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Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

The Column I’m Waiting to Write

June 23rd, 2011 No comments

*Mar 01 - 00:05*The New York Senate — more specifically, the Senate Republicans — have been dithering over a marriage equality bill for a week now. They need better religious protections, they want it tied to other deals, they will allow a vote, they won’t allow a vote. On and on it goes.

As of 10:45 on Thursday night, it’s still unclear what the bill looks like (how extensive are the proposed protections? are they too great a concession to religious beliefs, allowing discrimination in their name?), whether the Senate Republican leader, Dean Skelos, is going to let his caucus vote on it, and what its fate will be should it come to the floor (as of now, it’s one vote short of the majority it needs).

Meanwhile, Obama appeared this evening at a gala gay fund-raiser and, it turns out, still hasn’t fully “evolved” on marriage equality. Would his eleventh-hour endorsement help push the measure through? Who knows, but I’m tired of waiting.

I’ll have a lot to say about this, one way or another, once something…happens or doesn’t happen, decisively. For now, I remain a slave to the computer and to Wimbledon.

State of the Union: No Promo Homo

January 28th, 2011 No comments

My take on the State of the Union address, over at 365gay.com. It’s a reminder that anything we might want to get done over the next couple of years will need to come from somewhere other than the often-useless U.S. Congress.

“Actual Responsibilities” vs. Actual Responsibilities

January 13th, 2011 No comments

I spent most of yesterday seething over Sarah Palin’s incredible, “turn defense to offense” speech. The woman whose violent rhetoric has poisoned the political discourse by positing the President as enemy rather than opposition spoke from her secure bubble, denying responsibility on any level and positing a false equivalence between her actions and those of the Democrats.1

I’d pored through her text, marking of all kinds logical inconsistencies, and had planned a long post built around the snarky statement she’d made when accepting the VP nomination in 2008: As Mayor of Wasilla, she — unlike community organizer Barack Obama — had “actual responsibilities.” Of course, she has no patience with responsibilities: resigning as governor to line her pockets and enrich the public discourse with Tweets; and now this wholly uncharitable excoriation of those whose search for explanation for the Arizona tragedy dared to point out some inconvenient facts. (That isn’t to say that Palin’s to blame for what happened last week, just that it was proper to consider context — especially the statement that Rep. Giffords had made at the very time the gun sight map was issued. This is the most nuanced discussion of the complexity of the responsibility issue I’ve seen, and it’s from a conservative.)

But no more. After hearing Obama’s speech, I’m going to back away and say nothing further about Palin. (I already wrote more than I’d planned. It’s hard to help it.) Let’s focus on the memorial instead.

Although I thought there was something off-putting and almost creepy about the pep-rally response to this memorial speech — can you imagine a similar response to, say, the Gettysburg Address? — the speech itself was Obama at his finest. (I encourage those who haven’t heard the speech to read the transcript instead, or at least first. Then you get the beauty of the speech without the cheerleading. It’s here.) For me, this complex call to healing through expanding our vision was the highlight:

As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together. After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected.

Note the brilliant connection between the political and the deeply personal. And then he moved back to the victims, focusing on the only child killed, Christina Taylor Green. As a parent of twin girls not much younger than Christina, I was especially affected by his comments about her:

And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic. So deserving of our love. And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost.

Mostly, this just made me want to be a better parent. But maybe that impulse will carry over into my dealings with others. Let’s hope so.

  1. Here I refer to the infamous gun sights that populated her Congressional map; it’s true, as a Daily Dish reader noted, that some years before a map generated by Dems contained targets — but they weren’t gun sights. And even if they were, is that a good defense? Actually, maybe the gun sights aren’t worse than targets in a nation that allows assault weapons but outlaws lawn darts.

What DADT Ruling Means

October 12th, 2010 3 comments

Federal judge Virginia Phillips has just issued a permanent (as in, “forever”) injunction against enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Does this really mean that the discharges will stop? Can a lone judge in California really effect a change of this magnitude?

Yes. She just did, and there’s no legal — as opposed to political — reason preventing this step. Her decision on a question of federal law, absent appeal, holds for the entire nation. After reiterating her judgment that the law violates constitutional protections of fundamental rights, free speech, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, the brief order makes clear its reach and effect. The court:

(2) PERMANENTLY ENJOINS Defendants United States of America and the Secretary of Defense, their agents, servants, officers, employees, and attorneys, and all persons acting in participation or concert with them or under their direction or command, from enforcing or applying the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Act and implementing regulations, against any person under their jurisdiction or command;

(3) ORDERS Defendants United States of America and the Secretary of Defense immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Act, or pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 654 or its implementing regulations, on or prior to the date of this Judgment.

