June 06, 2007
A gay 'oopsie' for Obama
Posted by: Chris
With all the attention on whether Hillary Clinton is selling gays short on marriage or inching her way to an gay marriage endorsement, it's easy to miss that Barack Obama has some 'splaining of his own to do on the subject.
The candidates "report card" issued by the Human Rights Campaign masked an important difference between Clinton and Obama on the Defense of Marriage Act, one-half of which prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay marriages, and one-half of which allows one state to refuse recognition of gay marriages from other states.
HRC shows both candidates — in fact all seven Democratic presidential candidates — backing repeal of the first-half of DOMA that deals with federal recognition. HRC does not show, however, that Obama is on record favoring a full repeal of DOMA, making him and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich the only ones willing to require states to recognize gay marriages from other states, just as they do straight marriages.
Today's Chicago Sun-Times reported on the HRC questionnaire, pointing out that Obama's position wasn't always so gay-friendly. He said he was against DOMA's repeal as recently as in a December 2003 candidate questionnaire for the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization. Obama spokesperson Bill Burton tried explaining the change: "Obama has opposed DOMA. He felt it was a poorly conceived law and, in 2004, after hearing from gay friends who relayed to Obama how hurtful it was for the bill to be law, he supported its repeal."
That sounds like a reasonable
flip-flop evolution on the issue of the type we should encourage in all politicians. The only problem is, in February 2004, just two months after the pro-DOMA questionnaire, Obama wrote a letter to the gay Chicago paper the Windy City Times calling for DOMA's repeal. So I guess those "conversations with friends" took place in January?
What's more, Obama claims in that WCT letter that he has been against DOMA since it was first introduced back in 1996:
For the record, I opposed [the Defense of Marriage Act] in 1996. It should be repealed and I will vote for its repeal on the Senate floor. …
When Members of Congress passed DOMA, they were not interested in strengthening family values or protecting civil liberties. They were only interested in perpetuating division and affirming a wedge issue. … Despite my own feelings about an abhorrent law, the realities of modern politics persist. While the repeal of DOMA is essential, the unfortunate truth is that it is unlikely with Mr. Bush in the White House and Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress.
I'm guessing Obama didn't actually oppose DOMA back in 1996 as an "abhorrent law" that "perpetuates divisions," only to subsequently decide by 2003 that it shouldn't be repealed, only to reverse course again in time to campaign with gay voters in 2004. The more likely explanation is that the 2003 questionnaire was wrong, by accident or otherwise. Doesn't the "new kind of politics" include 'fessing up about this sort of thing?
Obama is a bit less tortuous on gay immigration rights, but only marginally so. Told about the plight of gay Americans in binational relationships back in a February 2004 interview with WCT, Obama said he needed to study the issue. When it was raised again with Obama in February 2006 by a gay American forced to live in exile to be his partner, Obama said he thought "that sounds unfair."
But still, he did not sign on to co-sponsor the Uniting American Families Act, even though it was the only issue that cost him a perfect score on HRC's congressional scorecard. Finally, pressed by HRC's presidential candidate scorecard, he checked that he "supports" UAFA, but then said in his answer that the legislation should be amended to address fraud concerns.
More than three years after the gay immigration issue was raised with Obama, he still hasn't specified what changes would be necessary to win his actual support and co-sponsorship. That's not leadership, especially when every other Democrat running for president (except Hillary) has endorsed UAFA without conditions.
All the waffling inspires discouragement in the ranks of Americans who ought to be more enthusiastic supporters, like Republic of T, a liberal black gay blogger who has written about his disillusionment with the Democratic candidates:
Leaders, real ones, at some point have values — like fairness and equality — that they don’t dodge, deny, or dissemble about, but that they stand by and speak up for even when unpopular. Let alone with those values are popular or are gaining in popularity.
I feel his pain.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
The comments to this entry are closed.