Socarides in WSJ: Obama Is Missing in Action on Gay Rights

Richard Socarides, who has guest blogged here before, just published a strongly-word op ed in the Wall Street Journal about President Obama’s record on gay rights. Some snippets:

President Obama celebrated Gay Pride Month earlier this week by telling guests at a White House reception that he still favors full equality for gays and lesbians. But despite a steady trickle of small steps Mr. Obama has taken to promote gay rights, on the big issues he is a disappointment.

First and most obviously, Mr. Obama has not made good on his campaign promise to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, allowing the military to continue stalling. Despite his earlier assertion that leadership was the only thing required to abolish this long-discredited policy, the administration’s efforts have been lackluster.

Earlier this year, the president’s staff indicated privately that they would prefer to wait until after the midterm elections to move forward. Only after it became clear that Congress was going to act without him—and after he was heckled twice at fund raisers by the activist group GetEQUAL—did Mr. Obama step in, and then with a Pentagon-inspired “compromise.”

Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice not only have chosen to aggressively defend the constitutionality of that law, which bars recognition of same-sex marriages, but Justice Department lawyers actually cite it affirmatively to deny federal employee benefits like health insurance to same-sex couples. Where is the Civil Rights Division, which Mr. Holder has called the “crown jewel” of his department?

The absence of a position from the Justice Department in favor of expanding civil rights is as shocking as the absence of a coherent White House policy on gay issues. There is no senior policy person at the White House whose primary responsibility is gay rights. And there is no gay person in Mr. Obama’s inner circle of advisers. That matters when trying to get attention for issues in an already overcrowded agenda, and the result is obvious.

In a telling development, the most significant and aggressive legal effort to promote gay equality today is being led by a conservative, former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson. In federal court in San Francisco, together with co-counsel David Boies, he is prosecuting the most comprehensive and sophisticated legal attack on antigay marriage laws in history.

As that case unfolded—the decision will come later this summer—we learned last month that former First Lady Laura Bush supports gay marriage. Add her to the growing list that includes Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, and Cindy and Meghan McCain.

When Mr. Olson’s case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court in a year or more from now, will Mr. Obama be one of the few left on the wrong side of history? What a bitter irony that would be.

Pam has more analysis.


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