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    November 11, 2008

    Let the expectation lowering begin…

    Posted by: Chris

    Changegov 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:

    Rahmemanuel_2 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.

    Frankbaldwin_2 Then came the gay Dems in Congress. Appearing on Mike Signorile's Sirius OutQ show, Barney Frank reportedly predicted:

    1. Almost immediate passage of a gay and trans-inclusive Matthew Shepard hate crimes law.
    2. Passage within two years of a gay and trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
    3. DADT repeal once the Iraq War stabilizes and the Defense Department is on board.
    4. 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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    1. Tim C on Nov 12, 2008 8:19:23 AM:

      I initially was not going to read this article as I knew I would be depressed by the end of it, but I read it anyway, and sure enough, all I had the strength to do by the end of it was to sigh.

      No politician on his own is going to do anything for us. It's generally considered hazardous to his re-election prospects. No insider Washington group, certainly not HRC, is going to do anything to push reluctant politicians as it may endanger its leaders' future employment prospects. That leaves us. We have to make it more uncomfortable for politicians to do something than not. Otherwise, we risk hearing only "the time isn't right yet" for the next four years. The Democrats got what they wanted from us -- money and votes. We, us, each one of us, not some group that also mostly wants your money, is going to have to make sure they are presented with a bill for what was delivered.

    1. Andoni on Nov 12, 2008 9:02:22 AM:

      I too am depressed. The fact that I heard three influential HRC leaders saying that Obama should only attempt ENDA and Hate Crimes before the 2010 elections, tells me HRC me they are part of the problem. How we ever let HRC be the interface between the rank and file and Congress (or the executive branch) is beyond me.

      If the past is any hint, after 2010 there will be fewer votes to pass our stuff. ENDA and Hate Crimes are IOU's from the 1990's. We deserve more than that in 2009.

    1. mademark on Nov 12, 2008 9:18:49 AM:

      It didn't depress me because it didn't surprise me. While watching over the last year-plus a large number of LGBT people get all super-excited we-must-get-him-elected! about Obama (whom I voted for), I knew all along the love was not mutual. I expected nothing from Obama, and I continue to think that's what we'll get. Or as close to nothing as the Obama administration can give without losing too many gay dollars and volunteers when it's time for re-election. Obama signaled long ago that it was okay to vote for Prop 8 (he opposes marriage equality and has said so). That he threw in the bit about opposing constitutional amendments did not negate the cover he provided to his adoring fans who saw no irony in rushing to vote for him while stripping gay couples of their rights.

      I wish him well, as I wish all presidents well when they're first elected. He's intelligent, gifted, and above all shrewd. Shrewd does not include taking more than a tepid stand for a minority that it is still socially acceptable to loathe (how many of us were grateful just to hear him say 'gay and straight' in his victory speech? Are we still so sad that such a throw-away line makes us tingle with anticipation of someday being equal?.)

      So there's no call for despair, only a reminder that there are no saviors, and certainly not Barack Obama. We will always be expendable.

    1. Kevin on Nov 12, 2008 3:27:56 PM:

      Cynical, no. It's that you didn't see reality coming from a mile away like you should have. That's all.

    1. DCposter on Nov 13, 2008 1:38:33 PM:

      Well this post was predictable. Obama isn't even president yet and Chris and his cohorts are looking for reasons to call him a failure on gay issues.

      Put a sock in it, folks. Rahm Emanuel was right. Obama campaigned on major issues that affect us all--the economy, the war, health care. He has positions on many, many more issues of course, and he expressed those positions throughout the campaign. Does that mean he attempts to implement all of them--every single one--the moment he takes the oath? You think that's smart?

      Get a grip.

    1. GMRinSAN on Nov 13, 2008 7:31:18 PM:

      Chris - so true. So true. So predictably, depressingly, true.

      The only thing that gives me hope are the grass-roots marches and protests going on now. It's Bastille Day for us. Past time we put our trust in D.C. political salon-hopping gay elite organizations on both sides of the aisle (HRC, LCR) and got about the business of getting things done.

      My money and time now goes toward real, achievable goals and action. The Dems aren't getting a dime more from me until tangible results are forthcoming. And the R's haven't seen any of my money since 2000.

      "Where else will go?" - my a**!

    1. John Bisceglia on Nov 14, 2008 3:23:07 AM:

      Can we make it SIMPLE for the government? Why are they being stubborn about taking that "leap of faith", and just give us FULL EQUALITY, you know, treat US how you treat EVERYONE ELSE?

      Well, more and more of us are WAKING UP, America. No taxation without equality; simple math.

      Now the feds will need to repeal DOMA and DADT, grant us FULL equal rights (including marriage), and begin to start viewing our families - OUR FAMILIES - as the tax-paying contributing members of society we are.....well.....we USED to be!

      Because if our HOMES, our FAMILIES, our very BELOVED are not acknowledged and valued as other families are legally, whatever we do outside of that home will never be acknowledged and valued legally, such as adopting children, working without discrimination, or serving openly in the military.

      FAMILY FIRST. What is more important than FAMILY?

      We owe the IRS absolutely NOTHING until equal. NOTHING. Get it?

      This is NOT a test.
      This is NOT a debate.
      This is NOT a vote.
      This is definitely NOT a popularity contest.

      This IS justice - GAY TAX PROTEST.

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