Postedon Jun 18, 2009 at 06:22 pm
June 17, 2009
The package of domestic partnership benefits that President Obama established for federal workers on Wednesday drew the loudest protests from some of those it was intended to help, gay men and lesbians who criticized the move as too timid. The administrative memorandum extending some partnership rights to federal workers in same-sex relationships, which Mr. Obama signed late Wednesday, allows administration personnel to take leave to care for sick partners and requires the government to recognize their partners as household members when determining overseas housing allocations for State Department employees, among other things. But several of the nation’s most prominent gay and lesbian political leaders quickly attacked the president for failing to extend full health care benefits to the same-sex partners of federal workers, questioning the administration’s explanation that it is precluded from doing so by the Defense of Marriage Act, which Mr. Obama had vowed to repeal during his presidential campaign. [Link]
Postedon Jun 18, 2009 at 03:31 pm
June 18, 2009
By Evan Wolfson
Executive Director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry
On Wednesday, President Obama took a small step in the right direction directing his administration to provide some protections to same-sex partners of federal employees. Any measure that provides some support and respect to more families in America is obviously a good thing, but not a solution to the root cause of many of the hardships and the injustice gay Americans experience – the denial of the freedom to marry. Selected partner protections for federal workers, however good, fall far short of the vision of an inclusive and equal America that gay people continue to believe President Obama shares, despite the Administration's months of inaction and recent bad actions such as the Department of Justice's offensive brief filed in support of the federal anti-marriage law.
President Obama laid out this shared vision in a February 2008 open letter to the gay community:
“I’m running for President to build an America that lives up to our founding promise of equality for all – a promise that extends to our gay brothers and sisters…I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – a position I have held since before arriving in the U.S. Senate. While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does.”
The rising frustration and disappointment that advocates of equality, gay and non-gay, have begun expressing is a warning signal that the Administration and Congress need to get the team and work back on track. The President's Oval Office statement yesterday calling again for repealing of the discriminatory so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ or DOMA was a good marker by which to measure the needed progress; now the White House and Congressional leaders must move a repeal bill forward, working in partnership with gay organizations and the many others who support equal rights in America.
Shortly after President Obama's election, I published an "Open Letter" congratulating him and all of us who worked to secure the vote for the vision we share. I wrote, "Discrimination based on sexual orientation, particularly government denial of fundamental rights such as the freedom to marry, is not a gay problem. It is an American problem…We are ready for your leadership, and ready to do our part.” I urged the President to follow the example of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and provide the moral leadership and make the "bully pulpit" case to the American people that would help frame, spur, and accompany specific actions, some of which require legislation and some of which his administration can and should take now "at the stroke of a pen."
In February, as the Administration's inaction began to raise concerns, I wrote a piece offering lessons from Lincoln, President Obama's role-model:
"Lincoln's combination of tactical maneuvering and incremental action with consistent articulation of a clear moral standard over time helped elevate public understanding and commitment to what is right.... As Lincoln's words and actions skillfully paved the way for America's "new birth of freedom," he returned again and again to the Declaration of Independence's promise that "all should have an equal chance." Lincoln didn't expect that promise to waft in by itself, or solely on the work of others. He led."
It's time now for all of us, gay organizations, advocates of equality, the President, his Administration, and Congress to get back on track and start delivering.
