Posts Tagged As: Barack Obama

Obama joins Romney in opposing Boy Scout gay ban

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

August 9th, 2012

In 1994, Mitt Romney took a position in opposition to the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay scouts and said:

I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.

On Saturday, the Romney Campaign confirmed that “this remains Romney’s position today.”

Yesterday, President Obama joined his opponent in expressing his disagreement with the policy: (CSMonitor)

“The president believes the Boy Scouts is a valuable organization that has helped educate and build character in American boys for more than a century,” the White House statement said. “He also opposes discrimination in all forms, and as such opposes this policy that discriminates on basis of sexual orientation.”

The Boy Scouts responded with a brief statement from their national headquarters in Irving, Texas.

“The Boy Scouts of America respects the opinions of President Obama and appreciates his recognition that Scouting is a valuable organization,” it said. “We believe that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to accomplish the common good.”

I feel disappointed. President Obama’s position is weaker and more conciliatory than that of Mitt Romney. The President basically validated the “oh we can all disagree amiably” nonsense that the BSA has been throwing at the media. The existence of gay people, our validity as human, whether one’s innate attractions makes them inherently immoral, that’s all just a matter of opinion. Good people can disagree about that, you see.

No. They cannot.

This is not about a controversial issue, or even one for which counter arguments can be presented. This isn’t about whether civil unions provide adequate protection. It isn’t about military unit cohesion. It isn’t even about adoption policy.

This is about whether gay people can be let in the door. It’s just plain unvarnished discrimination: we won’t let you in because we don’t like you. That’s it. And I’m sorry, Mr. President, but both sides of that opinion are not equally moral. This is not an agree to disagree situation.

Either it is immoral and wrong to exclude gay youth for no reason other than their orientation, or it is not. And if it is immoral and wrong – so immoral and wrong that a growing number of people with deep devotion to the Scouts are breaking a tie that means the world to them – then a moral person cannot dismiss this so cavalierly.

I respect and appreciate the President. He has taken steps that have greatly advanced our equality. But it frustrates me to no end that every effort, every step has been long after others in his party have advanced and – in some instances – after Republicans have already gotten there. It should embarrass the President to lag behind Dick Cheney or Ted Olson; it should shame him to lag behind Mitt Romney.

President Obama, like all US Presidents over the past century, is the token president of the Boy Scouts. We know – there is absolutely zero question about it – that if the Boy Scouts banned members based on race that the President would refuse to hold that title. He would step away from the organization and explain that as President of all Americans in the political life of the country that he cannot be president of only some Americans in the life of scouting.

How is this different?

UPDATE: Mitt Romney’s full 1994 quote was:

“I believe that the Boy Scouts of America does a wonderful service for this country. I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue. I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.”

I was unaware of the “wonderful service” component of that quote which makes the two statements much more similar, though 18 year apart.

The miracle worker

Timothy Kincaid

May 24th, 2012

Anti-Obama activists like to sneeringly refer to the President as “the liberals’ messiah”. But maybe they are really on to something; maybe Barack Obama really can work miracles.

From Public Policy Polling (pdf):

-57% of Maryland voters say they’re likely to vote for the new marriage law this fall, compared to only 37% who are opposed. That 20 point margin of passage represents a 12 point shift from an identical PPP survey in early March, which found it ahead by a closer 52/44 margin.

-The movement over the last two months can be explained almost entirely by a major shift in opinion about same-sex marriage among black voters. Previously 56% said they would vote against the new law with only 39% planning to uphold it. Those numbers have now almost completely flipped, with 55% of African Americans planning to vote for the law and only 36% now opposed.

-The big shift in attitudes toward same-sex marriage among black voters in Maryland is reflective of what’s happening nationally right now. A new ABC/Washington Post poll finds 59% of African Americans across the country supportive of same-sex marriage. A PPP poll in the critical swing state of Pennsylvania last weekend found a shift of 19 points in favor of same-sex marriage among black voters.

What happened in between? The President evolved. And then NAACP board endorsed equality. And now it appears that there were a large number of black voters who have also completed their evolution process.

To be honest, I did not expect this in the slightest. And (like the polls last year that suddenly and unexpectedly showed a majority of Americans support marriage) it seems too good to be true. And I’m still going to wait for additional polling confirmation (and perhaps even the Maryland vote) before I am fully convinced.

