May 2009


Gay For Obama

Ok, I buried it in the previous post, but I’m reading a variety of blogs and legitimate news sources that keep telling me that Obama is a bad president—with some going so far as to say,

I decided today that I’m officially anti-Obama. (Ragan Fox, Poet)

I’m tired of this anti-Obama rhetoric based solely on one issue: gay rights.

As I understand it, leading gay voices are upset with Obama because of his inaction on two issues: (1) Same Sex Marriage; and (2) Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Speaking seriously, there’s really only room for complaint on one of these two issues, and even then it should be muted, as there are larger issues to resolve.

First off, I don’t believe that specific attention to gay rights is Obama’s most critical job—there’s very little he can actually do to advance gay rights at this time. He is still, amazingly, riding a wave of popularity since getting elected to office that is astounding.

At this point in the Clinton Administration, Clinton had already damaged himself trying to allow gays and lesbians into the military. Although it didn’t prevent Clinton from getting reelected, his fight for gays in the military damaged him significantly and it took attention away from other issues that were probably more important. I believe that Obama learned the lessons from Clinton’s early missteps.

Lets consider the state of the union as Obama took office back in January. A financial crisis was threatening to foreclose thousands of homes, jobs were being lost, and longstanding corporations were threatening to vanish—and that’s only part of the equation. Never mind the pointless war in Iraq, excessive religious influence on policy, or bird strikes on flying aircraft.

Each one of these points, I hesitate to point out, is far more important than the narrow issue of same sex marriage. Furthermore, if Obama were to waste his political capital attempting to repeal DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, he would be a fool.

The fact is that at this moment the issue isn’t federal, it’s a states issue. Fifty separate states with fifty different rules. The battle must be fought state-by-state at this point. The fight must happen in courtrooms and state capitals—and, I might note, it is being won. The tipping point has been reached—we have states voting to allow same sex marriage—an approach that is far preferable to having it court imposed.

Obama has nothing to add to this fight: If he comes out in favor of it, he will only serve to alienate people who marginally support him right now. If he comes out in opposition, he will alienate 10% of the population. If he remains silent, he only alienates gay-lesbian community leaders—which makes up about 0.01% of the population.

Of course these leaders should really be silent because the fact is Obama has been making, broadly speaking, the right moves when it comes to the GLBT community. He doesn’t actually need to say anything, his appointments say more and have greater impact than anything else. From my perspective, he’s been making the right moves, setting the foundation for later actions.

Take the Supreme Court, which will, in theory, have the most important say on same sex marriage. My early impressions of the Supreme Court nominee are pretty positive—and she will be, assuming confirmation, one of the people deciding whether the “full faith and credit” clause of the US Constitution applies to same-sex marriage. I think it’s pretty obvious that it does apply, and given this, as long as we have Supreme Court Justices who can read the Constitution and accurately understand its words independent of the law and of the bible, same-sex marriages performed in one state will be legally valid and binding in all fifty states instantly.

Obama doesn’t need to expend an ounce of visible political capital to achieve this—other than ensuring that qualified justices are appointed to the judiciary. It’s devious, it’s underhanded, and it ensures reelection in 2012.

As for the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policies in the military, that’s a whole lot harder to defend—other than to go back and look at Clinton’s experience with the whole gays in the military issue. What a quagmire: Clinton came into office with a wide margin of victory (in the Electoral College) and decided to ride his high approval ratings to force the military to accept gays in its ranks. Instead it bogged him (providing teachable moments) down and ended up taking too much of his attention from broad policies that needed more attention. (And I might note that under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the situation is actually worse than it was before.)

Here Obama could do more, but I’m not sure if he should: This isn’t the most important military issue facing the administration. We have a demoralized and overstretched military fighting a deadly and pointless war instigated by the Bush/Cheney administration. It might be worthwhile to demonstrate to the folks in the military that the Obama administration is a trustworthy and honest. It’s been eight long years since the military has had a president that has seen its soldiers as something more than cannon fodder. There’s a strong case to be made that resolving the morale issues first will make allowing out-homosexuals serving in the military more possible.

About the only point in this that I am not certain about is the translator situation. For whatever reason, gays are often cunning linguists (oh how I wish that were true about me) and as I’ve observed before, if we were serious about winning the war in Iraq, we wouldn’t be tossing the Arabic translators out for being gay. Of course, we’re pulling out of Iraq and the urgent need for Arabic translators is slowly vanishing.

