It’s not easy to get to talk to the President. I was fortunate to have the rare opportunity to ask President Obama some questions on October 27, 2010 as part of a blogger panel. That’s when he first announced that he was evolving on marriage.
Tomorrow night, some of the top LGBT donors are attending a fundraiser for the President here in DC. That’s some amazing access. And, with over 25 people expected, this event could raise up to one million dollars toward the reelection. (If anyone has the guest list, we’d love to see it.) [UPDATE @ 9:50 AM: Andrew Harmon has more on today's fundraiser here.]
First, let me be clear: We’re not talking about whether or not these folks should be supporting Obama — or if is he better than Santorum or Romney. Of course we don’t want a homophobe in the White House. That’s not what we’re talking about. The first question is whether he can do more. And, we all agree there is more to be done. So, that begs the question of whether the President should do more. And, we keep hearing from the White House that “We can’t wait.” So, let’s not wait. And, I actually think all of these things listed below help Obama win in November. Remember how many times we said repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would be a political win for him? A lot of the “very smart” people in DC (including a number of top level White House staffers and some of the so-called LGBT advocates) doubted it. Now, it’s considered one of the President’s greatest triumphs and he talks about it all the time.
There are several pressing issues that are currently stirring in the LGBT community. Since those major donors will have the President’s full attention, we’d like to offer some suggestions of what could be discussed. Meeting the President can be an intense experience (even for big money people), so it’s a good idea to have one’s questions formulated in advance.
Will the President help us win the anti-marriage referenda in North Carolina and Minnesota (and probably Washington and Maryland)? We can win in both of those states, but we need help. And, we need help from our friends. As Andrew Harmon reported, the DNC is considering providing resources to the North Carolina effort. It will make a difference in both of those key swing states. As we’re constantly reminded, Obama opposed Prop. 8. And, he has stated that he opposes these measures:
And I don’t have to tell you, there are those who don’t want to just stand in our way but want to turn the clock back; who want to return to the days when gay people couldn’t serve their country openly; who reject the progress that we’ve made; who, as we speak, are looking to enshrine discrimination into state laws and constitutions — efforts that we’ve got to work hard to oppose, because that’s not what America should be about.
Yes, “we” must work hard to oppose those measures. And, it would be very helpful if that “we” included the President. He should put some muscle behind that statement and actively oppose those measures in NC and MN — and let OFA unleash on them. (And, by the way, those major donors should be helping in North Carolina, too. I bet many of them have contributed — or will contribute — to the Democratic convention in Charlotte, NC. They need to pony up for the referendum, too. We can win there — and it will make the convention a much better experience with a less agitated community.)
At least one of the donors should ask the President to issue the Executive Order on LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors — and do it immediately. We hear that the order has been vetted and is at the White House. What are they waiting for? We’ve heard one explanation, from an insider, that they’re trying do decide if they need to do it. They need to do it. There are some people who literally can’t wait — as in, again, “We can’t wait.” A lot of major corporations already have non-discrimination policies that include LGBT Americans. And, I suspect not too many businesses that receive taxpayer funding are going to publicly complain about this. Sure, some Republicans and the haters will. But, remember what happened last year in Tennessee when the Chamber of Commerce supported the legislation to end Nashville’s non-discrimination order. A slew of companies, including Nissan, Comcast, FedEx and AT&T;, served on the Board of Tennessee Chamber of Commerce. After the anti-LGBT bill passed, they were tripping over themselves to let us know they don’t tolerate discrimination. They claimed they just wanted one standard. Okay. Then, let the executive order provide one federal non-discrimination standard — until we can pass ENDA. The President promised to “pass” ENDA. Now, we know that won’t happen. But, this is the next best thing he could do to fulfill that campaign promise A lot of these donors funded the Task Force’s “New Beginnings Initiative,” an effort to push for administrative changes back in 2008. There were also other well-funded initiatives to “jump start” that initial discussion about administrative changes. One of the suggestions back then was this executive order.
And, finally, can someone at the even please ask the President to evolve already on marriage? As yesterday’s White House press briefing showed, this “evolve’ talking point is getting old — even outside of the LGBT community. Really feels like no one believes it anymore. And, the people who aren’t going to vote for Obama because of gay issues already think he supports marriage. But, joining the majority will help Obama with his base in November. In the battleground state of Virginia, for example, 73 % of the 18 – 29 year olds, those young voters who the campaign is key to aggressively pursuing, support marriage. 73%. And, I suspect Obama doesn’t want to be the last Democratic presidential candidate who doesn’t support marriage. Because, it’s pretty clear that by 2016, that position will be even more untenable. Think about what will happen in the fall if Obama is asked about marriage during a debate whether he supports our equality. We know where the Republican will be. And, the GOPer will be claiming to have the same views on marriage as Obama. If that’s true, it’s not really going to do much for enthusiasm. In October of 2010, the President told me at the blogger interview, “The one thing I will say today is I think it’s pretty clear where the trendlines are going.” And, it’s even clearer now. Just evolve already.
My conversation with Obama was on-the-record. This is a private fundraiser, so will probably be off-the-record. But, if any of those major donors want to share what they learn about any of these issues, we’re all ears. Just let us know.