Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Obama's Disinterested Approach to Gay Rights

One can feel as if they are going to experience whiplash at times from Barack Obama's approach to LGBT rights and ending legalized anti-gay discrimination.  Sadly, it often seems that only when the LGBT community becomes truly pissed off and inclined to stop writing checks for Obama and/or other Democrats that Obama will have a brief epiphany and take a step to advance equality.  But more often, he seems most inclined to either throw gays under the bus - as with his refusal to sign an ENDA like executive order despite polling that shows the vast majority of Americans support employment protections  - or to close his eyes and pretend he's unaware of issues that have monumental impact on gays.   While I applaud his belated efforts for the repeal of DAD and his refusal to defend DOMA, there's so much more to be done, especially in states like Virginia where LGBT citizens barely rate as 4th class citizens.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Obama's continued ability to frustrate LGBT Americans while assuming that we have no viable option but to vote for him in November.  Here are highlights:

Two weeks from now, North Carolina will hold a public referendum on what could become one of the toughest anti-gay measures in the country: a far-reaching proposal to amend the state constitution to ban civil unions and domestic partnerships. But President Obama is not expected to touch the subject when he appears in Chapel Hill on Tuesday — even though it is roiling the electorate there.

Instead, Obama will talk about college loans, his aides said, kicking off a two-day, three-state tour designed to energize the youth vote. His delicate sidestep of Amendment One, a ballot initiative to be decided May 8 that would recognize marriage between a man and a woman as the only legal domestic partnership in North Carolina, is seen by some as another sign that he is not fully committed to gay rights — an interpretation that could dampen the enthusiasm of the young voters he is trying to court.

“It’s a little bit of a missed opportunity,” said Josh Orol, 20, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a leader of a campus movement to defeat Amendment One. “I didn’t expect him to talk at length about it. I know he has come out publicly against it. But I sort of hoped he would at least name-drop a little bit. It’s disappointing.”

 The issue is particularly complicated in historically conservative North Carolina. .   .   .   North Carolina is widely seen as a bigger challenge this year for Obama than it was in 2008, when he won with a margin of roughly 14,000 votes. Not only does the state’s unemployment rate continue to hover near 10 percent, but its Democratic Party is in disarray and is expected to be of little help to president  .  .  

It will also be up to Obama to navigate the political crosscurrents of a complicated state in which he must court multiple constituencies that do not all agree on all the same issues.  The fate of Amendment One, for instance, is uncertain, with one public poll predicting that it will pass easily and another projecting a loss. Quietly opposing Amendment One, but keeping his distance from on-the-ground efforts to defeat it, could be an essential strategy for Obama to pull back together the diverse coalition that elected him last time.

Nonetheless, that approach is frustrating younger activists, many of whom have come to view marriage equality as the defining civil rights cause of their generation. They are impatient with Obama’s self-described “evolving” position on gay marriage — he supports civil unions but stops short of endorsing legal protections for marriage — and they are looking for signs that he is ready to embrace their cause more fully.

Campaign officials also drew a stark contrast between Obama’s positions on marriage issues and those of the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, whose opposition to legal protections for gay couples drew an endorsement last week from the National Organization for Marriage.

Particularly frustrating to DeLuca and others is the prospect of Amendment One passing despite growing opposition. Corporate leaders, advocates for victims of domestic violence and even moderate Republicans, faith leaders and the NAACP have joined forces in an attempt to defeat it 

Whatever Obama does or does not say about Amendment One in the coming two weeks, he could benefit, at least somewhat, from the push to defeat it. Across the state, particularly on college campuses, diverse coalitions of students, gay rights activists, libertarians and others have been collecting e-mail addresses and registering voters in advance of the May 8 referendum.  

I often am left with the feeling that the issue of gay rights is just a matter of political gamesmanship with Obama.  He constantly forgets that there are real lives involved and real LGBT headed families that face discrimination.  It is soul killing to always find oneself hoping and waiting for the day when one will be a full, equal citizen.  I often feel I will not live to see that day arrive.  At least not if we rely on Obama to set the timetable.

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