May 09, 2009

When Will Obama Engage?

There is an interesting consequence of the recent advance of GLBT equality in several states; the pressure is mounting on President Obama to push something through at the federal level.

From the New York Times:

President Obama was noticeably silent last month when the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

But now Mr. Obama — who has said he opposes same-sex marriage as a Christian but describes himself as a “fierce advocate of equality” for gay men and lesbians — is under pressure to engage on a variety of gay issues that are coming to the fore amid a dizzying pace of social, political, legal and legislative change.

Two of Mr. Obama’s potential Supreme Court nominees are openly gay; some advocates, irked that there are no gay men or lesbians in his cabinet, are mounting a campaign to influence his choice to replace Justice
David H. Souter, who is retiring. Same-sex marriage is advancing in states — the latest to allow it is Maine — and a new flare-up in the District of Columbia could ultimately put the controversy in the lap of the president.

Mr. Obama’s new global health initiative has infuriated activists who say he is not financing AIDS programs generously enough. And while the president has urged Congress to pass a hate crimes bill, a high priority for gay groups, he has delayed action on one of his key campaign promises, repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule.

Social issues like same-sex marriage bring together deeply held principles and flashpoint politics, and many gay activists, aware that Mr. Obama is also dealing with enormous challenges at home and overseas, have counseled patience.

But some are unsettled by what they see as the president’s cautious approach. Many are still seething over his choice of the Rev.
Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor who opposes same-sex marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inaugural, and remain suspicious of Mr. Obama’s commitment to their cause.

In the words of David Mixner, a writer, gay activists are beginning to wonder, “How much longer do we give him the benefit of the doubt?” Last weekend, Richard Socarides, who advised President
Bill Clinton on gay issues, published an opinion piece in The Washington Post headlined, “Where’s our fierce advocate?”

Here is an interesting piece from CNN including a discussion on how Obama should approach gay rights issues (thanks to Pam's House Blend for the tip):

CNN political analyist Paul Begala makes a key point in that video, stating that the gay marriage issue is moving along quite well at this point without the White House pushing it forward.

I understand the eagerness of people who are still being discriminated against to have that situation corrected, but the enormous crush of issues affecting the security and economic health of the United States, issues with don't discriminate between straight and gay, do need to be Obama's priority. Let's see if the Senate will pass the Hate Crimes bill that the House has already approved (here is a NY Times editorial encouraging them to do so), and give the President time to move forward on Don't Ask, Don't Tell (he promised he would in this personal letter).

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also preaches patience in this article from the Detroit News:

"Right now on our agenda we're talking about turning the economy around, dealing with an energy policy, health care for all Americans; education is the third pillar. We have an economic crisis of a magnitude that none of us has seen in our lifetime that we have to deal with."

"Members will make a priority of issues like gays in the military, and where we have prospects of success, we always want to expand to a place of more opportunity and more freedom for all Americans."

"But right now our agenda is jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, and as we move on that front, concurrently, we have to make some decisions about what is possible in our values based initiatives as well."

In the meantime, equality has built up a good head of steam at the state level, so lets focus on keeping that momentum moving forward.

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