Yesterday, in what SF Chronicle reporter (and Reason contributing editor) Carolyn Lochhead called his first "official overture to the gay and lesbian community," President Barack Obama signed a memo that says "domestic partners of civil servants will be eligible for long-term care insurance, and employees may use their sick leave to take care of ailing partners or non-biological, non-adopted children…. The memorandum aims at the fringes of anti-gay discrimination by the federal government, leaving open the question of if or when the White House will move against the underlying federal laws."
Gay and lesbian activists, who supported Obama with the understanding that he actually saw things the way they did, are angry.
What has riled the gay and lesbian community is the wording of the brief [in a pending case about the anti-gay marriage Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA]. It found the statute "entirely rational," said it was a savings to taxpayers and cited as precedents states rejecting marriages from other states that involved under-age females or close relatives.
Rep. Barney Frank, the gay Massachusetts Democrat, told the Boston Herald in a story published Wednesday that Obama made a "big mistake" with the brief. Several activists have pulled out of a gay Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Washington next week.
Obama's action Wednesday "doesn't mollify anyone for the horrendous brief that was filed about DOMA or the failure to act on the issues the president promised to act upon when he was running," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, a San Francisco group pushing for legal same-sex marriage in the state.
So under Obama, a law signed enthusiastically by Bill Clinton over a decade ago remains on the books and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (another Clinton artifact) remains the discriminatory and "counterproductive" (in Obama's own words!) line in the military.
As someone who thinks that gays and straights should be treated exactly the same by government (especially the federal government), I find this appalling. As someone who actually listened to what Obama and his representatives said on the campaign trail, I don't find it surprising. In his debate with Sarah Palin, Vice President Joe Biden was emphatic regarding gay marriage:
[Moderator Gwen] Ifill: Let's try to avoid nuance, Senator. Do you support gay marriage?
Biden: No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that. That is basically the decision to be able to be able to be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it….
Ostensibly liberal Democrats have long gotten a free ride with the gay and lesbian community (in the way that ostensibly conservative Republicans have with groups on the religious right).
I can appreciate the anger and disappointment among gay and lesbian supporters of Obama, but in their frustration may well be the seed of a deeper understanding that politics and politicians are disappointing at best and malevolent at worst. Which is precisely the reason to squeeze their power and influence over citizens and human activity to the bare minimum, whether we're talking about the bedroom or the boardroom.
Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward exposed Obama as a gay heart-breaker here.