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    November 18, 2008

    Obama-Biden Plan = fed civil unions

    Posted by: Chris

    Changegovcivilrights The Obama-Biden transition team has released its civil rights agenda on Change.gov, the official transition website, and the section on LGBT rights is expansive and includes federal civil unions -- the topic of my post earlier today:

    Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: Barack Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.

    Other LGBT highlights of the Obama plan:

    • Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: passing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity
    • Fight Workplace Discrimination: passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity protections
    • Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell
    • Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage
    • Expand Adoption Rights
    • Promote AIDS Prevention: Obama promised in his first year in office a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies, expanding beyond abstinence-only sex ed and ending the federal ban on needle exchange

    It's a powerful, far-reaching plan and is night and day with anything LGBT Americans have ever been promised by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. (It's worth noting that two of the seven bullet points involve repealing anti-gay laws signed by the last "pro-gay" president.)

    What's missing? There's no mention of the Uniting American Families Act, which extends equal immigration rights to gay Americans, but there's no need for UAFA is DOMA is half-repealed or a federal civil unions law is enacted.

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    Comments

    1. Pender on Nov 18, 2008 4:58:56 PM:

      I am surprised and impressed that the Obama team would put that on their website. Maybe I misjudged him. Still, I'll believe it when I see it.

    1. Kevin on Nov 18, 2008 7:07:51 PM:

      None of this will happen before 2010, and DOMA/DADT repeal will not happen during an Obama Administration. Period.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Nov 18, 2008 7:44:47 PM:

      None of this will happen before 2010, and DOMA/DADT repeal will not happen during an Obama Administration. Period.

      Geesh, Kevin, you're such a pessimist. I think there is an excellent chance (dare I say 100%) that DADT will be repealed during an Obama administration and I think there is at least a decent chance that DOMA will be repealed. I can't speak to timing, but I believe both will happen.

      Will the other stuff occur before 2010? I can't say, but I would not be surprised if it did.

    1. John on Nov 18, 2008 8:33:17 PM:

      We have very good reason to be pessimistic, Strict. It's nice that the Dems talk the talk but they have been reluctant in past years to walk the walk. We'll see what happens I guess but until I start seeing movement on some of this I remain skeptical. The one I really believe will get no traction in this Congress is a full or partial repeal of DOMA.

    1. Charlie on Nov 18, 2008 8:44:48 PM:

      It's nice that the Dems talk the talk but they have been reluctant in past years to walk the walk.

      While I'm not absurdly optimistic about any of this, I do think it's a meaningful step that the Dems are now at least willing to talk the talk. It feels like it was not that long ago that we were all but invisible to them.

    1. Chuck on Nov 18, 2008 8:47:50 PM:

      >"Geesh, Kevin, you're such a pessimist."

      Hmm. How about a wet blanket?

      The first ray of sunshine since since we learned that four states effectively banned gay marriage, and he has to lower the blinds and close the hurricane shutters!

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Nov 18, 2008 9:24:45 PM:

      We have very good reason to be pessimistic, Strict.

      I take your point, John, and I know where you are coming from. However, I think we gay folks have made substantial progress since the Clinton years. Some 2/3 of the country now believe in some sort of gay rights. So, I think the time is right and I think the President elect will follow through.

    1. Lucrece on Nov 18, 2008 10:42:42 PM:

      You don't understand. The Democrats are at their prime for passing legislation. They control the House, they control the Senate, and they control the White House.

      I can tell you that some blunders will come during Obama's term, and we'll lose some Democratic seats.

      If we don't pass all we need during this peak time, it simply will not happen for another 10 or so years.

      I don't think my skepticism is unfounded.

    1. Kevin on Nov 19, 2008 3:06:31 AM:

      Lucrece is dead right.

    1. Chuck on Nov 19, 2008 8:32:18 AM:

      Chris, judging from all the negative comments on this latest development, it would appear that there are those (Republicans, I suspect) that enjoy taking a piss on something, just for the sheer joy of taking a piss on something! ;-)

      The more I see and hear the man, the more I like him. So far, President Elect Obama seems to be keeping his campaign promises. Ogie, my Philippine partner and I, as well as countless other LGBT people, will be watching these developments with baited breath.

      This New Year's Eve will mark six years since my significant other and I cast our lot with each other. It's been a long, difficult and often painful road for the two of us. The expense of traveling halfway around the world annually, maintaining two households on different continents and the long separations wear heavily on the two of us.

      Our commitment to each other through our trials has been and continues to be a strong one and if this ain't love, then I don't know what the fundies and Mormoms would call it. My understanding is that there are some 32,000 multinational couples just like us who cannot bring their partners into the USA because of the state bans on same-sex marriage and no federal laws to super cede them. That's just plain wrong, unbearable and unacceptable. In the words of Ashton Kutcher, who nailed it, "That's unconstitutional".

      This civil-union legislation that Mr. Obama is proposing, while sounding a bit like separate but equal, would give Federal recognition to those marriages and civil-unions already performed by states like California, Massachusetts and Vermont as well as the granting of all the rights that go along with traditional marriage. It's a big a step in the right direction. As you pointed out, there's no mention of the Uniting American Families Act, which extends equal immigration rights to gay Americans, but there's no need for UAFA if DOMA is half-repealed or a federal civil unions law is enacted.