But these are huge and very significant changes and if they are real then I’m delighted to give credit where due. I think that discovering that the National Organization for Marriage was condescendingly playing up racism played a part, but it was the President’s announcement that I think really cued the change. (And I can’t wait for NOM’s response… I’m grinning already)

If Black Americans are supporting equality, then I’m ready to party. You bring Obama and I’ll bring the wine… no, scratch that… I’ll bring the water. Miracles are happening.

Obama Discusses Marriage on “The View”

Jim Burroway

May 15th, 2012

Obama’s Big Gay Journey

Jim Burroway

May 14th, 2012

Andrew Sullivan’s Newsweek cover story about President Barack Obama’s historic announcement last week that he supports the right of same-sex couples to marry is now online.

The cover and Sullivan’s op-ed bestows the title “The First Gay President” on Obama. This, of course, is in reference to the phrase coined by writer Toni Morrison who bestowed the title, “The First Black President” on President Bill Clinton during the impeachment proceedings in 1998. Despite Morrison being an African-American herself, I’ve always had qualms about the title. But now that Andrew Sullivan, gay himself, has bestowed the honor of “The First Gay President” on the real First Black President, I’m doubly pained. I’d rather wait until, you know, we actually get a real gay President. Someday.

But let’s not allow us to be distracted from the truly historic occasion. For the first time in American history, a sitting President supports the rights of gay Americans to marry the person they love. As Sullivan put it, “To have the president of the United States affirm my humanity—and the humanity of all gay Americans—was, unexpectedly, a watershed. He shifted the mainstream in one interview.” Sullivan then gets to the heart of why he thinks Obama deserves the title “The First Gay President” when he argues that Obama’s own personal odyssey is familiar to everyone in the LGBT community:

Barack Obama had to come out of a different closet. He had to discover his black identity and then reconcile it with his white family, just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family. The America he grew up in had no space for a boy like him: black yet enveloped by loving whiteness, estranged from a father he longed for (another common gay experience), hurtling between being a Barry and a Barack, needing an American racial identity as he grew older but chafing also against it and over-embracing it at times.

I have always sensed that he intuitively understands gays and our predicament—because it so mirrors his own. And he knows how the love and sacrifice of marriage can heal, integrate, and rebuild a soul. The point of the gay-rights movement, after all, is not about helping people be gay. It is about creating the space for people to be themselves. This has been Obama’s life’s work. And he just enlarged the space in this world for so many others, trapped in different cages of identity, yearning to be released and returned to the families they love and the dignity they deserve.

This is the gay experience: the discovery in adulthood of a community not like your own home and the struggle to belong in both places, without displacement, without alienation. It is easier today than ever. But it is never truly without emotional scar tissue. Obama learned to be black the way gays learn to be gay. And in Obama’s marriage to a professional, determined, charismatic black woman, he created a kind of family he never had before, without ever leaving his real family behind. He did the hard work of integration and managed to create a space in America for people who did not have the space to be themselves before. And then as president, he constitutionally represented us all.

Another reason Obama’s evolution matters

Timothy Kincaid

May 10th, 2012

Ten years ago, objection to same-sex marriage was – for most people – genuine. It may have generated from nothing other than unfamiliarity, mild prejudice, or just confusion, but for the most part it was not contrived or cynical or pandering.

Change is difficult and humans seem to have a blind instinct to defend “how things are supposed to be”. Considering that friends can have red-in-the-face, top of your lungs “discussions” about whether landing on “Free Parking” is supposed to pay out the money collected from “Chance” cards in Monopoly, it should be no surprise that decent people objected to changing what marriage “is supposed to be”.

But that was ten years ago. And despite the blustering of the professionally indignant defenders of (their own) religious freedom, the horizon is clear and the future is no mystery. Equality is coming, not on little cats feet like the fog, but galloping at breakneck speed. And there’s a good reason why.

Gay marriage was new. And odd. And a contradiction to what the terms were understood to be. It was like chocolate cereal or raw fish or women wearing slacks or smart phones. It just took getting used to.

But once the “new” wares off, real objections have to be considered. I won’t eat coco-puffs, but sushi isn’t so bad and after years of dragging my feet, I finally discovered that I can’t live without an iPhone.

