Full Text of President Obama’s Remarks and Memorandum on Federal Benefits

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

___________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release                         June 17, 2009

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

AT THE SIGNING OF A

PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM

REGARDING FEDERAL BENEFITS AND NON-DISCRIMINATION

Oval Office

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President Obama’s ‘Friends with Benefits’ Memo Contains Baby Steps

Update: Just got off of the conference call with Director of the Office of Personnel Management John Berry.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a question in, but I can say that the press, as a whole, are very unimpressed with this move.  I expect there will be a lot of negative press on this.  The tone of the questioning was uniformly skeptical.

On the other hand, Berry did stress, repeatedly, that this memo’s reach is restricted by DOMA.  It almost seemed as though Berry was saying that this very weak tea is designed to whet the public appetite for a DOMA repeal.  If so, the administration’s defense of DOMA is that much more mystifying.

Berry also tried to pretend that a Presidential memo is the same as an executive order, but was called on it.  The memo expires with the President’s term.  He again stressed the need for a more permanent, legislative solution in response.

Another reporter pointed out that most, if not all, of the benefits in this memo are already available to at least some federal employees.  Berry responded that this action removes such decisions from the individual supervisor’s discretion.

The White House has just released a fact sheet regarding the Presidential Memorandum to be signed later today.  While any progress against discrimination is welcome, this seems like a poorly-timed half-measure.

The benefits outlined in the 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 response.  If you can’t afford a dozen roses, maybe you ought to skip the dandelions.

A press conference call is scheduled for 3 pm.  I should have more to say about this then.  Here is the full text of the fact sheet:
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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: Continue reading

Prop 8: California Gays are Now 2nd and 3rd Class Citizens

prop8aftermath

Just a quick observation to add to the volumes I’ve written lately on Prop 8 (see:

California Upholds Proposition 8, Preserves Existing Gay Marriages

Did Proposition 8 Court Read Right-Wing Blogs?

Proposition 8 Ruling is a Catch 88)(I especially recommend the 1st and 3rd).

The California Supreme Court’s ruling has created a new, lower class for its gay citizens to occupy.  1st class is for teh straightz!  Lotsa legroom and right to get married, plus a velvety sleep mask.  2nd class are the 18,000 gay couples who lucked out and got married before the passage of Prop 8.  They get a bag of peanuts and a TV to share with the whole row.

Then, there are the 3rd class, teh regular gays, who get stuffed in the luggage compartment.

In all seriousness, I do wonder if a mini-martyr-movement will spring up, with married LGBTQ people burning their marriage certificates in solidarity with their unmarried brethren and sethren.  Maybe, or maybe just burning a symbolic copy.

This is the problem with “splitting the baby.”  You just make a bloody mess.

P.S. This guy is dead wrong.  Prop 8 may indeed be good for gay marriage in the long run,  but not for the reason he says.  Kicking the ball back to voters is the opposite of progress, and the essence of the flaw in the court’s ruling.

If Prop 8 is good for gay marriage in the long run, it will be because it brings on a successful equal protection challenge in the US Supreme Court.

Proposition 8 Ruling is a Catch 88

Proposition 8 Ruling is a Catch 88

Posted:
05/27/09
Filed Under:Gay Rights, Supreme Court <!– Filed Under: –> <!– Filed Under:Gay Rights, Supreme Court –>

See what I did there? It’s like a Catch 22, only 4 times as bad. Worse, really, but 88 went well with the rest of the headline.

In rendering its decision to uphold Proposition 8, the California Supreme Court ignored not only their own precedent but their reason for existing. Upon advice of counsel, I decided to bite the bullet and try to wade through the 136-page Prop 8 decision to find out where the whole thing went wrong. After doing so, I can only conclude than that the court wrote their decision to fit a pre-ordained outcome.

That outcome was best described by Below the Beltway’s Doug Mataconis (and others, I’m sure) as “splitting the baby,” a reference to the story of Solomon as directed by Quentin Tarantino.

In order to arrive at this decision, the court faced a number of obstacles, but I have isolated the moment at which they went from torturing logic to putting it out of its misery.

As Ed Rawls noted, the court rests its entire decision on the distinction between a constitutional amendment and a revision. This is sleight of hand, however, as pointed out in the dissenting opinion. The real issue is whether Proposition 8 violates the inalienable rights of liberty and due process. If it does, then Proposition 8 is necessarily a revision, not an amendment. Furthermore, the distinction is rendered moot, because it is unconstitutional on its face.

To illustrate, you couldn’t amend, revise, or Martinize a constitution to legalize the murder of a certain class of people.

The court had already ruled, in the Marriage Cases, that marriage inequality makes same-sex couples a suspect class, that it violates the privacy, liberty, and due process clauses of Article 1, Section 7 of the California Constitution. The court even cites, extensively, the decision in the Marriage Cases.

Furthermore, in the Marriage Cases, the court made a clear distinction between the right to marry, and the right to be afforded the rights and privileges of marriage without calling it marriage, which already existed. In other words, the point of the Marriage Cases was the right to marry, not the right to separate but equal marriage. That means that the Prop 8 court had to escape its own precedent in order to uphold Prop 8.

