Saturday, May 02, 2009

Less Than Fierce

Richard Socarides has a hard-hitting op-ed in today's Wa Po calling the Obama administration out on the glacial pace of its follow-through on promises made to LGBT citizens. Socarides was an advisor to President Clinton on LGBT rights in his second term. He begins by recalling that moment in December 2008 when president-elect Obama was trying to quell the furor over his selection of the Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Obama claimed that throughout the campaign he had been a "consistent" and "fierce advocate of equality for gay and lesbian Americans." Socarides argues that, so far, the reality of Obama's presidency falls well short of his campaign rhetoric: "At the end of its first 100 days, his administration has been neither [consistent nor fierce]."

We're just the messenger, kids, so don't get mad at us, though it's true we agree with every word of the column. For example:
President Obama will never have more political capital than he has now, and there will never be a better political environment to capitalize on. People are distracted by the economy and war, and they are unlikely to get stirred up by the right-wing rhetoric that has doomed efforts in the past.

And people are willing to try new approaches. The court ruling legalizing gay marriage in Iowa represents a real opening, an opportunity to get "undecideds" to take another look not only at gay marriage but at gay rights in general. As Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin remarked, many Americans may be asking themselves, "If the [Iowa] Supreme Court said this, maybe I have to think anew."

So far, friends, instead of leadership on LGBT issues, we have foot-dragging. (Example: Don't ask, don't tell.) Instead of clarity and forcefulness, we have silence and mush. (Example: The White House's reaction to the Iowa Supreme Court's marriage decision.) A new Wa Po-ABC poll shows a "sharp shift" in support for same-sex marriage, with 49% of those surveyed now saying they support it, while 46% oppose it. (Just three years ago, the numbers were starkly different, with 58% opposing same-sex marriage and 36% supporting it.) As a growing number of states move to extend full relationship equality to LGBT citizens, the president's support for civil unions, coupled with his inaction on extending federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples in either civil unions or marriages, looks more and more like a profile in political cowardice. How many states have to give gay couples the right to say "I do" before the president musters the courage to say "me, too?" How high do his own poll numbers have to go before he is willing to expend some political capital on the defining civil rights issue of the era?

Mr. President, you are standing on the wrong side of history. You can't please all of the people all of the time, and you can't lead anybody if you don't have the nerve to piss a few people off in support of justice. When the dust settles on these issues, do you really want the record to show that you stood back and risked nothing to bring about equality for a group of citizens? You cannot imagine how fervently we hope that is not the case.

Thus endeth your Saturday sermon on queer justice and political courage. To reward you for your time and attention to such weighty matters when your minds might otherwise be occupied with handicapping the ponies, we pass along a sublimely hilarious parody of the National Organization for Marriage ad, which contains what is possibly the funniest joke about Chilean sea bass that we have ever heard. Yes: Chilean sea bass. You know we never steer you wrong. Watch the vid, and think of Moose when you hear the first strains of "My Old Kentucky Home" this afternoon. Peace out.


  1. LOVE it, Rox. I cannot for the life of me understand why POTUS evidently doesn't mind being remembered as the popular guy who had little to lose and instead of opting to be a Profile in Course just "stood back" and let all be (like the "poets" about whom Springsteen complains in "Jungleland" -- now how ironic is THAT behavior from he who worships all things Kennedy?). Anyway, the excuses being made for him are quite disheartening, so this piece from Socarides and this post from you are more than in order. Let's hope he reads you, Rox, and chooses not to let this opportunity turn to sand that just slips through his fingers.
    Always your devoted. . .

  2. Uh, er, of course I meant Profile in COURAGE (not course). It really is hard to believe that he has so little guts. As one liberal pundit wrote, "I wonder what he's willing to fight for." What, and who, indeed.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.