voted for Obama in the past election.

There is also the notion that since Obama has admitted that his administration is capable of “multitasking” on multiple fronts,  that there should have been more focus on LGBT-supportive issues during his first 100 days. Honestly, with banks failing, homes foreclosing, unemployment rising, violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan increasing, car industries collapsing, carbon dioxide levels rising and the economy failing… I think I am going to give Obama a pass for now.

I do think there is truth in the idea that the Obama administration is just standing back, watching gay rights take root throughout the country. States are already moving in the direction of granting marriage equality or similar, and are becoming more amenable to LGBT-supportive issues. The passage of Prop 8 in California may have served as a catalyst of sorts swinging the pendulum of same-sex equality back in the opposite direction, energizing the gay rights movement.

Change is always more palatable when it comes from within, as opposed to being forced upon from the outside.

Another element of Socarides’ argument that I take issue with is that the administration should take advantage of the electorate while they are distracted by the war and the economy as to move the LGBT agenda forward. Didn’t the Bush administration distract the public with 9/11 and the war on terror, while they methodically stripped away many of our civil liberties and basic human rights? I liken it to dentist diverting your attention just as he plants the long needle into your gums. It’s uncomfortable and frequently hurts like hell, and it often leaves a bad memory.

Finally, all of this comes from person who provided advice to Clinton on gay and lesbian issues during his presidency. Did anything favorable come out of that advice? Hmmm?

So I’d suggest giving Obama a bit more time before denying him the title of “Fierce Advocate.” But all of this of course is coming from a bit of a political layman. I’m certainly open to having my mind changed, just not by Mr. Socarides.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks Obama is doing an alright job.

But to be honest,  Obama’s first 100 days hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses either. His handling of torture thus far has left much to be desired, and that he has five (four of which are LGBT-unfriendly) pastors on speed dial which he calls every time he has a crisis of thought, really, really bugs me. Tell me, why isn’t Gene Robinson at least on that list? And why is there an F’ing list at all?

Post by ILO on 05/03/09 at 12:03 am