Saturday, February 16, 2008

Can we eliminate anti-gay discrimination? Obama says, ‘Yes we can.’

An op-ed piece in yesterday’s Washington Blade ( focuses on the difference in the positions on gay rights of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. While Clinton continues to have many LGBT supporters – like the disaffected ones commenting on my diary on Pam’s House Blend – the reality is that I believe Obama will do more fto further full equality for gays than Hillary. I fully agree with the views set out in the op-ed column. Here are some highlights from the Blade column:

AS VOTERS DECIDE which presidential candidate offers the best hope of securing progressive change at the national level for all LGBT Americans, there remains a major difference between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton on an issue of substantive policy: the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. Obama has called for the complete, unqualified repeal of DOMA since before arriving in the U.S. Senate. That principled position places Obama in stark contrast to Clinton, who continues to support key provisions of this discriminatory law. Why does Clinton insist upon supporting anti-gay legislation that should never have been enacted in the first place?

Clinton appears not to appreciate that DOMA itself is “mean-spirited, discriminatory legislation.” More broadly, her argument represents precisely the kind of cynical Washington politics that has served the LGBT community so poorly for years.It is important to understand what is at stake here. The “full faith and credit” portions of DOMA — the part of the law that Clinton supports — relate to the rights of gay and lesbian couples when they travel around the country. Ordinarily, every state in the country has a solemn obligation to recognize judgments issued by the courts of other states. DOMA, however, permits hostile states to single out gay and lesbian relationships, and only our relationships, and to treat them as a legal nullity.

Clinton justifies this discrimination against gay and lesbian couples with the worst kind of Washington double-speak: We have to discriminate against gay couples under DOMA now, she says, in order to prevent even worse anti-gay discrimination some time in the future.Imagine a politician trying to justify discrimination against any other group with this kind of argument. “We must permit discrimination against women in the workplace, because Congress might pass an even worse law if the climate in Washington changes.” ”We must engage in racial profiling against Latinos, African Americans and Muslims, because who knows what draconian policies we might see down the road otherwise?” Women, people of color and religious communities would reject such nonsense out of hand. LGBT Americans should do the same.

In short, Clinton’s argument about the Federal Marriage Amendment shows a lack of judgment. CLINTON CLAIMS THAT her support for DOMA reflects her “experience” in Washington. Indeed, “experience” has been Clinton’s principal argument to voters throughout this campaign. We respectfully submit that, if Clinton’s experience leads her to defend anti-gay legislation like the Defense of Marriage Act, then it is a kind of experience that we do not need.Obama offers a clear answer to the cynics who claim that we cannot eliminate anti-gay discrimination at the federal level: “Yes we can.” LGBT Americans deserve a president who will put the politics of fear behind us and replace it with a true vision of change. That president is Barack Obama.


Steve said...

I don't know what to say about this except,

(1) It's difficult to trust someone who had an "ex-gay" minister and singer headline his campaign "gospel" tour through South Carolina. A man who preaches that homosexuality can be cured by religious intervention (Donnie McClurkin). This is what Obama did last October. As a gay man and an atheist, I'm appalled.

(2) Hillary simply says that in her experience (which is what she means), DOMA is likely to forestall the passage of FMA and it'll be easier to repeal DOMA in the future than FMA. Just as it is going to be easier to repeal DADT now than if the ban had continued. Hopefully, we can get ENDA passed. I assume that what she is taking into account is the much touted bi-partisanship that Americans want so much and Obama champions. Too bad it almost always leads to mediocrity.

This is the kind of "experience" that keeps you from saying things like "we should normalize relations with Cuba", and "we could invade Pakistan without the consent of the Pakistani President."

Of course, on the last point, McCain probably agrees.

Obama is not a Progressive. There are no candidates left of center in this country (well, none that are being seriously considered). He and Hillary are peas in a pod.. They all are.

Anonymous said...

Steve, with all due respect, as a "gay man and an atheist" I'm sure you appreciate the value of tolerance. But I guess the paradox is whether intolerance should be tolerated? I think we can actually learn something from the most intolerant evangelicals who profess to "hate the sin, but love the sinner." I don't think many of them are being ingenuous when they say this, but we should. (That is, we should hate the ideology but reach out to its proponents).
Just because McClurkin is bigoted doesn't mean Obama should shun his support or the votes of like-minded socially conservative African American fundamentalists, as if by winning their support on the basis of economic or (racial) civil rights issues---Obama would be validating or endorsing their anti-gay zealotry. That's rediculous.
On the contrary, Obama stands up for gay rights on the basis of his Christian values in front of initially hesitant congregations. He knows how to relate to them and persuade them, and this political skill would go to waste if he failed to reach out to these people. Progress requires dialogue, not demonization.