And, as we all know, there aren’t many valid objections to same-sex marriage. Either you believe that the instinctive fears about drastically changing society have merit (that we just haven’t yet discovered) or you don’t. And as more people came to know gay folks, these concerns seem less likely.

Which brings me to my point: Mitt Romney doesn’t believe that letting gay people marry will harm society – or certainly not more than other things he puts up with. And he is fully aware that his views harm gay people and are unfair, unconstitutional, and a violation of the American ideal. He knows that. Other than a few truly insane people (Hello, Lew), they all do. They just don’t think that hedonistic sinners who defy God and social convention should have any claim on fairness, constitutionality, and the American ideal.

And furthermore, they know that the American public has little tolerance right now for blatant homophobia (other than, perhaps, in North Carolina). While ten years ago it might have been acceptable to laugh at the homos playing house, now that doesn’t fly. And the truth probably is that a huge chunk of politicians who vote against the American principles of equality couldn’t care less if gay people marry. They are just selling a product and pandering to a (rapidly shrinking) base.

But until yesterday, those who oppose equality had the perfect out. They didn’t have to look bad. They didn’t have to seem unreasonable. They didn’t have to appear to be motivated by less-than-admirable prejudices.

They could just say (and I know you all are as sick of hearing it as I am), “I don’t think people should be stopped from visiting loved ones in the hospital, but I don’t support gay marriage. My position is the same as President Obama’s.”

Not any more, it isn’t, Bubba. Not any more.

Obama’s Running On It

Jim Burroway

May 10th, 2012

It looks like it’s not just a one-time interview.


Jim Burroway

May 9th, 2012

I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.

After four years of hedging on the question, President Barack Obama became the first sitting President in U.S. history to publicly support the rights of gay couples to marry. ABC News, which will air excerpts of the interview tonight on Nightline, also reports:

The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own. But he said he’s confident that more Americans will grow comfortable with gays and lesbians getting married, citing his own daughters’ comfort with the concept.

It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” the president continued. “You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same sex equality or, you know, sexual orientation that they believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”

You can see video excerpts of that interview here.

Until today, Obama’s official position had been that he wants to repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, his Justice Department is declining to defend DOMA in federal courts, his Homeland Security office is granting green cards to foreign partners of married same-sex couples, and his administration had provided an array of domestic partner benefits to large numbers of federal employees. In addition, his campaign has released statements against North Carolina’s Amendment 1 and a proposed anti-marriage amendment in Minnesota. But the last time anyone was able to ask Obama about his personal stance on same-sex marriage, he said that he supported equal rights for same-sex couples and he supported the rights of states to grant marriage equality, but that on the subject of marriage itself he was personally still “evolving” on the issue.

That evolution, for all practical purposes, was completed today.

On Smoking and Not Inhaling

A commentary

Jim Burroway

May 7th, 2012

When then-Governor Bill Clinton was running for President in 1992, someone asked if he had ever smoked pot. His answer came to crystalize his much-discussed “triangularization” of contentious issues — he tried it once, but he didn’t inhale. Supposedly that answer would appeal to hip, young pot smokers (along with many fellow baby-boomers) and he, also supposedly, would avoid offending those who opposed marijuana use. We all know how well that worked out. Nobody believed him, but he was allowed to keep that charade going as long as everyone winked (or smirked) whenever they repeated his answer.

Fast-forward twenty years, and President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are answering questions about their support for marriage equality with a variation on the smoking-but-not-inhaling theme. But yesterday, in an appearance on Meet the Press, Biden came pretty close to taking an honest-to-god drag from the matrimonial reefer:

BIDEN: The good news is that as more and more Americans come to understand what this is all about is a simple proposition. Who do you love? Who do you love and will you be loyal to the person you love? And that’s what people are finding out is what all marriages at their root are about. Whether they’re marriages of lesbians or gay men or heterosexuals.

DAVID GREGORY: Is that what you believe now?

BIDEN: That’s what I believe.

GREGORY: And you’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now?

BIDEN: Look, I am vice president of the United States of America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights. All the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that.