      While I originally felt that it was marriage or nothing, I am now of the opinion that we should take this legislation and continue to work for equality, on a state by state basis. While not perfect, it would allow your partner, and mine, at last, to come to America so we can, respectively, join as one and petition the Immigration department for their eventual citizenship.

      While I can readily understand the feelings of those who would rather hold out for "the whole ball of wax", to a citizen of my age (72), the waiting game is a luxury that I and other aging American citizens like me can no longer afford. I would like to spend what few years I have left on this planet with the one I love and for that to happen, I need instant gratification. ;-)

      I feel, and I am sure that you would also agree, that it is somewhat selfish of those who would hold out for the term "marriage', when a solution is being put before us by the President Elect, that would immediately open the door to all the rights and privileges, including our right to bring our partners into the country, over what word we are going to use to define our unions.

      Put simply and in terms the most stubborn of holdouts for "marriage", should be able to understand, is the fact that there are many of us who will not live long enough to see the day when we can, at last, have our loved ones by our side. Their unwillingness to compromise, for the sake of moving forward in our battle, is as painful to us, as the ongoing war against the gay community by the Religious Right and the proponents of banning same-sex marriage. If religious radicals don't succeed in keeping us apart, our own will!

      Would you die hards deny us that last wish in life?

    1. Hawyer on Nov 19, 2008 11:31:45 AM:

      I too have been a staunch opponent of "separate-but-equal" status, BUT the Obama platform is so powerful - I'll take it without complaint.

      I do agree with Chris that Uniting American Families Act seems a critical block in this rampart. I am wondering WHY it was omitted. It could NOT have been a simple oversight.

      HOMEWORK PLEASE CHRIS ?!?!?

    1. Andoni on Nov 19, 2008 12:08:34 PM:

      On UAFA, here are 2 possibilites:

      1. Same sex immigration may be dealt with in the immigration reform bill
      2. Obama never co-sponsored UAFA because he had some problems with enforcement, but he supports the concept in principle. Maybe there will be some revision of the bill that satisfies him to not only support the concept, but also a specific bill.

      The main point is for all of us who care about this issue to raise it at every opportunity we have, both in and out outside the LGBT community. Even our own community is not that familiar with the issue. Mention it every chance you get.

    1. Sean on Nov 19, 2008 5:32:48 PM:

      Trust but verify... we do not win unless it is law.

    1. jimmyjazz on Nov 19, 2008 5:40:24 PM:

      This is very promising to me! Now that the Dems control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue...for the first time I actually think these things can be passed through with very little static. Our local GOP Congressman got voted out..and we're an ultra conservative district. The GOP's power has been cut off at the knees!

    1. Tim Z on Nov 19, 2008 8:28:26 PM:

      If we are granted all the rights and privileges of marriage then there is no need of the United American Families Act since being allowed to "marry" foreigners is one of those rights and privileges.

    1. Mike on Nov 20, 2008 5:09:21 PM:

      I believe it. I'll happen. Good blog you have here!

      http://waxingpoetically.today.com

      http://artfromtheoutskirts.today.com

    1. Mike on Nov 20, 2008 5:09:45 PM:

      I believe it. I'll happen. Good blog you have here!

      http://waxingpoetically.today.com

      http://artfromtheoutskirts.today.com

    1. Lady Olive on Nov 21, 2008 12:31:48 AM:

      Screw this. Go for equality, not a watered down, second-class citizen definition of marriage to make other people who don't pay your rent feel better about YOUR life.

      Force the US Supreme Court to hear this case and decide. Don't give them an out (pun intended).

    1. SteveS on Nov 21, 2008 10:31:07 AM:

      Note that Obama's plan does not propose "Federal Civil Unions". It says this:

      legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions.

      That means it would simply recognize state created civil unions and gay families living in states where recognition of their union is not recognized would still be left out in the cold.

      It's better than what we have, but it is not "federal civil unions". That implies something for every gay union everywhere. It is federal (recognition of state created) civil unions. There will be many gays in many states left out of the deal.

    1. Al in SoCal on Nov 22, 2008 2:34:03 PM:

      Chris,

      Just wanted to thank you for including the immigration proposal info. It's so often left out of the gay marriage debate.

      I believe this is enough - enough for the time being. If it is only recognizing state civil unions there are a couple of choices - although the cost may be prohibitive I would do anything to sponsor my partner of 12 years and would travel far to do so. I think trying to repeal DOMA is a recipe for failure as the GOP will denounce it as an attack to "traditional marriage" - so just a parallel system would be fine for now until we can get rid of more republicans.

    1. Michael on Nov 24, 2008 12:18:15 PM:

      Andoni,

      Thank you for bringinh up the UAFA. It seems to be an issue that is barely mentioned but that is very significant to many couples. I would like more opinions on what will happen to the UAFA.

    1. TheSnarkmeister on Dec 7, 2008 6:21:56 PM:

      Let's not remember what a turncoat Clinton was when it came to promises to the Gay community. Obama could barely make himself utter the word Gay throughout his entire campaign. We should hardly be hoping for much just because of one webpage. The Democrats are largely controlled by the same corporate elites as the Republicans, and as such, bailouts and other economic machinations will be their first order of business. Given the current state of things, what we can be sure of is that Gays won't be the only ones taking it from behind. The taxpayers should be greasing themselves up and learning to "relax."

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