Obama, Not The Candidate Gays And Lesbians Had In Mind

U.S. President Barack Obama. Photo Source: Unknown.

U.S. President Barack Obama. Photo Source: Unknown.

The Obama Administration seems to be taking solid steps towards recognizing the rights of same-sex couples. And though it may not seem enough for LGBT groups to grant benefits to domestic partners of federal and foreign service employees, the actions by the Obama White House yesterday and today, may signal a step in the right direction.

The President has been under great pressure from LGBT groups to support the rights of gay people by repealing DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and even if Obama hasn’t yet fulfilled his promises, he has mentioned the importance of doing the “right thing” when it comes to recognizing LGBT people as equal.

“Hundreds of Fortune 500 companies already offer such benefits not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because they recognize that it helps them compete for and retain the best possible talent — and we need top talent serving their country right now more than ever,” Obama said in a speech on Wednesday. “We’ve got more work to do to ensure that government treats all its citizens equally; to fight injustice and intolerance in all its forms; and to bring about that more perfect union. I’m committed to these efforts, and I pledge to work tirelessly on behalf of these issues in the months and years to come.”

Not falling behind is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who announced today that the State Department will also begin extending benefits to domestic partners of Foreign Service employees:

The Department of State acknowledges these vital contributions by providing certain family members with benefits, training, and allowances.

The same has not been true for domestic partners of Foreign Service employees. While these partners support the work of our overseas posts, they are not granted benefits and allowances provided for other family members. Domestic partners of federal employees have for too long been treated unequally. As one of my first acts as Secretary, I directed the Department to review whether we had the flexibility to extend additional benefits to domestic partners.

To LGBT organizations extending benefits to partners of federal and foreign service employees is not enough. The groups were cautious of not patting Obama on the back yesterday. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) remarked that Obama’s signing of the memorandum granting benefits to domestic partners, which include same-sex couples, was only a “beginning” in the long list of issues that affect gay people in the US:

This is a quote from HRC president Joe Solmonese:

Although today’s actions are only the beginning in what will be a multi-step process towards achieving real and tangible equality for our community, it is no doubt an important first step. We commend President Obama and his administration for taking this action to provide some basic benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees and his endorsement of legislation that would provide domestic partner health benefits.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund reminded Obama and his administration that his policies can’t just end with the memorandum he signed, but that LGBT people urgently need other protections:

“We also call on the president to take additional steps that will have a positive impact on our health, our livelihoods and our families’ safety that do not require legislative action. These include reversing the standing policy of the U.S. Census Bureau to manually un-marry any same-sex couple who lawfully states they are married on the 2010 census, extending employment protections to federal employees based on gender identity, and reversing the regulations that continue to throw roadblocks in the way of HIV-positive individuals who want to travel to this country.

Granting LGBT people all the protections that they are due may be a risky political dance for the centrist Obama, and gay people may just have to realize that the President may not end up being the one who will “emancipate” them from the right-wing, fundamentalists, and homophobic laws that keep gays and lesbian as second class citizens in the US and around the world.

Judging from how the Obama administration has handled non-gay related issues the Obama administration is far from being the progressive that most left-wingers had thought. His approach to bend over backwards to please Republicans and give in to their demands in order to pass law is sickening and most recently his inability to strongly condemn the Iranian elections and call for their annulment are just two ways by which he has disappointed many of us.

But perhaps we’re all being too quick to judge Obama, after all calling on Israel to stop expanding illegal settlements on the West Bank has been pretty admirable. And, who knows, maybe he will end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We’ll see. He has three more years to turn the world around, right?


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