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Know-Nothings

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2009

The Obama administration’s brief defending DOMA in Smelt v. United States is incredibly tone deaf, particularly when contrasted against the California Attorney General’s brief filed in response to Perry v. Schwarzenegger. The DOJ brief which says gays can marry anyone they want as long as it’s someone of the opposite sex is not just an insult to gay people, but an insult to the legal system’s collective intelligence. And the argument about holding costs down on Social Security and preserving tax revenue would be laughable if this were a Sacha Baron Cohen movie.  Unfortunately, these are the underpinnings of the legal arguments brought before the august Supreme Court on behalf of one of the smartest Presidents to hold the high office. How could this have happened? David Link offers one answer:

There is something deeper here, though.  Obama is comfortable with the cliché political rhetoric of gay equality, but this brief shows his understanding doesn’t go a centimeter deeper.  Or (most generously) that his Attorney General knows only the words and not the tune.  To someone who understands gay equality as little more than a set of slogans and bromides, this brief might not have looked particularly offensive.

That, at least, is the most generous understanding I am willing to indulge – that the brief was written and/or edited by civil servants with an anti-gay inclination, and reviewed by political staff who know no more about gay equality than what they read on the President’s website.

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John
June 13th, 2009 | LINK

I am beginning to wonder if the Obama Administration is deliberately trying to provoke gay Americans. Obama isn’t stupid. He would know that defending DOMA in court with such inflammatory language would provoke a firestorm. This comes right on the heels of his defense of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and several high profile military dismissals. At the same time he is doing nothing on his promises to gay Americans.

We get progressively more angry and more vocal. Congress then passes Hate Crimes and Obama continues to express his support for gay civil rights while doing nothing to advance them legislatively and actively blocking them judicially. He then writes off the gay vote, while portraying the community as ungrateful. After all, he supports repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and DOMA, enaction of ENDA and would like to extend federal benefits to same sex couples (not that he does anything to advance those causes).

His other liberal supporters turn on gays for not supporting a president on their side, and anti-gay voters are that much more comfortable with a president who gay people tend to dislike so much. Obama wins, gays lose.

I am generally not one for conspiracy theories, but I don’t really see any other explanation for this ongoing series of provocations against gay Americans, than that it has been well thought out and deliberately planned.

Patrick
June 13th, 2009 | LINK

John, if that’s the case then Obama’s advisers are forgetting that gays have straight family members – parents, siblings, etc. It’s not just gays Obama is currently alienating, it’s also straight friends and relatives of gays.

Andrew
June 13th, 2009 | LINK

Patrick… if only that were the case. I mentioned my displeasure with Obama to my dad, and without missing a beat, he said “yeah, but what do you think about the rest of his platform”? And usually I can count on my dad to be as supportive as they get.

Many Americans are either so blinded by the Obamamania, so tone-deaf, or simply so relieved that it’s not W that they don’t take our concerns and criticisms of Obama seriously.

Richard Rush
June 13th, 2009 | LINK

The Obama administration must have concluded that politically there is more to lose than there is to gain by actively championing gay equality.

An obvious thought is to speculate that they are trying to make some inroads with the Religious Right.

And is it crazy to wonder if a part of their motive is to court some favor with the Islamic world? Especially after that recent speech in Egypt.

Michael
June 13th, 2009 | LINK

I think John has hit upon some kernel of truth here. My usually supportive coworkers seemed absolutely scandalized that I would be in any way unhappy with Obama, and they know a great deal about the injustices that gay people face. Just think about every day Joe Schmo democrat who has no gay friends of family members. We are being used as a political pawn in a much more subtle and crafty way than the last administration used us.

GreenEyedLilo
June 13th, 2009 | LINK

This is precisely why I support the efforts of LGBT and supportive Republicans, though I am not one myself. I’m sick of the Democratic party thinking they just have to be a tick kinder than the right wing of the Republican Party and they have our votes all sewn up. In this case, it is a very small tick indeed.

I’d say more, but it mostly comes down to:

“I dare you and your people to ask me for my vote again in 2012, creep.”

KZ
June 13th, 2009 | LINK

Right now, I wouldn’t want to vote for Obama in 2012 either. However, if Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee or someone with a similar domestic policy were to run against him…

Lynn David
June 14th, 2009 | LINK

My guess has always been that this was a brief written in the era of George W. Bush (when there were some possible challenges to the DOMA out of Massachusetts and I think a couple who left MA for Florida but the challenges were dropped by the ACLU/Lambda Legal because they felt they did not have a solid footing). Likely such a brief was then filed aways and someone resurrected it when the current challenge came along. Which makes the current AG’s office look even dumber in my estimation.

Interesting that you resurrected the worf “Know-Nothings” to describe these people. The “Know-Nothings” were the bigotted main-line protestants who were opposed to Catholic immigration in the early-middle 19th century of the USA.

truthteller
June 14th, 2009 | LINK

Why can’t you guys just face the truth and stop being apologists for Obama. The guy is against the rights of Americans who are gay. That means YOU.

Why are you making excuses and looking for reasons not to trust your lying eyes?

This is pathetic. The guy is a right winger. Face the truth already!

Bruce Garrett
June 14th, 2009 | LINK

“Obama is comfortable with the cliché political rhetoric of gay equality, but this brief shows his understanding doesn’t go a centimeter deeper.”

“Shallow understanding…” as Martin Luther King Jr. once said…ironically enough. Here’s a more complete quote and I’m sorry when people say the struggle of blacks in the 1950s against racism was not at all comparable to the gay rights movement because when I read this I can’t help but feel it hit me in a very deep place…

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a more convenient season. Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Replace negro with gay (or “homosexual” for a more period flavor…), “White Citizen’s Councilor” with “Family Research Institute” and “white moderate” with “straight moderate”…

CLS
June 14th, 2009 | LINK

Had Bush done this it would have been bad, but Bush was an idiot with no understanding of law. Obama taught law and has no such excuse. He knows what is happening under his watch. But many people don’t understand that that Obama has bought into the old Progressive legal theory, just as has the California Constitution, hence the uphold of Prop 8.. That theory, which was also rampant in the Hardwick decision as well, is very antithetical to the concept of individual rights and promotes concepts contrary to such ideas. Many Progressives don’t want to believe those theories are harmful, but they are. And this is one example.

Basically their theory discounts the idea of natural, individual rights and argues that the dominant power should have its way. A position when argued by Bork outraged the Left but which is ignored when one of their own does it. Brandies promoted this idea. Under this idea, rights are decided by the majority. That fits the Progressive agenda very often but it tends to bite minorities in the ass.

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