The rest of the day was spent carefully parsing Biden’s words: did he or didn’t he endorse marriage equality? In my reading, I’d say he did, but he set an important caveat: he’s just the vice president; the President sets policy. But to be honest, my reading is no more and no less valid than anyone else’s. David Axelrod, Obama’s chief campaign strategist, tried to slap the smoke from out of Biden’s lungs when he quickly tweeted, “What VP said — that all married couples should have exactly the same legal rights — is precisely POTUS’s position.”

And literally speaking, Axelrod’s right. Obama’s official position is that he wants to repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, his Justice Department is declining to defend DOMA in federal courts, his Homeland Security office is granting green cards to foreign partners of married same-sex couples, and his administration had provided an array of domestic partner benefits to large numbers of federal employees. Plus, his campaign has released statements against North Carolina’s Amendment 1 and a proposed anti-marriage amendment in Minnesota. And the last time anyone was able to ask Obama about his personal stance on same-sex marriage, he said that he supported equal rights for same-sex couples and he supported the rights of states to grant marriage equality, but that on the subject of marriage itself he was personally still “evolving” on the issue.

The conventional wisdom now goes that Obama is pretending not to support marriage equality and Americans are pretending to believe him. Except conventional wisdom is wrong because they’re not. Those who vigorously oppose marriage equality — and they are now a shrinking minority in this country at about 43% — already don’t believe him and aren’t giving him any credit for his presumably stalled evolutionary state. And those who do support marriage equality believes that he does too, and they’re just waiting for him and everyone else in his administration to just finally say so. Just like Mark Halperin on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, who says he will ask every cabinet secretary who appears on the program whether they support marriage equality. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was the first to answer the Morning Joe question this morning. “I do,” he said, sounding a lot like someone who has just taken a solemn vow before adding, “I don’t know that I’ve ever been asked publicly.”

All of this makes Obama’s charade of “evolving” look increasingly ridiculous. Just as the whole point of smoking pot is inhaling (and, Mr. Clinton notwithstanding, more than 100 million Americans have inhaled at least once), the whole point of doing all of the things that the Obama Administration is doing is to bring about a de-facto federal recognition of marriage to as many people as legally possible. There are still huge gaps — the IRS code, military spousal benefits, Social Security survivorship, inheritance taxes — which are still awaiting action. But if Obama doesn’t secretly believe in marriage equality, he’s sure behaving like someone who has taken a nice, long toke at the betrothal bong. And I’d say you’d have to be smoking something pretty powerful yourself to believe otherwise.

Obama Opposes NC Amendment 1

Jim Burroway

March 16th, 2012

President Barack Obama today came out against North Carolina’s proposed Amendment 1, which would ban same-sex marriage. According to multiple sources, the Obama campaign issued this statement:

“While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples. That’s what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do — it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples — and that’s why the president does not support it.”

North Carolinians will vote on the measure during the May 8 primary.

Presidential Candidates React

Jim Burroway

February 7th, 2012

Mitt Romney does it old school, via a press relase:

“Today, unelected judges cast aside the will of the people of California who voted to protect traditional marriage. This decision does not end this fight, and I expect it to go to the Supreme Court. That prospect underscores the vital importance of this election and the movement to preserve our values. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and, as president, I will protect traditional marriage and appoint judges who interpret the Constitution as it is written and not according to their own politics and prejudices.”

Newt Gingrich, via Twitter:

“Court of Appeals overturning CA’s Prop 8 another example of an out of control judiciary. Let’s end judicial supremacy”

Rick Santorum, also via Twitter:

“7M Californians had their rights stripped away today by activist 9th Circuit judges. As president I will work to protect marriage.”

Ron Paul:

Press Secretary Jay Carney on behalf of President Obama:

“I’m not going to comment on litigation particularly as here where we are not party to it, but the president’s positions on these issues writ large are well known, and he’s long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny right and benefits to same-sex couples.”

