This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
May 7th, 2009
When Pres. Barack Obama tried to quell the outrage over selecting Saddleback pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the Inauguration, Obama promised to be a “fierce advocate of equality for gay and Lesbian Americans.” But lately he hasn’t been so fierce. Obama has backtracked on his promise to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and a recent re-vamping of the White House web site on Civil Rights has dropped all mention of repealing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The silence on DOMA is particularly strange because during the Democratic primaries he used his stance on DOMA’s full repeal to distinguish himself from then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. She wanted to retain the provisions permitting states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. He campaigned on its full repeal.
But since then, Obama has clammed up altogether as a number of states have taken action to recognize same-sex marriage. Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, and possible New Hampshire — that’s quite a remarkable procession in just a few short weeks. It’s hard to imagine such a remarkable series of developments go unnoticed. But the phrase “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is quickly becoming an apt description for the White House’s approach to marriage:
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked during the press briefing Wednesday if President Obama had any reaction to same-sex marriage becoming legal in Maine.
… Jake Tapper (The Advocate): Does the President or the White House have a reaction to the Governor of Maine signing a same-sex marriage bill?
Robert Gibbs: No, I think the President’s position on same-sex marriages has been talked about and discussed.
Tapper: He opposes same-sex marriage.
Gibbs: He supports civil unions.
Tapper: Does that mean that he’s going to say or do anything against what the citizens of Maine —
Gibbs: Not that I’m aware of. I think the President believes this is an issue that’s best addressed by the states.
This silence over marriage is just one example of Obama’s timidity where LGBT civil rights are concerned. Richard Socarides, who served as a Clinton White House staffer from 1991 to 1993 and was openly gay at the time, wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post over the weekend asking what happened to our “fierce defender”?
I understand that the president has his hands full saving the economy. But across a broad spectrum of issues — including women’s rights, stem cell research and relations with Cuba — the Obama administration has shown a willingness to exploit this change moment to bring about dramatic reform.
So why not on gay rights? Where is our New Deal?
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.
The White House did release a statement urging passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and that is not something that should go unnoticed. But Obama’s timidity on the more substantive gay issues is now getting noticed outside the gay press and blogosphere. The New York Times has noticed his absence today — and brought out a key inconsistency on his stance toward marriage:
Anything substantive he might say on same-sex marriage — after the Iowa ruling, the White House put out a statement saying the president “respects the decision” — would be endlessly parsed. If Mr. Obama were to embrace same-sex marriage, he would be seen as reversing a campaign position and alienating some moderate and religious voters he has courted.
…Mr. Obama supports a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that said states need not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Opponents of same-sex marriage say that is an inconsistency.
Opponents aren’t the only ones who see this as an inconsistency. Your humble scribe does so as well. And with DOMA being deep-sixed from the White House Civil Rights web stite, my willingness to give Obama the benefit of the doubt shrinks proportionately.
In the past several weeks, there has been a remarkable sea-change on marriage equality. Four (possibly five) states are being added to the marriage equality column. This was unimaginable just a few months ago in the wake of California’s passage of Prop 8. But these remarkable development has been utterly invisible to the White House.
Obama promised bold leadership on these issues but we haven’t seen it. How can he be bold when he’s not even bothering to catch up?
In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.
When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.
In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.
On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.
Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!
And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.
Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.
Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.
The FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.