This means what it says. The policy is gone, and even those DADT-based investigations or discharges that are in process are to stop. Immediately.

Before issuing this final ruling, Judge Phillips had solicited input from the Obama Department of Justice about the effect of her proposed injunction. But their arguments about the harm of such a ruling failed to persuade her, so the law is now history, unless the Obama Administration appeals. Even in that case, they would have to ask for and be granted a stay (both of which would be quite likely) for the injunction to  be lifted.

What to do? This is perhaps the worst-case scenario for Obama: If, as expected, he appeals, he gives the LGBT community and disgusted progressive voters another reason to stay home next month.

Should he take advantage of the sixty-day period allowed for appeal, putting off reckoning until after the mid-terms and counting on the lame-duck Senate to pass the repeal measure? Under ordinary circumstances, this approach might have some promise, but not in this case. The problem is that the repeal measure, even if it passes, isn’t a repeal at all, but the result of a compromise “vote-now-repeal-later-(maybe)” approach. (For the repeal to become effective, a host of actors and institutions, apparently including the local Rotary Club, would have to certify that repeal wouldn’t harm military readiness.) Even with this “repeal” law, DADT would remain in effect for the time being, so that the issue of whether to appeal Judge Phillips’s ruling would have to be confronted in any case.

Does it pain me to say that Obama has only himself to blame? To an extent, yes, because I still believe that his deepest instincts are grounded in a basic notion of equality. But too often, those instincts are submerged beneath a cautious political calculus that ends up deferring or defeating the very initiatives he backs. Still no ENDA, no reasonable prospect of DOMA repeal, and now this situation — where even if the Obama DOJ doesn’t appeal, he’ll get, and deserve, only limited and grudging credit.

Well, too bad. That even this flawed measure didn’t get through the Senate is nothing short of appalling, and a sad testament to Obama’s inability to bring his own party to heel (as by slapping down Harry Reid’s parliamentary tricks, which served only to alienate the few moderate Republicans he might otherwise have counted on).

If I’m a gay or lesbian service member, though, I’m not coming out: yet.

LGBT Q&A

June 24th, 2010 2 comments

In today’s 365gay column, I answer a few of the questions that have come in since I started this weekly gig:

  • Is DOMA constitutional?
  • Should we just ask Justice Kennedy what he thinks about marriage equality?
  • How can Obama be so good and so bad on LGBT issues at the same time?

How Much Will New Rules for Family and Medical Leave Act Help Same-Sex Couples? Not Much

June 22nd, 2010 1 comment

Some good news is coming in about the Labor Department’s imminent announcement of new regulations that allow workers to take (unpaid) leave in order to care for their children.

Here’s the important language from the Family and Medical Leave Act:

§ 2612.  Leave requirement

(a) In general.
(1) Entitlement to leave. [A]n eligible employee shall be entitled to a total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following:
(A) Because of the birth of a son or daughter of the employee and in order to care for such son or daughter.
(B) Because of the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care.
(C) In order to care for the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent, of the employee, if such spouse, son, daughter, or parent has a serious health condition.

Apparently, the new regulations will interpret “son” and “daughter” broadly enough to cover those cared for by those who “act as” parents, even in the absence of legal or blood ties to the child. This interpretation, of course, will benefit not only non-bio, non-adoptive LGBT parents, but all similarly “non-traditional” (whatever that means) parents. Like the Obama Administration’s proposed new rules on hospital visitation, these changes will benefit not only the LGBT community. Smart politics there.

But the story has been misreported (by the AP) as allowing LGBT workers to stay home to care for their partners. That can’t be done under this law, which the Labor Department has no authority to countermand.

The Labor Department can probably expand the definition of “son” or “daughter” in this way, but can’t do so with “spouse” — because of the Goddamned Defense of Marriage Act.

Creative interpretation of existing law can only get you so far. This initiative, while commendable, only underscores that DOMA — a law that the Obama Administration continues to defend in court and has done almost nothing to work toward repeal — must be repealed.

A Father’s Day Proclamation I Can Love

June 18th, 2010 2 comments

Here’s a just-issued Father’s Day Proclamation issued by the President. In a document that praises and celebrates fathers and those who act as mentors (and calls for responsibility by all fathers), Obama adds this:

Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a step father, a grandfather, or caring guardian.

The emphasized phrase is still startling to read, but not really surprising from this Administration. Although they’ve lagged on legislative priorities, when it comes to the stuff that the Oval Office — and the vast bureaucracy it controls — can do, they’re such a marked improvement over the preceding one that I feel as though I’ve just come out of a time machine.

