In 2008, a lot of people in the LGBT community put all of their energy into electing Barack Obama. But, we lost rights in California on that election day. In 2012, Minnesotans will be voting on our equality. And, this time, we get the stakes. I suspect a lot of young people can be mobilized to fight the marriage amendment. Polling shows younger voters are our strongest supporters. So, Jim Messina and the Obama campaign are going to have to figure out how they can tap into the enthusiasm the anti-marriage campaign will generate (cause I suspect it won’t be there for Obama like it was in 2008.) It’s going to take more than this milquetoast statement from the White House, which was provided to Chris Johnson:
The White House on Monday issued a statement in response to a proposed measure in Minnesota that would make a ban on same-sex marriage part of the state constitution.
The complete statement follows:
“The President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples or to take such rights away. While he believes this is an issue best addressed by the states, he also believes that committed gay couples should have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country.”
White House spokesperson Shin Inouye provided the statement to the Washington Blade via e-mail in response to a question on President Obama’s position on the marriage amendment, which will come before Minnesota voters in 2012.
That statement mirrors the statement that the White House issued when we were fighting the battle to repeal the Maine marriage law in 2009. Kerry Eleveld posted that statement here:
“The President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples, and as he said at the Human Rights Campaign dinner, he believes ‘strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away.’ Also at the dinner, he said he supports, ‘ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country.’”
I was very involved in the Maine campaign. Back then, a wide range of people begged and pleaded the White House to help. Instead, the Organizing for America (OFA) sent a get-out-the-vote email to Mainers that didn’t even mention the marriage fight. I even talked to sources in Maine who reported that a White House staffer called to see where Olympia Snowe stood on the issue. That’s what they were worried about then.
In 2012, it’s has to be different. The Obama campaign is going to need an energized base. Weak, generic statements won’t cut it. The President needs to come out in support of marriage. Evolve already. In 2008, the Obama campaign made the political calculation that it was in his best interest to oppose same-sex marriage. Well, the tide has turned. This time, supporting same-sex marriage is in Obama’s political interest — and he’s already behind on it.
And, don’t forget, there are still a number of executive actions the President can take. In the wake of the Tennessee debacle, we need federal protections more than ever. Kerry Eleveld (again):
Rather than assembling a patchwork of progress agency by agency, President Obama should issue executive orders or amend existing ones that set a government-wide precedent for equality in the following ways:
1) Directing the federal government to include LGBT Americans in all federal level data collection efforts.
2) Mandating that all federal contractors must have policies providing nondiscrimination protections for their employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
3) Prohibiting federal funds from being used to discriminate against LGBT Americans.
4) Prohibiting discrimination against military service members on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
5) Adding gender identity protections to President Clinton’s executive order 13087, which protected civilian federal workers from bias based on their sexual orientation.
Yep. We need more this time around. And, there’s plenty still to do.