In order to do so, the court relied on this bit of Orwellian logic: (page 34-35)

Because in common speech the term “right to marry” is most often used and understood to refer to an individual’s right to enter into the official relationship designated “marriage,” and in order to minimize potential confusion in the future, instead of referring to this aspect of the state constitutional rights of privacy and due process as “the constitutional right to marry,” hereafter in this opinion we shall refer to this constitutional right by the more general descriptive terminology used in the majority opinion in the Marriage Cases – namely, the constitutional right to establish, with the person of one’s choice, an officially recognized and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.

In other words, just because you have the right to marry doesn’t mean you get to call the product of that marrying a marriage. It would be like a defense attorney saying, “Just because my client murdered the victim doesn’t mean you get to call it a murder. We prefer soul/body disunion.”

There are a host of other problems with this decision, but this is the poisonous tree.

As Rawls points out, Judge Moreno’s dissenting opinion clearly explains how the majority has given undue deference to the amendment as “the will of the people”:

The rule the majority crafts today not only allows same-sex couples to be stripped of the right to marry that this court recognized in the Marriage Cases, it places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities. It weakens the status of our state Constitution as a bulwark of fundamental rights for minorities protected from the will of the majority. I therefore dissent. …

The equal protection clause is therefore, by its nature, inherently countermajoritarian. As a logical matter, it cannot depend on the will of the majority for its enforcement, for it is the will of the majority against which the equal protection clause is designed to protect. Rather, the enforcement of the equal protection clause is especially dependent on “the power of the courts to test legislative and executive acts by the light of constitutional mandate and in particular to preserve constitutional rights, whether of individual or minority, from obliteration by the majority.”

Finally, the court’s contention that Prop 8 doesn’t violate Article 1, Section 7, but rather “carves out a narrow exception,” is a terrifying prospect. Will the court approve future amendments to re-dub children of same-sex unions “fagbabies,” or to narrowly exempt individuals in same-sex unions from the designation “human?”

The California Supreme Court has twisted itself into disgraceful knots in order to avoid doing its job. Perhaps in a thin-skinned attempt to avoid the label of “activist,” they have created a new one, the “inactivist court.”// //

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California Upholds Proposition 8, Preserves Existing Gay Marriages


Posted:
05/26/09
Filed Under:Gay Rights, Supreme Court <!– Filed Under: –> <!– Filed Under:Gay Rights, Supreme Court –>

The California Supreme Court has rendered its decision on Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage that passed on November’s ballot. The court upheld the ban on same-sex marriages, while also ruling to continue to recognize the 18,000 existing California same-sex marriages that occurred before the ban.

While the ruling is disappointing to proponents of marriage equality, the issue is far from settled. A new measure to overturn Prop 8 could find its way onto California ballots as early as 2010. According to a recent poll, 48% of Californians would vote to repeal Prop 8, versus 47% who would uphold it. 5% remain undecided.

A new ballot initiative during a mid-term election would be difficult to predict. The outcome would rest heavily on either side’s ability to mobilize and get out the vote.
The state of marriage equality in the US is very encouraging, despite the Prop 8 ruling. Five states currently allow same-sex marriages, and three other states are currently considering laws to legalize same-sex marriage. What’s exciting is that 3 of the 5 states to legalize gay marriage have done so in the past two months, and a 4th within 7 months.

The momentum is unmistakable. In October, Connecticut legalized same-sex marriage. On Election Day, the passage of Prop 8 and Arkansas’ adoption ban seemed like a huge setback, but then this spring, in rapid succession, Iowa, Vermont, and Maine legalized gay marriage as well.

New York Governor David Paterson introduced legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in April, and the measure passed the state assembly overwhelmingly. While polling indicates that voters are evenly split on the question, the bill’s chance to pass the NY Senate are excellent.

New Jersey, which currently recognizes civil unions, is currently considering a law that would legalize gay marriage. A competing measure to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage, meanwhile, has met with little support.

Last week, New Hampshire’s House surprisingly voted down a same-sex marriage law, but mainly because gay rights proponents felt the bill went too far in “protecting” religious and quasi-religious organizations’ rights to discriminate against gays. The Governor, Democrat John Lynch, had threatened to veto an earlier bill that did not include those “protections.”

Currently, while 10% of states have legalized same-sex marriage, several more have laws recognizing marriage-like rights. While the map below might not look that encouraging, the speed with which same-sex marriage has progressed is astonishing, and heartening.

While anti-gay marriage group NOM’s “Gay Thunderstorm” ad has been rightly derided, they certainly nailed the metaphor: Advances for same-sex marriage have occurred at a lightning pace. During the 2008 presidential campaign, opposition to gay marriage in favor of civil unions was the safe position for Democratic candidates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

As Bill Richardson said of gay marriage, “I will level with you, I would do what is achievable. What is achievable is full civil unions with full marriage rights.”

Scant months later, that position seems as quaint as an ice cream social, and gay marriage opponents like Rudy Giuliani are now taking cover behind that fall-back position. President Obama’s normally impeccable political instincts seem to have been outflanked this time, as his thread-the-needle position has quickly become obsolete.

On the bright side, the fact that these gains have been made with the President essentially on the sidelines is that much more encouraging.

Maine Governor John Baldacci’s remarks upon passage of his state’s same-sex marriage law offer Democrats, like President Obama, a road map from their old position to the new one:

“In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions,” Baldacci said. “I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage.”

Wow, that almost fits on a bumper sticker.// //

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