I’m not taking happy pills that are giving me an overly optimistic view of the Obama Administration: Things could be far better—but things are a whole lot better than they were three months ago, and immeasurably better than it was six months ago.

And for people who are now “Anti-Obama”, I have a serious question: Would you really prefer McCain/Palin?

Be honest.

9 comments to Gay For Obama

  • chances are getting lower and lower, that HE will come into the city.
    (anki sad)

  • On the issue of same-sex marriage I still contend it is the gay divorces that are going to solve this once and for all. It’s going to come down to a state such as Georgia granting a divorce to a straight couple married in Massachusetts and then not granting a divorce to a gay couple, also married there. That would set the precedent of a state picking and choosing which legal documents to recognize, that save for the gender of the people who are the subject of the document, is otherwise identical.

    Those states *know* that and it’s why the fight so hard against gay divorce but not straight divorce. If they even entertain a gay divorce, they are by default recognizing gay marriage. If the Supreme Court upheld DOMA, I’d have to question the qualifications of the Judges supporting a majority opinion – DOMA is a law passed by congress, it’s not part of the constitution. DOMA is clearly unconstitutional, based on the example I gave above.

    As for don’t ask, don’t tell… having been in the military I can say I’m perfectly fine with gay people not being there. If the straight people are so concerned that they don’t want us there, let them go ahead and get shot for pointless reasons so they can get shiny little baubles to wear on their uniforms. I don’t care on that point. However, I do care if they are sent into a pointless war.

  • If the straight people are so concerned that they don’t want us there, let them go ahead and get shot for pointless reasons so they can get shiny little baubles to wear on their uniforms. I don’t care on that point. However, I do care if they are sent into a pointless war.

    Can you narrow it down please? Do you really think that “the straight people” want to keep homosexuals out of the military? No, of course you don’t. You know that the bigots’ defining characteristic is not their heterosexuality. It’s their bigotry.

    Also, as a point of clarification, what is the antecedent of your laat use of the word “they” in your post?

  • Wow, TQE, you’ve been really reflective these last few days. 😀

  • @Anke: frustrating

    @CQ: Gay Marriage is far more important than gay divorce. “Full Faith and Credit” will ultimately drive the spread of marriage. Divorce laws will follow along. Please, also, address Cliff’s question. He raises a valid question about your last use of the word “they”…

    @Cliff: Good points.

    @disenchanted: I will try to stop 😉

  • Petunia

    [And for people who are now “Anti-Obama”, I have a serious question: Would you really prefer McCain/Palin?]

    Yes, I would have overwhelmingly preferred McCain/Palin over Obama any day of the week. McCain wasn’t my first pick originally, but Sarah Palin is awesome.

  • this is a quick way for obama to sink his presidency. he has already expressed his view that gays should have equal rights, even if he stopped short at advocating full marriage.

    rome wasn’t built in a day. as the states continue to grant marriage rights (and take them away) then it is going to force some sort of national referendum on the issue- whether it is obama, supreme court, or the general electorate.

    i think if he allowed gays to openly serve than that would be a step in the right direction and appropriate for the mood of the times right now. baby steps. when everyone realises the world isn’t going to fall over from gay soldiers than the needle will continue to move in the equal rights direction.

    (i am gay and 100% for equal rights, fyi)

  • Wow Adam, you’ve been doing some thinking. Personally I agree with you on all points. For me it is quite frustrating when people with an agenda fault a newly elected politician for not immediately doing what THEY want. The guy has lots of things on his plate, and I would guess that the gay agenda isn’t (or shouldn’t be) number one on his list.

  • @Petunia: I should have prefaced my question, “For those of us who voted for Obama…” That said, thank you for leaving a comment–I dont know of any Americans living in Germany who voted for McCain–I wonder if there are any.

    @dave.: I guessed that you are gay 🙂 — I would like Obama to allow gays to serve in the military, but unilaterally imposing it from above really hurt Clinton. I don’t want a damaged Obama.

    @Snooker: too many people are too myopic and refuse to see the larger picture. To me, Obama has started putting all the chess pieces in the right spots.