President Fierce Advocate made a pretty speech at the Human Rights Campaign Saturday night after a wonderful introduction by (a guy who looked like PeeWee Herman but I’m pretty sure was) Joe Solmonese, Insider-Gay Extraordinaire and head of HRC.
In his pretty speech, Barack Obama said he would sign a repeal of DADT (but not when) and supported the repeal of DOMA (but not when) and said he would sign the Hate Crimes Law (likely next week, but he didn’t commit to it). He reminded the black-tie LGBT audience that he was very busy working on things which also affected them as patriotic Americans, like jobs, health care, two wars, the economic recovery and HIV/AIDS. So if progress is slower than we might like — which he agreed with, progress has been slower than we might like — it’s because things move slowly . Fierce advocacy isn’t what we might have expected despite our many dollars and hours expended to elect him. And to elect the overwhelming Democratic majorities he enjoys in both houses of Congress and may never have again.
He also didn’t mention the fights in Maine (No on 1) and Washington State (Approve Ref 71) where our civil rights are at stake. I’m sure the folks working on these efforts would have liked to have a soundbite to use in their campaigns from the President. All I can say to them is, well, your opponents don’t have a sound bite to use AGAINST you like our opponents did in California last year. So, be thankful for small things.
I didn’t hear the word marriage at all, although I haven’t seen a transcript and would be happy to be wrong about this. Obama did discuss “relationships” and said those between one man and another man or between one woman and another woman were as valid (I think that was the word he used) in American law as relationships between one man and one woman.
Look, we didn’t get a Hate Crimes Bill last year because W threatened a veto of the entire defense authorization bill if Hate Crimes was included. Now we have a president who will sign the Hate Crimes Bill. A year ago, we had a president who’d gotten re-elected on his support of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have enshrined discrimination into the US Constitution. Had John McCain been elected in November, you can be sure there would be no talk of signing a repeal of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell. Had John McCain been elected, I don’t think we’d have a gay head of the federal Office of Personnel Management or a gay Ambassador-designate to New Zealand And Samoa.
LGBT families were specifically invited to the Easter Egg hunt on the White House lawn this year! So there’s that.
We have a friend in the Oval Office, and that matters. Believe me, it matters.
There is no question that this president is better than the last one and better than his GOP opponent would have been — no one needs to convince me. It was wonderful to hear “Hail to the Chief” played in a president’s first term at an HRC gala, on C-SPAN.
But a firm timeline for his promises, none of which are new, was what the larger audience had every right to expect from the man who was, as he cleverly portrayed himself, “opening for Lady Gaga.”