Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Like it’s 1999
After a flurry of excited emails last night, this morning I woke up to discover that the latest news about Obama’s olive branch to LGBT groups turns out to have even fewer olives than originally portrayed.
From this morning's NYTimes: "President Obama will sign a presidential memorandum on Wednesday to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, administration officials said Tuesday evening, but he will stop short of pledging full health insurance coverage." (emphasis mine)
Yep, this seems to fit right in line with: www.obamasplanforgayrights.com
The first drafts of the story suggested full benefits expansion to same sex partners of federal employees. And even that news was greeted skeptically. As Alan Van Capelle of the Empire State Pride Agenda said: "Welcome to 1999. How revolutionary of the White House to give benefits to same-sex couples, when two-thirds of conservative Wall Street are already doing it."
It’s noteworthy that Obama felt significant political pressure to finally offer something to the LGBT community. After a devastating loss on Prop 8 in California on his election victory day, many were waiting for a silver lining to that cloud to be offered from the White House.
But clearly, he had overplayed his “benefit of the doubt” hand. The largely token acts of including some LGBT issues on the White House civil rights webpage, the inclusion of gay families in the White House Easter egg roll, and the presidential declaration of Pride month, left many waiting for something substantive to be offered. The power of the president's pen for an Executive Order ending DADT or expanding federal employee benefits for same sex partners seemed relatively straightforward, yet hugely significant.
Even our Secretary of State is making these efforts, first extending benefits to gay diplomats and yesterday offering the first step in repealing DOMA by allowing a same sex married couple to have their passports issued in their legally married names.
Obama lost some of his staunchest defenders last week, with the filing of the federal brief from his Department of Justice supporting the Defense of Marriage Act. Barney Frank, Joe Solmonese from the Human Rights Campaign, and Howard Dean on Rachel Maddow to name a few.
As yesterday's NYTimes Editorial said: "But busy calendars and political expediency are no excuse for making one group of Americans wait any longer for equal rights."