On the flip side, former GOP Presidentical candidate, current Libertarian Party Presidentical candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson tweeted:

“Prop 8 – Sometimes a Court gets it right”

US Pushes Hard on LGBT Rights Around the World

Jim Burroway

December 6th, 2011

The Obama administration has issued a flurry of documents and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a groundbreaking speech on the need for protecting the human rights of LGBT people around the world. It began this morning with the White House memorandum directing American international agencies to take action in countries where LGBT abuses are taking place. That was followed by fact sheets from the White House and the State Department outlining the new policies as well as past accomplishments. Of particular interest is the State Department’s description of its engagement in Uganda over concerns about the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

Alongside Ugandan civil society’s strong and sustained outreach to parliamentarians and the Uganda Human Rights Commission, and advocacy of other governments, U.S. Government advocacy against Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill established a precedent for the United States, the international donor community and civil society to collaborate to counter efforts to criminalize same-sex conduct. [Emphasis mine]

While activities in Uganda are mentioned, Africa was not alone in receiving the State Department’s attention over the past few years. Also mentioned are Jamaica, Slovakia, Indonesia, Guinea, Serbia, and India. Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton gave what has been described as a groundbreaking speech in Geneva in advance of Human Rights Day this Saturday. I wasn’t able to see the speech and hope to have the transcript as soon as possible. (Update: It’s here, and it’s a doozy.)

It remains to be seen how the actions today will be reported in the popular media and what the response will be in countries which stand to be affected by today’s announcements. But past events does give us a clue as to how today’s developments are likely to be received in world capitals where LGBT persecution is either official policy or the social norm. Russia had earlier denounced American diplomatic protests over a proposed bill in St. Petersburg which would prohibit LGBT advocacy in public, and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak followed that with a suggestion that the St. Petersburg proposal could be made a federal law. In Africa, following comments from British Prime Minister David Cameron warning that countries which prosecute LGBT people could see their foreign aid cut (a warning that was later modified to say that the aid would be redirected to NGO’s instead), African leaders, including those who oppose LGBT oppression, warned that the statement could backfire on efforts to head off legislation which would severely increase penalties against LGBT people. African LGBT advocates also warn that if changes in foreign funding force cutbacks in governmental services, the local LGBT communities would feel the brunt of the blame, making the work of LGBT advocacy much more difficult in countries where the prevailing belief is that homosexuality is a Western import.

None of that is to say that these pronouncements from the US and IK aren’t unwarranted or improper. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and as they say in Africa, when elephants fight, the grass suffers. Since Cameron’s announcement in October, there has been a measurable uptick on African newspaper articles mentioning homosexuality popping up through November and December in my Google Alerts for the continent, and those articles are rarely positive. The Ugandan Parliament revived the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by the end of October, and the Nigerian Senate greatly increased the penalties in a bill which makes same-sex unions a felony in November.

Now to be clear, neither action was a response to Britain’s announcement; both events almost certainly have occurred anyway. But if anyone had been inclined to speak out against those two bills before, the current politics now makes that all but impossible. No African politician has ever lost influence by standing up to “meddling” by foreign and (especially) colonial powers. And no politician anywhere in the world — east, west, north or south — has survived the taint of being accused of colluding with foreign governments, no  matter how manifestly untrue, unjust, or an irrelevant distraction those accusations may be.

In the short term, these announcements are likely to exacerbate the situation. That is just a simple fact of life, but pointing that out isn’t to say that this is not a good change in direction. It is merely to say that we will need to be forewarned and prepared for the inevitable reaction which will come of it. Fasten your seat belts.

Obama Orders Government Action on International LGBT Abuses

Jim Burroway

December 6th, 2011

President Barack Obama issued a memorandum today directing “all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.” The memorandum requires agencies to work on fighting criminalization of LGBT people and sets up protections for LGBT people seeking asylum. The memo also directs agencies which engage in international efforts to report back within 180 days and every year afterwards a status report on their progress toward these efforts.

The memo does not specify specific actions that individual agencies are to take in pursuing the goals, nor does it specify specific sanction, remedies, or diplomatic initiatives to be undertaken to protect the human rights of LGBT people internationally. Instead, it directs the State Department to set up a standing group “with appropriate interagency representation, to help ensure the Federal Government’s swift and meaningful response to serious incidents that threaten the human rights of LGBT persons abroad.” It appears that this standing group is intended to direct a coordinated response among several U.S. government to situations as they arise.

Here is the complete memo:

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

December 6, 2011


SUBJECT: International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons

The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights. I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation. That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.” Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere. Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.

