(click the title for the article - with links)
by David Link
Posted on June 18, 2009
Barack Obama is adding a coda to Mario Cuomo’s observation that people campaign in poetry but govern in prose: based on his press conference yesterday, when it comes to gay rights, even prose is failing him. On our issues, he is governing in grunts.
There is no better illustration of how badly the toxic residue of anti-gay prejudice distorts ordinary politics than Obama’s flailing on the simple and fundamental issue of the inequality that federal law demands for those who are homosexual. And that is a point that cannot be overemphasized: DOMA and DADT are federal laws that explicitly require the government to discriminate based on a person's sexual orientation. Discrimination is the considered policy of the U.S. government when it comes to lesbians and gay men.
To be fair, we share part of the blame for the President's dilemma. Some of our leaders led him to believe that gestures toward equality would do. But since Obama was elected, four states have recognized full marriage equality, three of them by legislative action. On the other side of the ledger, the government has discharged one of its most articulate and talented Arabic translators, Lt. Dan Choi, because he has been honest about being gay -- at the same time that 69% of Americans say they do not support the policy under which he was fired. That is, in large part why the weak tea the President offered yesterday looked so much like weak tea.
What he did is satisfying enough, if you’re among the 2% of American workers who are federal employees, and also among the 3% or so of them who are homosexual, and also among the unknown percent of them who have a committed partner. I’m not a mathematician, but I believe the overlap of these three circles in a Venn Diagram would be quite small. I know I’m immediately disqualified because I’m in the 98% of workers who isn't a federal employee.
But the scattershot benefits that are now available to that infinitesimal percentage of Americans exclude the one that makes the biggest daily difference in people’s lives: health insurance. This is not just the dominant benefit in most people’s employment, it comprises, by itself, between 6.9% and 8.1% of total compensation.
But the President’s compelled performance was matched by those in our community who had to grit their teeth and act as if they were grateful. Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force did everything but blink out S.O.S. with her eyelids in supporting the memo.
And, let’s be honest, none of this would have happened (at least not now) but for the DNC fundraiser that continues to fall apart because the President’s DOJ filed its “squalid” brief (in Dale Carpenter’s perfect description) in the Smelt case – the very non-pink elephant in the room the President declined to mention.
Despite all this, it is depressing to have to acknowledge the Democrats remain better on gay issues than Republicans. But when even the Democrats are still acting with the skittishness of 1994, it’s hard to distinguish the two.
At the very least, I wouldn’t want to give the DNC the $1000 entrance fee to their fundraiser. At best, I think that all we’ve gotten from them is about $57 worth of equality.