Monday, October 12, 2009

Obama Vows Support for Gay-Rights

One of the areas over which I have criticized Obama has been his foot dragging over progressive issues such as gay rights.

gay_marriage President Barack Obama vowed his unwavering support for the full gay rights agenda Saturday night, saying that he'll push Congress to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military.He also said that he'll work to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman, to guarantee that gay and lesbian couples get the same benefits as straight couples, and to ban anti-gay discrimination in the workplace.

"There are still laws to change and hearts to open," he told the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights group. "This fight continues. And ... I'm here with you in that fight," he said to applause and cheers.

It's not an easy fight, he said, because questions of equal rights for gays and lesbians still "raise a great deal of emotion in this country." But he said "these issues go to the heart of who we are as a people."

He acknowledged that he hasn't delivered as fast as gay rights activists want.

"I appreciate your support," he said. "I also appreciate that many of you don't think progress has come fast enough. ... It's not for me to ask you to be patient," he said, any more than it was right for anyone 50 years ago to ask African-Americans to be patient.

Joe Solmonese, the president of the group, introduced Obama with praise for his commitment to the gay rights agenda.

"We have never had a stronger ally in the White House - never," Salmonese said.

But he added that many gays and lesbians are eager to see quicker results from a president who has long been on their side, and he noted that many will march in the capital on Sunday to demand action.

"This is ... a time of great impatience," he said, "and thousands will take to the streets of Washington tomorrow to express just that."

Obama insisted that some progress has been made on the gay agenda, noting last Thursday's vote in the House of Representatives to expand federal "hate" crimes laws to include additional penalties for crimes based on "sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability." The federal government now calls for tougher penalties in crimes motivated by a victim's race, color, religion or national origin.

"This bill is set to pass, and I will sign it into law," Obama said... [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Common Dreams>

This is a step in the right direction.  It does not go far enough, because he could sign an executive order telling the military to stop enforcing don’t ask, don’t tell.  But Salmonese is right as well.  The LGBT community has never had a stronger ally in the White House.

In Congress, the Democrats used a tactic which I condemned when the Repuglicans did it, so I cannot support it now.  They attached the hate crimes legislation to an unrelated bill, the 2010 Defense Appropriation Act.  But the irony here is quite humorous.  Do you remember how the Repuglicans called Democrats traitors when they voted against defense appropriations, because the bill had no timeline for withdrawal from Iraq?  (At least that was a related reason.)  They said we were voting to deprive our troops of life saving equipment.  The vast majority of the Repuglicans voted against defense appropriations this time. What hypocrites!

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