What do we want?

Joe and I got an email the other day from a well-connected gay friend, and he said he was hearing rumors that the Obama administration, in an effort to woo back the gays, was thinking of possibly announcing the following this month:

1. Something on Hate Crimes.
2. Federal benefits for partners of gay federal employees.
3. A gay ambassador.

Let me explain something. All of that is very sweet and nice. But it’s all very 1990s. Bill Clinton and George W Bush both appointed gay ambassadors, so you get no kudos there. Federal benefits for partners of gay federal employees is, again, nice, and will certainly benefit the handful of gays who work in the government. But again, it’s very 1990s, in terms of issues on the gay community’s radar. And finally, Hate Crimes. Nice bill, important, but totally bottom of the barrel in terms of its importance compared to DOMA, ENDA, and DADT. Not to mention, Hate Crimes already passed the Senate and House in the last Congress – we expect more with a Democratic president who has promised to be our “fierce advocate.”

And a word about the federal employee benefits. How exactly are they going to pull that one off? First off, their own DOMA brief argues that it’s not fair to ask straight taxpayers to pay for our benefits. So how is the administration going to pull a 180 on that one? Second, what about DOMA? Doesn’t it have something to say about the federal government paying benefits to gay partners? Now, sure, I’ve been told by big gay lawyers that DOMA wouldn’t necessarily ban the provision of federal benefits to partners provided they’re not in a marriage-like relationship – meaning, DOMA would ban you from getting benefits if you have a civil union or an actual marriage in one of the states that permit it. So what that means is that should Obama decide to give benefits to the partners of gay federal employees, he may have to exclude any federal employees who have civil unions or marriages (in places like Massachusetts, CA, IA, CT, etc). Why? Because he hasn’t done anything on DOMA, like he promised. Oops.

Relations are not going to get better between President Obama and the gay community – and in fact, they’re going to keep deteriorating – until the White House does something real to move the agenda forward on DOMA, ENDA and DADT (and an openly gay cabinet appointee wouldn’t hurt either). No more empty statements of “support.” No more explanations as to how powerless you are to get anything done. We want action. You’re the leader of the free world. Start acting like it.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in New York City, and is the cofounder of TimeToResign.com. Bio, .

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