I’m not sure that’s true at all. Yes, Bill Clinton signed DOMA and DADT. But his outreach to gays and lesbians was historic. Bob Hattoy, openly HIV+ and gay, speaking at the Democratic Convention during prime time. Roberta Achtenberg as HUD assistant secretary. The first openly gay ambassador. An openly gay man as a senior adviser to the President. And scores of openly gay people across the entire administration.
That was historic.
What President Obama has done the past 19 months, the word “historic” doesn’t come to mind. Status quo is more like it. Obama did what any other Democratic president would have done.
Can you really say that Obama did more for gay rights than Hillary would have done? No. And I sure as hell voted for him because I thought at the time that he would.
Can you really say that Obama was more audaciously in favor of gay rights, for his times, than Bill Clinton was for his times? I don’t think so.
So when the Human Rights Campaign goes on TV and parrots another administration talking point, that “this administration and this President have done more for LGBT people than certainly any president in history,” I really have to challenge that.
The issue isn’t whether Barack Obama appointed more openly gay people today than Bill Clinton did twenty years ago – he sure as hell should have, and would have, as would any Democratic president. The issue is whether Barack Obama has been our fierce advocate, as promised.
And he has not.
Yeah, Barack Obama is better than an anti-gay bigot Republican (though neither would seem terribly committed to truly repealing DADT and DOMA, nor passing ENDA – if Obama were truly committed, he’d have made even a single phone call for the DADT filibuster a few weeks ago, and he didn’t – though he did find time to phone the WNBA champs).
Being better than a raging homophobe is faint praise for a man who promised to be so much more. Barack Obama was handed the greatest chance to effect real change in a generation. And he blew it. Don’t expect me to express my gratitude to a guy who was handed a Rolls Royce and gave me a Hyundai in return.
PS And let’s stop with the “better than any president before him” line. Are we really to express our gratitude that Obama is better on gay issues than George Washington?