What if LGBTQ Issues Are No Longer the Wedge, President Obama Is?

I plan to go into much greater detail on the State of the LGBTQ Union later in the week, but a thought crystallized in me last night when I saw a tweet from one of my favorite tweeps:

GayRainArmy Is Obama so out of touch that he thinks “private assurances” to LGBT “leaders” is going to help anything? RT @heathr http://tr.im/oKGbabout 2 hours ago from Seesmic Desktop

The link is to an announcement about the President’s new “Friends…with benefits” memorandum, to be signed later today.  From NYT:

Mr. Obama, in an Oval Office announcement, is expected to offer details about which benefits will be provided. It is the most significant statement he has made on gay issues, and it comes as he faces intense criticism from several gay rights leaders over what they suggest has been a failure to live up to campaign promises in the first months of his presidency.

The President has taken heat for a variety of stances on issues regarding the LGBTQ community, particularly his silence on the Prop 8 decision, and on the military’s Don’t ask/Don’t tell policy.  Most recently, the Obama DOJ has taken fire for the manner of its opposition to a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act.

The LGBTQ community’s, and its allies’, feelings of slight are certainly justified, especially when weighed against the promise of the new administration.  To the oppressed, equality is not idealism, it is necessity.

On the other hand, one of the reasons I endorsed Barack Obama was his ability to balance idealism with pragmatism.  Yes, it’s an ugly word, one made more vice than virtue by our last Democratic President, Bill Clinton.  There’s a key difference, though, in President Obama’s brand of pragmatism.  While Clinton appeased conservatives in order to advance his agenda, President Obama takes a different approach.

On many issues, his approach has been to allow consensus to build against the opposition, resulting in a much stronger bargaining position.  The stimulus package was a great example of this.

However, on the subject of gay rights, Obama has, indeed, been lagging behind events on the ground.  Recently, I concluded that, at least on DADT, the President is taking an FDR-esque “Make me” stance.  Now, I think it’s more like “Don’t make me an obstacle.”

As I intend to show in more detail, public support on a wide variety of LGBTQ issues is growing on both sides of the aisle.  Increasingly, conservatives have shown that they are coming around on key gay issues.  Dick Cheney’s recent show of support for marriage equality is a great indication of this.  Decency and fairness are overcoming fear and loathing.

Conversely, the Republican Party’s entire raison d’etre, these days, is to oppose Barack Obama and everything he even glances at.  It is entirely possible that the President is trying to prevent himself from becoming a wedge issue in the fight for LGBTQ rights.

While the President’s political instincts are usually excellent, I think my Twitter friend hit the nail on the head.  I think that the climate in this country has shifted so quickly in favor of equality that the President ought to check his barometer again.


  1. Man, are you up late.

  2. Go check out HuffPo. Things are poppin’ in Iran.

  3. I oppose changing the definition of marriage, and I neither fear nor loathe anyone. Please don\’t attribute motives to those with which you disagree. Are there homophobes? Of course there are. Are a majority of American\’s homophobes? No, they\’re not, and neither are most of those who wish to maintain the definition of marriage. I don\’t assume the worst in you. All I ask is the same.

  4. I got one of those pingbacks which led me over here. Can you please telll me what that acronym is exactly. What’s the “Q” for? I dunno. I’m not hip. Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders, and Quincy MD? Me don’t know.

    Back to the pingbacks, interestingly, your story popped up as quoting me somehow as did… get this, “The Financial Times.” The Financial Times and Tommy Christopher have cited me as an authority on this. You complete me Tommy.

  5. Quincy? HA! Now that’s funny.
    I leave the LGBT stuff up to our resident Lesbian activist prariepond.
    I do believe she has bigger balls than me.
    If you don’t believe it go to our blog and click her author name.

    She writes this stuff at a smalltown Kansas newspaper also.
    Now that’s taking chances with nutballs similar to Roeder everywhere and armed.

  6. Kevin,
    you may be the exception, but judging by their ad campaign, which explicitly states that they’re afraid, I think it’s a fair enough characterization of many gay marriage opponents.

  7. […] fact sheet aren’t going to impress anyone, and coming, as they do, when President Obama is under fire from the LGBTQ community and its allies, I predict very loud shrugging in […]

  8. What’s with the forward slash? Are you calling for a reunion of Guns n’ Roses?

  9. Sorry. I’m dyslexic Kevin. What’s with the backwards slash. Are you calling for the failure of a guitarist?

  10. I am slysdexic AND backasswards.

  11. […] Press More alike than you think – Attaturk, firedoglake Still listening – Kevin Drum, Mother Jones Is LGBTQ no longer the wedge? – Tommy Christopher, Daily Dose What just happened? – Michael J. Totten, contentions No one in […]

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