Postedon Jun 18, 2009 at 08:49 am
June 17, 2009
President Obama’s decision to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees is a victory for fairness in the workplace. It is a serious omission, however, that his new policy does not include health and retirement benefits, which heterosexual married employees receive. Since benefits are an important part of employment compensation, gay people are effectively being paid less than their heterosexual peers for doing the same work. The strong symbolism of the president’s move cannot be denied. Still, it is impossible to ignore how much of the glass is not full. The Defense of Marriage Act — which prohibits the federal government from treating same-sex relationships as marriages, and allows states not to recognize same-sex marriages from other states — needs to be repealed. [Link]
Postedon Jun 18, 2009 at 08:09 am
June 17, 2009
During the Presidential election campaign, Barack Obama announced his intention to sign legislation repealing DOMA. Yet in Smelt, his Justice Department vigorously defended DOMA last week, prompting LGBT rights groups to denounce the seeming change of heart. Did the government's brief in Smelt betray the President's campaign promise? The President arguably has a duty to defend the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes. Still, the executive branch's defense of a federal statute invariably has a substantial policy element to it. The problem was not so much that the government defended DOMA, as it was the way in which the government did so. Although the government's Smelt brief does not flatly violate candidate Obama's promise to seek DOMA's repeal, the LGBT community is right to view it as a betrayal of the spirit of that promise. [Link]
Postedon Jun 17, 2009 at 06:03 pm
June 17, 2009
The Obama administration has changed course and will now allow same-sex couples to use their spouse’s surname when they apply for passports with the US State Department. A gay married couple, Al and Keith Toney, joined the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) in challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was passed during the Clinton administration, in federal court in Boston. In a letter dated June 15, the US Justice Department notified GLAD and the Toneys that the prohibition has been stricken from federal rules. “Denying married same-sex couples the ability to have their married names on their passports not only puts them at risk in traveling with two identities, it demeans their marriages,” Mary L. Bonauto, lead counsel on the case, said in a statement issued by GLAD. The Toneys were among nine same-sex couples who are suing the federal government in US District Court in Boston seeking to have their rights as married couples recognized by all federal agencies, such as the Social Security Administration. The lawsuit remains active on those other issues. [Link]
Postedon Jun 17, 2009 at 05:19 pm
June 17, 2009
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, one of the nation’s leading gay rights champions, blasted President Obama yesterday over a controversial anti-marriage equality court filing and is calling on the commander in chief to explain himself. “I think the administration made a big mistake. The wording they used was inappropriate,” Frank (D-Newton) said of a brief filed by Obama’s Department of Justice that supported the Defense of Marriage Act. “I’ve been in touch with the White House and I’m hoping the president will make clear these were not his views,” Frank said. [Link]
Postedon Jun 17, 2009 at 04:47 pm
June 16, 2009
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) released a statement today with regard to the brief. Said Baldwin, as part of longer remarks at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in observation and celebration of LGBT Pride Month:
Last week the Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of DOMA. I was profoundly disappointed by this action, particularly coming from this administration. I still take President Obama at his word that he is committed to the repeal of DOMA. I also recognize that he cannot do it alone. Congress has the responsibility on its shoulders to pass legislation that would give the opportunity to the President to keep his word and ensure that all married people, including those in same-sex marriages, enjoy the same rights under federal law.[Link]
Postedon Jun 17, 2009 at 12:10 pm
June 17, 2009
Lane Hudson highlights President Obama's promise to repeal the so-called 'Defense of Marriage Act' during his campaign and poses possible positive steps President Obama could make with his signing of a memorandum regarding domestic partner benefits for federal employees and expected remarks later today. (Link)
Postedon Jun 17, 2009 at 12:06 pm
June 16, 2009
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) issued the following statement in response to the Obama Administration’s decision to defend the so-called 'Defense of Marriage Act' (DOMA) in a recent court filing.
“I was shocked and disappointed to learn that President Obama chose to defend DOMA in federal court, especially given his campaign promise to call for a full repeal of DOMA. My sadness turned to outrage when I read the Justice Department’s brief that not only defended this hurtful law but seemed to embrace it. Comparing my loving relationship with my partner, Marlon, to incest was unconscionable coming from a president who has called for change.
Since this filing, I have called on the President to issue a statement or give any sign that would clarify his position and am disappointed in his lack of reply.
I am a proud Democrat, as are many in the GLBT community, and I believe we must hold our leaders accountable. The Obama Administration made a HUGE mistake in the DOMA brief. If they keep making mistakes like this, they risk losing the support of the GLBT community forever, although I do not believe we are at that point yet.
President Obama needs to honor his promise to repeal this law and end its needlessly divisive and harmful impact on our nation. I again call on him to work with us in Congress to help pass legislation, ending this hateful and divisive law.
As the New York Times editorialized yesterday, “busy calendars and political expediency are no excuse for making one group of Americans wait any longer for equal rights.”
Postedon Jun 17, 2009 at 07:13 am
June 15, 2009
The Human Rights Campaign took President Obama to task following the release of a controversial Justice Department brief last week that defended the Defense of Marriage Act. In a letter sent to Obama on Monday, HRC President Joe Solmonese contests certain arguments made in the brief and urges the president to move to repeal DOMA, which prevents federal recognition of same-sex unions:
When a woman must choose between her job and caring for her spouse because they are not covered by the [Family Medical Leave Act], DOMA is not 'netural.' DOMA is not a 'neutral' policy to the thousands of bi-national same-sex couples who have to choose between family and country because they are considered strangers under our immigration laws. It is not a 'neutral' policy toward the minor child of a same-sex couple, who is denied thousands of dollars of surviving mother's or father's benefits because his parents are not 'spouses' under Social Security law. Exclusion is not neutrality. If we are equals, if you recognize that our families live the same, love the same, and contribute as much as yours, then ... we call on you to put your principles into action and send legislation repealing DOMA to Congress.