Postedon Jun 23, 2009 at 08:35 pm
June 23, 2009
This letter was sent to President Obama from People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan today. It calls for the President to give a substantial speech on LGBT equality and to use the bully pulpit to move Congress to act.
Dear President Obama:
I am writing to respectfully urge you to bring the energetic moral vision that you championed as a presidential candidate to the cause of equality for gay and lesbian Americans. Among the reasons that millions of people were inspired by your candidacy was your eloquence on behalf of an America in which everyone is offered respect and equality under the law. [Link]
Postedon Jun 18, 2009 at 11:30 pm
June 18, 2009
Frustrated gay-rights leaders want President Barack Obama to be far more forceful in supporting their political goals, but they also fault the Democratic-led Congress and vow to step up lobbying efforts in hopes of seeing campaign promises fulfilled. "We can wait for the president to try to move members of Congress, or we can redouble our efforts and get about doing that work ourselves," Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Thursday. Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry, which campaigns nationally for gay marriage rights, said he remains optimistic over the long term because the American public "is ready for change. What we need now is leadership from the president, Congress and state officials to deliver that change," he said. "I'm frustrated and disappointed that the administration has not yet delivered on the vision we share for a more equal America." [Link]
Postedon Jun 18, 2009 at 06:31 pm
June 18, 2009
The presidential memorandum signed yesterday afternoon by President Obama extends some benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers, among other things allowing them to be included in the long-term-care insurance program. But it still leaves them without federal health and retirement benefits. That will require the passage of legislation now before Congress. Nonetheless, Obama's order has cheered Candy Holmes, an information technology manager at the Government Accountability Office, and left her optimistic that more change is coming. "Hopeful. Excited," she said of her mood yesterday. "Wanting to believe this is the beginning of equality." [Link]
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 10:43 pm
June 17, 2009
Postedon Jun 17, 2009 at 05:32 pm
June 17, 2009
Happy Wednesday! President Obama will sign a memo today that extends some federal benefits to domestic partners of federal workers, including same-sex partners. The president will stop short, however, of pledging full health insurance coverage to those partners. In a conference call with reporters, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said "This is a first step, not a final step. This is an attempt to get our federal house in order, and that is very important to do. It’s an example of practicing before preaching, and I believe the president is taking bold action to do just that, to get the federal house in order." [Link]