December 14, 2008
Our leaders aim too low
Posted by: Andoni
The Advocate just published 26 open letters to Barack Obama from prominent LGBT Americans advising him on the important issues we face as a community and making suggestions on how he should address them. These letters are fascinating to read.
Some are from leaders of single issue organizations and they concentrate mainly on their own issue. Others simply repeat the list of narrow items that have been on HRC's agenda for what seems like forever, you know, Hate Crimes, ENDA, etc. A few push Obama beyond what he has volunteered to give us, such as Evan Wolfson's appeal for full marriage equality.
My favorite four letters cite the inequities in U.S. immigration laws for gay and lesbian citizens, a subject dear to my heart, and specifically ask Obama to remedy this situation by ushering through Congress the Uniting American Families Act or recognizing our relationships for immigration. These letters are from Rachel Tiven, Vestal McIntyre, Jim Buzinski, and Lorri Jean.
But what struck me most about these letters was how timid the ones from the people we consider our national leaders are. In particular, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin simply asks for Hate Crimes legislation, a T inclusive ENDA, domestic partnership for federal employees (for federal workers only and only a very few of those 1200 federal benefits), and repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." No great vision.
Joe Solmonese , President of the Human Rights Campaign doesn't suggest anything, he simply offers that HRC will work with the president.
And none of these leaders picks up on a monumental issue Barack Obama has put in writing that he would like to give us.....it's right there in his Agenda items under Civil Rights on his webpage and is called the The Obama-Biden Plan. Barack says that we need to
...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.
This is powerful stuff folks. If we pass this legislation, it would bring more gays rights to more Americans than all the other items on HRC's list combined. This legislation means that if a gay couple has a legally-recognzied union (any couple can go to VT to get civil unioned or MA to get married - both legally recognized unions), the federal goverment would then grant you those 1200 federal benefits that married opposite sex couples have. This is seismic. And recognition of our relationships has an approval rating of 55-66% as long as you don't call it marriage. This could be easier to pass than the controversial T inclusive ENDA.
Barack Obama is proposing one great piece of legislation here, yet none of our leaders seems to have noticed. None of our national organizations have picked up on this item on his agenda to begin working on it with him; none of our Congressional leaders are writing such a bill that the president would welcome.
It's time to stop thinking about getting our rights one small sliver at a time. It's time to start thinking bigger and grander than most of our leaders and national organizations are doing.
It's mind boggling that none of our leaders in Congress or our national organizations seem to have realized the full potential of what Obama is proposing. If passed this legislation would bring more equality, more happiness to more LGB Americans than any other piece of legislation I can think of.
The letters in the Advocate indicate to me that most of our leaders are aiming too low and aren't fully listening to Obama to take advantage of all that he is offering.
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