By this memorandum I am directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons. Specifically, I direct the following actions, consistent with applicable law:

Section 1. Combating Criminalization of LGBT Status or Conduct Abroad. Agencies engaged abroad are directed to strengthen existing efforts to effectively combat the criminalization by foreign governments of LGBT status or conduct and to expand efforts to combat discrimination, homophobia, and intolerance on the basis of LGBT status or conduct.

Sec. 2. Protecting Vulnerable LGBT Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Those LGBT persons who seek refuge from violence and persecution face daunting challenges. In order to improve protection for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers at all stages of displacement, the Departments of State and Homeland Security shall enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure that LGBT refugees and asylum seekers have equal access to protection and assistance, particularly in countries of first asylum. In addition, the Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security shall ensure appropriate training is in place so that relevant Federal Government personnel and key partners can effectively address the protection of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, including by providing to them adequate assistance and ensuring that the Federal Government has the ability to identify and expedite resettlement of highly vulnerable persons with urgent protection needs.

Sec. 3. Foreign Assistance to Protect Human Rights and Advance Nondiscrimination. Agencies involved with foreign aid, assistance, and development shall enhance their ongoing efforts to ensure regular Federal Government engagement with governments, citizens, civil society, and the private sector in order to build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons.

Sec. 4. Swift and Meaningful U.S. Responses to Human Rights Abuses of LGBT Persons Abroad.The Department of State shall lead a standing group, with appropriate interagency representation, to help ensure the Federal Government’s swift and meaningful response to serious incidents that threaten the human rights of LGBT persons abroad.

Sec. 5. Engaging International Organizations in the Fight Against LGBT Discrimination. Multilateral fora and international organizations are key vehicles to promote respect for the human rights of LGBT persons and to bring global attention to LGBT issues. Building on the State Department’s leadership in this area, agencies engaged abroad should strengthen the work they have begun and initiate additional efforts in these multilateral fora and organizations to: counter discrimination on the basis of LGBT status; broaden the number of countries willing to support and defend LGBT issues in the multilateral arena; strengthen the role of civil society advocates on behalf of LGBT issues within and through multilateral fora; and strengthen the policies and programming of multilateral institutions on LGBT issues.

Sec. 6. Reporting on Progress. All agencies engaged abroad shall prepare a report within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, and annually thereafter, on their progress toward advancing these initiatives. All such agencies shall submit their reports to the Department of State, which will compile a report on the Federal Government’s progress in advancing these initiatives for transmittal to the President.

Sec. 7. Definitions. (a) For the purposes of this memorandum, agencies engaged abroad include the Departments of State, the Treasury, Defense, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Export-Import Bank, the United States Trade Representative, and such other agencies as the President may designate.

(b) For the purposes of this memorandum, agencies involved with foreign aid, assistance, and development include the Departments of State, the Treasury, Defense, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, the USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Export-Import Bank, the United States Trade Representative, and such other agencies as the President may designate.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

The Secretary of State is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.


# #

Obama Blasts GOP For Failure To “Stand Up For the Men and Women Who Wear The Uniform”

Jim Burroway

October 2nd, 2011

In remarks before a gathering of the Human Rights Campaign, President Barack Obama blasted Republicans for standing silently on stage while audience members booed a gay American soldier during a GOP debate last week. Six candidates — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, pizza magnate Herman Cain, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — have maintained their silence for more than a week. Obama called them out:

We don’t believe in a small America. We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says its okay for a stage full of political leaders, one of whom could end up being the President of the United States, being silent when an American soldier is booed. We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens. We don’t believe in them being silent since.

You want to be commander in chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.

We don’t believe in a small America. We believe in a big American, a tolerant America, a just America, an equal America that values the service of every patriot. We believe in an America where we’re all in it together and we see the good in one another. And we live up to a creed that is as old as our founding, “E Pluribus Unum” — out of many, one. And that includes everybody. That’s what we believe. That’s what we’re going to be fighting for. I am confident that’s what the American people believe in. I’m confident because of the changes we’ve achieved these two and a half years, the progress that some folks said was impossible.

Obama recounted his accomplishments since taking office: the passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, the lifting of the HIV travel ban, the enactment of regulations requiring hospitals to allow gay partners to see and make decisions for their loved ones, and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He also reiterated his support for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act:

I vowed to keep up the fight against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. There’s a bill to repeal this discriminatory law in Congress, and I want to see that passed. But until we reach that day, my administration is no longer defending DOMA in the courts. I believe the law runs counter to the Constitution, and it’s time for it to end once and for all. It should join “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the history books.

