Sunday, October 11, 2009

Obama speaks out on LGBT rights

I never thought that, in my lifetime, I'd hear a major head of state spell out their support for LGBT rights so unequivocally.

In recent weeks, there's been a surge in the number of articles slamming Barack Obama for his allegedly disappointing record on progressive causes. Only a few days ago, Mehdi Hasan wrote in the New Statesman that:

"The distance between Obama and Bush on a host of policies is not as great as many people might hope or have expected - and it appears to get narrower by the day. [...] It was inevitable that even the slightest sense of continuity in policy, personnel or practice would disappoint, as it has. Obama, however, has gone further, adopting his predecessor's positions on a wide variety of issues, from the parochially domestic to the grandly geopolitical".

Although such attacks fit in comfortably with the Left's long history of sado-masochism, they're also remarkably ingenerous.

When Obama spoke last night at the Human Rights Campaign he reminded us of the abyss between his administration and his predecessor's.

Remember that only four years ago, George W Bush was publicly stating that "marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society". He defined marriage as a "sacred institution between a man and a woman", advocated a federal ban on gay marriage and went as far as comparing "unethical politicians" with same-sex marriage supporters.

His predecessor Bill Clinton did not fair well either. In a country where opposition to LGBT rights is a clear vote-winner, he signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which legally defines marriage as a legal union exclusively between one man and one woman.

Now, compare all of the above with last June when - fresh from election - Obama paid tribute to the Stonewall resistance movement of 1969 and called upon "the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity".

Compare Bush's rhetoric and actions with last week's vote in the House of Representatives, where the Democrats passed a law that expands the definition of hate crimes to include those committed because of a victim’s sexual orientation.

Compare it to Obama's pledge last night that he will repeal the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy (another Clintonite gem) that prevents gay people in the military from revealing their sexual orientation. "That is my commitment to you", Obama said, while also calling on Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and to introduce a law that would extend benefits to domestic partners.

"I'm here with a simple message: I'm here with you in that fight", the President said, adding: "My expectation is that when you look back on these years you will look back and see a time when we put a stop against discrimination ... whether in the office or the battlefield."

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Salmonese called it "a historic night" and he's right. I never thought that in my lifetime I'd hear any major head of state - let alone a US president - spell out their support for LGBT rights so clearly and unequivocally.


Joe Sickamore said...

The foundation of marriage is not collectivism, the law of God, or the alleged interests of "society as a whole." The foundation of marriage is the right of people to join voluntarily into unions for their own benefit and happiness. Marriage is a sort of formalized contractual relationship between two people committed to a long-term, romantic relationship. There is good reason to treat heterosexual couples and homosexual couples the same in terms of marriage law. This is not a matter of subjective whim but of objective legal principle. Multi-party romantic relationships are inherently unsuited for recognition as marriages, though they should not be banned or penalized by the government. It is true that the government serves a moral function, yet it does so only by protecting individual rights. That is the only basis upon which a proper theory of marriage can be built.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I can't understand why Obama has been getting some stick from the LGBT community in the US, he has taken some good steps forward.

censored said...

Daniel Hoffmann:

Obama sux. He threw the gay community under the bus like clinton. But he stated during the campaign he was against same gender marriage. I will give him credit for being honest in that respect but I think he's toying with the LGBT community.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

But he has taken some steps, what about the Stonewall celebrations and the LGBT event at the Whitehouse, celebrating the crucial part the LGBT community plays in modern America?