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An LGBT Scorecard From The Obama Administration

Jim Burroway

January 20th, 2009

At 12:01 p.m. EST, several things happened simultaneously. The Secret Service agent standing behind President Bush shifted places and took his place behind President Obama. And President Obama, even though he hadn’t yet taken the oath of office, became the official, constitutional President of the United States.

And something else happened. The Switch was flipped on the official White House website. And what a switch it is. There’s a lot there for LGBT Americans to look forward to under the heading of “Civil Rights.” Highlights include:

  • Expand Hate Crime Statutes to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Enact a fully inclusive Employment Non-Descrimination Act (ENDA), to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples, and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
  • Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
  • Expand adoption rights, regardless of sexual orientation. (I’m not entirely sure that the federal government has much of a role to play here.)
  • Promote AIDS Pevention: Incluiding age-approrpriate sex education which includes talk about condoms, and distributing contraceptives through the public health system.

You might want to bookmark this post. This represents a good scorecard on which to grade the Obama administration in the months and years to come.

From the brand new Whitehouse.gov web site:

Support for the LGBT Community
“While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It’s about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.”
— Barack Obama, June 1, 2007

  • Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.
  • Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees’ domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
  • Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
  • Repeal Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
  • Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
  • Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma — too often tied to homophobia — that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.
  • Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.

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Damon
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

On a racial note: What makes this site so great is that this list is prominent and frank on the civil rights section. An enormous amount of black people out there are going to read this section.

It’d be interesting to see what happens when the gay community refers to the list when engaging with the heterosexual black community…if they ever engage in discussion with them.

John
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

I was quite pleased but the language which is utilized should be noted. From what I gather, we can expect our new president to give us ENDA, the Matthew Shepard Act, and some revisions in AIDS/sex education funding in the near future? Why? The solid language as noted in the Civil Rights section above the LGBT section:

Combat Employment Discrimination: President Obama and Vice President Biden will work to overturn the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that curtails racial minorities’ and women’s ability to challenge pay discrimination. They will also pass the Fair Pay Act, to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

That’s right. President Obama and Vice President “will also pass” ENDA. This is as solid of a commitment as you can get.

Ditto with Hate Crimes Legislation:

President Obama and Vice President Biden will strengthen federal hate crimes legislation, expand hate crimes protection by passing the Matthew Shepard Act, and reinvigorate enforcement at the Department of Justice’s Criminal Section.

He will strengthen hate crime laws “by passing” the Matthew Shepard Act. He’s not going to work with the legislators to come up with a solution. This is the solution.

Contrast that with the language utilized in the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” section, where he promises to “work with military leaders” to end this stupid discriminatory policy and contrast that with his positions on civil unions and the repeal of the misnamed “Defense of Marriage Act” which read more like expressions of solidarity than they do of commitments (“he believes” etc).

He does commit to a change in HIV and sex education policy and says the process of change will begin this year.

Richard Rush
January 20th, 2009 | LINK

For me, reading the civil rights agenda for LGBTs on the new whitehouse.gov site was quite emotional. I haven’t been this choked up since reading Justice Anthony Kennedy’s written decision in the Lawrence v. Texas case.

I “came out” in the year of Stonewall, and never imagined that I would live to read such words in an official White House publication. It is astonishing to now see concern for our lives from people in such high places, whereas not too long ago we were unspeakable or worse.

Like so many others, I think of Obama’s inauguration today as the start of an extraordinary new era. And then seeing that website felt like a step toward it becoming a reality.

I know it’s a long way from that agenda to reality, but just being on the agenda is a huge step.

RainbowPhoenix
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

When a group of political activists approached FDR after his first inauguration, he said to them, “I agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it.”

Scott P.
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Inaugural alpenglow at Lesbian Dad
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

[…] see.  Just look at the LGBT Civil Rights agenda on the new WhiteHouse.gov site.  Queer bloggers I read (along with many of you) take this as an encouraging sign, a strong litmus against which to judge […]

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