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|June 2- July 8, 2009
• See Letters page
• Jim Hightower
Nothing less than full equality
Obama needs to do more on gay and lesbian issues
by Chris Ott
President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have let us down when it comes to equality.
By all accounts, gay and lesbian people — and others who care about equal rights — supported Obama and the Democrats overwhelmingly in 2008. And it’s not hard to see why.
On top of many other failures, the GOP seems only to offer in-your-face opposition to what should be a matter of simple decency. Republicans typically oppose legal protections to help gay and lesbian families during periods of unemployment, medical emergencies and old age. They even tend to oppose the most basic laws to prevent discrimination in the workplace against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Obama, on the other hand, inspired. While he was no leader on marriage equality, he and many Democrats spoke sensitively and convincingly about the need to treat everyone fairly.
Since the election, however, nothing important on these issues has changed.
In the midst of two wars, the Obama administration continues discharging skilled, decorated service members, simply because they are lesbian or gay.
The administration has also swung behind the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which blocks recognition of gay marriages outside of the six states that perform them.
Being treated this way by Republicans was bad, but it was no surprise. Being treated this way by Democrats, who promised change, is inexcusable.
Obama appears to want to mollify some of his critics in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community by inviting some of our leaders to the White House. But sweet talk will not suffice.
I know there are many other issues for Obama to work on without distraction, and I want him to succeed. But that is exactly why he and his administration should avoid the distraction of putting any more effort than is absolutely necessary into defending outdated laws and policies that discriminate.
It is also why the Democrats should avoid aggravating loyal supporters who thought Obama meant it.
Last September, when the McCain-Palin campaign enjoyed a surge in the polls and looked like it could win, my husband and I decided, “Not if we can help it.” We got on the Obama bandwagon and hosted a fund-raiser.
It was certainly no high-dollar event, but we raised about $60 each from a couple dozen friends. They were mainly in their 20s and 30s, and some were first-time political donors. We all gave because we shared concerns about the whole range of political and economic troubles facing the country, but for many of us, it was also personal. We have been personally affected by discrimination.
I don’t have any illusions that our modest effort put Obama over the top. But I don’t like it that President Obama and the Democratic Party seem to take this kind of support completely for granted. Today, I’m certainly not about to give more to the Democrats, or ask anyone else to.
It’s time for those who care about equality to hold this administration accountable for its poor performance on gay and lesbian issues so far. Nothing less than full equality is acceptable.
(c) 2009, Chris Ott/MCT
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