November 11, 2008
Let the expectation lowering begin…
Posted by: Chris
Well, that didn't take long. It's only been a week since the Democrats retook the White House and greatly enhanced their congressional majorities, and already we hear key party players telling the gays to simmer down.
First there was President-Elect Barack Obama's official website, Change.gov. Under the header "Agenda," the only gay rights items included were the Matthew Shepard hate crimes act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. No mention of repealing those two mainstays of the Clinton administration: the Defense of Marraige Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell.
Within days, no doubt due to flak from all quarters about what domestic and foreign policy goals were included and what weren't, the entire section was removed from the site, replaced by general language that promises "a comprehensive and detailed agenda" without saying what it is.
Then there was the Wall Street Journal interview with Rahm Emanuel, newly named as Obama's chief of staff, who promised a "pragmatic" White House that will "do what they got elected to do." Emanuel, who was a senior Clinton adviser through both DADT and DOMA, clearly carries the scars of those experiences:
Mr. Emanuel defended President Clinton's decision to push through a tax increase in 1993 -- "a tough call" -- after having campaigned on a middle-class tax cut. He also denied that it had much impact in the midterm elections a year later. Instead, he cited issues like "gays in the military" as more damaging politically. "It's not what we campaigned on," said Mr. Emanuel.
And as an example of Republicans losing their way, he cited the Terri Schiavo episode in 2005, where President Bush and the Republican-controlled congress intervened in a case involving a brain-damaged woman's feeding tube.
In both instances, "the lesson is to do what you got elected to do," said Mr. Emanuel. "Do what you talked about on the campaign. If you got elected, that's what people expect. Don't go off on tangents where part of your party is demanding an ideological litmus test. Neither of those things was part of the campaign."
The reality, of course, was the Bill Clinton had promised to remove the ban on gays in the military during the campaign, and Barack Obama has as well, repeatedly. What's more, the two main arguments Obama made to gay and gay-friendly voters during the Democratic primary season was that he would push for full repeal of the DOMA, while Hillary Clinton favored only half-repeal, and he would not "throw gays under the bus" -- the way Melissa Etheridge described our treatment during Clinton's two terms.
- Almost immediate passage of a gay and trans-inclusive Matthew Shepard hate crimes law.
- Passage within two years of a gay and trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
- DADT repeal once the Iraq War stabilizes and the Defense Department is on board.
- DOMA repeal … well … someday … it's complicated.
Lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin sang from the same score during an interview this week with the Advocate:
I’m not putting a timetable on this -- I’m talking more about the order or things. In this respect, we will start with hate crimes, and we will at the same time -- especially through the LGBT equality caucus that I founded with [out Massachusetts U.S. representative] Barney Frank -- be educating our new colleagues and our returning colleagues on a wide range of issues.
I wouldn’t limit it to hate crimes and ENDA; as I discussed earlier, domestic-partnership benefits for federal employees [should be discussed]. We’re also working with an Administration that will be able to make plenty of progress that won’t require legislative authorization.
Note how repeal of DOMA and DADT have been disappeared, and relationship recognition is reduced to a employment benefits package for federal employees. Why exactly are they more deserving than the rest of us?
And if this is all we're to expect then why, oh why, did we debate full vs. half-repeal of DOMA, and why did Joe Biden pledge in the veep debate that, "in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple"?
Why? Because the Democratic leadership in Washington will always do the absolute minimum they can get away with on gay issues, and their stooges in our gay rights organization are too busy jockeying for jobs to call them on it.
Am I too cynical too soon, Kevin? ;)
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