HRC’s Solmonese attends Obama’s benefits signing

I was surprised to see the Human Rights Campaign’s president Joe Solmonese standing with openly-gay Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank behind President Obama at a White House event that most considered a thinly-veiled attempt to divert attention from the uproar over the White House’s total abandonment of its campaign promises to our community. Is it just me, or is terribly inappropriate for our leaders to be giving the president cover at this time, when just today his spokesman reaffirmed that the president stands behind the homophobic DOMA brief that equated our marriages with incest and pedophilia?

My sense is that Tammy, Joe and Barney are giving the president cover, and you don’t give him cover unless and until he fixes the problem. These benefits do not fix the problem. They don’t even scratch the surface (and in fact, they’re not even new benefits). Tammy and Barney, for their part, continue to host a gay fundraiser for the DNC, along with Jared Polis, next week even though the gay attendees are dropping out like flies.

I’m just very disappointed.

For an example of what our organizations and representatives should be doing, first take a look at the glowing statement that HRC released about this event, then look at what everybody else had to say. First, HRC:

Today’s Presidential memorandum committing to a federal workplace free from discrimination, including the extension of some benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers, is a welcome and long-overdue step toward bringing the government’s policies closer in line with what America’s largest companies understand is good for business. Today’s presidential signature is the first brick in paving what is a long path toward equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. We commend President Obama and his administration for taking this beginning step to level the playing field but we look forward to working with him to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and guarantee the entire American workforce is free from discrimination.”

SLDN was hardly as thrilled:

What the President failed to mention today was that not all LGBT employees will receive these benefits. Gay and lesbian service members, employees of the federal government, will not be eligible to receive these benefits under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Ironically, Obama said he wants to “retain the best talent” to serve our country. Yet he won’t he speak out publicly against DADT, the law that fires the best and brightest from the military because they’re gay or lesbian. We urge him to break his continued silence on DADT and endorse repeal legislation in the House, or send up his own language to Capitol Hill.

Now, everyone else. Here is Lamda Legal’s statement on the day’s events:

Lambda Legal: Obama Administration Can Do More

‘The day is long past for incomplete, piecemeal fixes that leave hard-working families uninsured and struggling.’

(New York, June 17, 2009) — President Obama’s planned announcement today misses the mark according to Lambda Legal’s Executive Director, Kevin Cathcart.

“While ending any of the discrimination against gay and lesbian federal employees is a welcome step, today’s planned announcement falls far short of our hopes and expectations.

“President Obama clearly understands how important it is for people to have health insurance coverage to protect their loved ones and this plan does not provide that.

“Lambda Legal is representing Karen Golinskii, a federal employee who works for the judicial branch and who is seeking health insurance coverage for her same-sex spouse. A federal judge has already issued an administrative decision in that matter, concluding that, within the existing rules, the federal government can choose to provide health insurance for same-sex partners. We think they should, and we’ll keep fighting for Karen and her spouse — and for all federal employees.

“Fair treatment of gay employees regarding these benefits is not new — many employers, states and local governments have been providing benefits for domestic partners for years. We call on the president to bring a swift end to our government’s unfair treatment of its own workers. The day is long past for incomplete, piecemeal fixes that leave hard-working families uninsured and struggling.

“Gay men, lesbians, transgender people and people with HIV are subject to significant discrimination. In a time when we are all facing record job loss and skyrocketing health care costs these problems need to be addressed in ways that help everyone in this country including gay men, lesbians, transgender people and people with HIV.

“The administration and congress must work towards ending discrimination in the workplace–including the military–by passing a federal employment non-discrimination act and repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Additionally, President Obama has said that he believes the so-called Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. We call on the administration to honor his campaign pledge to advocate forcefully for congressional repeal of DOMA. Married same-sex couples should be afforded the same respect by the federal government as their heterosexual married neighbors.”

And here’s what People for the American Way had to say:

People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan issued the following statement:

“During the campaign, then-candidate Obama spoke eloquently about the importance of ensuring that all Americans are treated with dignity and respect. He made specific pledges to pass hate crimes legislation, enact laws to prevent workplace discrimination, end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and repeal DOMA. Since then, we’ve been waiting for concrete results. Today’s presidential memorandum is a very small step in the right direction, but it’s a token, and tokens are no longer enough. DOMA stands in the way of real progress for same-sex couples now denied federal recognition and protection, and its repeal is long overdue.

“President Obama has a unique ability to provide the moral leadership to ensure that all Americans are treated equally under the law, but so far he has failed to exercise it. We urge the president to live up to his own rhetoric about being a ‘fierce advocate’ for gay and lesbian Americans. Taking action on his pledge to repeal DOMA would be worthy of the vision that he held out to Americans during his campaign.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights:


(San Francisco, California, June 17, 2009) – The policy announced today by the President committing to a federal workplace free from discrimination, is a step in the right direction but inadequate and long overdue. It leaves out millions of Americans who do not work for the federal government and fails to include key benefits including health insurance. When running for office, then candidate Obama called equality for LGBT people a “moral i
mperative.” We will continue to demand this administration live up to the President’s promise of achieving “full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country.”

And here’s straight Congressman Nadler’s statement, which is what a real representative would say:

“Today’s announcement, while a fine first step, falls dramatically short of what federal employees need, and, of course, does not at all provide the LGBT community the recognition and equal treatment under the law that are long overdue. To many of my constituents, today’s memorandum unfortunately feels less like real progress for civil rights, and more like a reactive effort to reassure gay and lesbian Americans and their supporters who were recently angered by the Justice Department’s offensive and unnecessary arguments in a case challenging DOMA.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | 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 Washington, DC. .

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