I’m about to go watch a documentary about the Mormons’ role in Prop 8.  This Proclamation will provide a warm, insulating coat against what’s about to infuriate me. On second thought, maybe I’ll re-run the season finale of “Glee.” Or read yet more Wimbledon previews.

How’m I Doing So Far?

April 22nd, 2010 No comments

Passably, Mr. President, but just. Here‘s my column over at 365 explaining my reasons. Obama gets credit for the administrative and judicial enforcement stuff he’s doing. As for legislation? Not so much.

Categories: 365gay column, Obama Tags: ,

That Didn’t Take Long!

April 16th, 2010 No comments

Earlier today, I wrote that the right-wing fringe hadn’t expressed opposition to Obama’s humane Memorandum directing HHS to create rules requiring hospitals to respect the decisional autonomy of their patients, by letting them choose their own visitors — even though one major effect of any such rule would be to respect same-sex couples.

Now, blundering in from the periphery comes Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, who denounces the rule for a confusing mash of reasons, apparently including general opposition to Obama doing anything relating to health care (a good chance to oppose HCR, in another context), and some idea that the move contributes to a redefinition of marriage. But then there’s this exchange, towards the end of an on-line exchange where Sprigg was buffeted about by a score of e-mail conversants. Watch him just give up the ghost:

Mr. Sprigg — I can hardly see how someone could deny a hospitalized person the compassionate and therapeutic benefits of a visitation by their partner.

In opposing this measure, aren’t you putting your dogma before your humanity? Are you seeking to publicize your agenda? You really need to examine the question: what would Jesus do?

Peter Sprigg: Let me re-emphasize that I do NOT oppose allowing people to visit their homosexual partners in the hospital. I just think that provisions to allow that should be based on the general principal of patient self-determination, and not based on a redefintion of “family” or “marriage.”

The President’s memorandum actually does appeal to that principle, and is not focused only on same-sex couples.

So why not just leave it alone? Because the Family Research Council — which, to reanimate the Coffee Talk Lady, is “neither pro-family, nor based on sound research, nor a council” — can’t resist piping up whenever the common humanity of gay and lesbian people is respected, however meagerly. Let’s not forget that these fringies do us a favor with their tone-deaf absolutism.


Not Just for Gays: Hospital Visits and Respect for Autonomy

April 16th, 2010 No comments

Last night’s surprise action by President Obama was a heartening and welcome development. In a two-page memo to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Obama requested that the Secretary promulgate rules that will increase the chances that the wishes of lesbian and gay hospital patients respecting visitation and decision-making will be respected rather than ignored. From the memorandum:

It should be made clear that designated visitors, including individuals designated by legally valid advance directives (such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies), should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy. You should also provide that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

So far, I’ve not seen any criticism of this move from the right. I don’t expect much (but please let me know if you find any), because mostly everyone has conceded this point: “Oh, I’m in favor of gay people being able to visit each other in the hospital.” It’s an easy bone to throw us to make homophobia seem tolerant, and it has the benefit of feeding into the perception they’re trying to sustain that gay people are “sick.” So it’s a brilliant, unassailable — and overdue — move by the President.

What little criticism I’ve seen has come from the gays our ownselves. Here’s Andrew Sullivan:

There is something about the well-meaning liberal mind that is often admirably eager to help the needy, but balks at offering the recipients what we really want: simple equality. The latest move – giving Obama an easy win, the gay lobby a role in mediating the transaction – perpetuates the victimology that sustains the Democrats and their interest groups.

If we had marriage equality, we’d need no-one’s compassion. We’d just be able to live our lives. Why won’t the president help us do that?

As someone who’s written both windy law review articles and blog posts arguing for marriage equality for the past decade plus, I’m not going to disagree about the importance of “simple equality” which would make a great number of other issues disappear. (And it really is simple.) But read the Memorandum closely and you’ll see that the requested change goes far beyond marriage equality: The idea is to allow people to designate the person of their choice (either “on the spot” or through advance directives) to visit them in the hospital.

Yes, this will help those of us in same-sex relationships to avoid some of the horrors that our community has suffered, such as the inhumane and just inexplicable case that unfolded in Florida recently. But it will also help people in all kinds of relationships that the law doesn’t recognize, and never will. That respect for individual autonomy and decision-making in the most challenging circumstances is the great accomplishment of this Memorandum, and it shouldn’t go unacknowledged.

One more point: There’s a limit to what a President can accomplish all by himself, but these Executive Orders and Memoranda should be coming fast and furious. Obama could have issued this Memorandum immediately after taking office. While that would have been too late for Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond in Florida, there have doubtless been many others since January 2009 who could have been at their partners’ side during those terrible final hours. What a needless shame.