Obama Calls On UN To Protect Gay Rights

Jim Burroway

September 21st, 2011

President Barack Obama spoke at the United Nations General Assembly today, where he called on member states to protect the human rights of gays and lesbians:

And to make sure our societies reach their potential, we must allow our citizens to reach theirs. No country can afford the corruption that plagues the world like a cancer. Together, we must harness the power of open societies and open economies. That’s why we’ve partnered with countries from across the globe to launch a new partnership on open government that helps ensure accountability and helps to empower citizens. No country should deny people their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.

According to the White House, this is the first time that a sitting U.S. President affirmed the rights of gays and lesbians before the U.N. General Assembly.

DADT Certification Is Done!

Jim Burroway

July 22nd, 2011

The certification letter signed by President Obama, Defense Secretary Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mullen

The military ban on gay servicemembers serving openly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will officially pass into history on September 20, 2011. President Barack Obama signed the certification stating that the U.S. military is now fully prepared to end the policy with no harm to military readiness. The certification, which is required by the repeal law passed last December, starts a sixty day clock to final repeal.

The White House released the following statement from President Obama:

Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality.  In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met.  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will end, once and for all, in 60 days—on September 20, 2011.

As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness.  Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal.  As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country. Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.

I want to commend our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war.  I want to thank all our men and women in uniform, including those who are gay or lesbian, for their professionalism and patriotism during this transition.  Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen signed the certification letter yesterday and presented it to the President this afternoon.

According to Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly:

In a news conference at the Pentagon, Maj. Gen. Steven A. Hummer said that the military had completed ”the necessary policies and regulations to implement repeal,” praised the work of the Repeal Implementation Team, and said, ”This thoughtful and steady approach…has laid the groundwork for a smooth and orderly transition.”

…Hummer said the military expects all training of active duty servicemembers and reserves will be completed by Aug. 15.

Hummer said that the repeal implementation Team has conducted a thorough review of regulations and policies, made the necessary revisions, and stated that those changes will be effective upon the date of repeal. Some of the main policies addressed relate to separations of servicemembers under DADT. Such servicemembers, when discharged fully under DADT, will be able to re-apply after repeal, said Hummer.

There are still some issues related to DADT’s repeal which are yet to be addressed:

”Perhaps the largest piece of this is benefits,” said Hummer.

Although Hummer said that certain benefits in which servicemembers can select a beneficiary of their own choosing will be open to gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers who wish to name a same-sex partner, he noted that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ”the existing definition of ‘dependent’ in some laws” will prohibit extending benefits such as health care and housing allowances to the same-sex partners of servicemembers.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), whose refusal to let DADT repeal die when all hope appeared lost, praised today’s development:

America is now one giant step closer to joining at least 28 of our closest allies in welcoming the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country.  I am delighted to have helped lead the effort to begin repeal of this law because it is the right thing to do for our military and for our country.

Sen. Collins was the only Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee to vote to include DADT’s repeal in the Defense Authorization bill.  In December, she was the only Republican in the Senate to vote to proceed to the Defense Authorization bill which included repeal language. When that vot failed, Sens. Collins and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) then introduced a standalone bill which passed the Senate on December 18, 2010 by a vote of 65-31.

Sen. Lieberman also praised DADT’s imminent demise:

“Our strongest in the world military is even stronger today with the certification that its readiness and effectiveness will not be diminished by the open service of gay and lesbian servicemembers. I thank our military leaders for their efforts over the past several months to implement this policy. Justice has been served, and we should all be grateful that patriots stand guard every day around the world protecting our precious freedoms.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) also reacted to the news:

Given Leon Panetta’s lifelong record of opposition to unfair discrimination, I knew when the President appointed him to be the Secretary of Defense that he would act promptly to implement last December’s legislation to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

I have a prediction: just as we have seen in those states where same-sex marriage has occurred with none of the negative consequences predicted, it will soon be clear that there was never any basis for this discriminatory policy in the first place other than prejudice, and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender servicemembers will soon demonstrate that there never was a good reason to keep them from serving our country.

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