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A week ago, I sent a letter to the Obama Administration in the midst of my anger over the Department of Justice’s brief in support of DOMA. I haven’t been feeling very good about that letter, which ended with the following rather overwrought sentence: “Until you demonstrate that you are our fierce ally, you have lost my good will, and that of many other supporters who have, perhaps naively, supported you.”

Every day, I am reminded of the incredibly difficult array of problems we face as a country and a world. I can barely imagine how I would juggle all of the critical concerns that we all share, and the political realities that make simple solutions impossible.

Despite the wrath that I felt in response to the DoJ brief, I have never seen marriage equality as the most important—or perhaps even the 100th most—important issue that we face as a country or as LGBT people. I am mindful that as Americans and citizens of the world, LGBT people need our president to succeed in implementing an incredibly broad agenda. Let’s be real—extending healthcare to all Americans (with a public option) would serve more LGBT people than does marriage equality. Reversing global warming is critical to all of us.

Of course, LGBT people are not the only Americans who experience daily social injustice in this country. Unfortunately, relatively privileged LGBT people like myself have often acted as though our concerns supersede those of others. During the Prop 8 campaign, several LGBT organizations led by white people neglected to reach out to communities of color.

The No on 8 campaign itself foolishly overlooked then-candidate Obama’s own offer of support last Fall. I can only imagine how infuriated he must have been to then see white LGBT people blame people of color, after demonstrating such a deeply entrenched degree of incompetence and institutional racism.

Make no mistake—the injustice that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people experience is immediate and humiliating. It does us great harm in sometimes subtle and all-too-often deadly ways. Although marriage equality is important to many of us, the impact of violence, discrimination and rejection by family has a wider legacy in our lives. This legacy disrupts LGBT communities, endangers LGBT lives, undermines LGBT public health, and contributes to political mistakes such as those mentioned above.

Mistrust and division are difficult to avoid in a population that's experienced such widespread rejection (or very reasonable fear of rejection) by our own families and communities. Although LGBT people have made great strides, our progress has been limited by this reality. For us to succeed, it's essential that we engage and build good faith with people of conscience like Barack Obama, especially in the face of stumbles as painful and unnecessary as the Department of Justice brief.

We are right to be impatient for change. We are doubly right to demonstrate to President Obama, his administration and our nation the full force of our demands—ideally backed with the force that we desperately need to develop, by doing a much better job of building alliances with other communities. We cannot in our impatience set this administration up as our antagonist when the reality is much more complicated. We also cannot afford to vilify each other, no matter how necessary it is to hold ourselves to a higher standard as we seek or fail to build powerful, multiracial alliances.

The scale of what we all face at this moment is too important for that.

Originally posted to ThinkinPinko on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 08:25 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Well said. Although I am not gay, I fully (4+ / 0-)

      support complete equal rights for our LGBT brothers and sisters.  Last night, after reading what seems like the millionth communication from them, I cancelled my account at my.barackobama.com.  I explained that until President Obama kept his campaign promises on DADT and DOMA, I would no longer offer support there, financial or otherwise.

      I do not know whether this cancellation was a good idea or not.  I only know that I felt like I had to let Pres. Obama (or, at least his surrogates monitoring his website) know that I worked hard for his election, I am proud that he is my president, but I do not condone his continuing the legacy of  discrimination against millions of our fellow citizens-- not because of race, creed, gender, religion, OR sexual orientation.

      Your diary expresses beautifully the many sentiments that I do not have enough literary talent to convey.  Thank you.

  •  Do not *believe* the brief (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dmsarad, Dracomicron, Curiosity

    Moreover, do not believe that Obama believes the brief.
    Just because he asked his DoJ to advance some argument
    DOES NOT (not necessarily, anyway)
    mean that he agrees with the argument.
    It is literally not credible that anybody who is the product of an inter-racial marriage could support language that would apply EQUALLY to federal non-recognition of inter-racial marriages.  I said so already, here.

    The road to hell has not YET been paved with Republicans, but it SHOULD be -- Corrected BumperSticker

    by ge0rge on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 08:39:34 AM PDT

    •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

      Once people get over the hurt, I think they may see this brief for what it is, a very poor defense of a law that can only be defended by relying on the most insulting and ridiculous arguments.  If the DOJ gave the Courts nothing with which it can validate the law, the law will have to be overturned.

      "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

      by dmsarad on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 09:00:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So it's what, a Trojan horse (0+ / 0-)

        meant to get DOMA repealed by the courts instead of having to stake policitcal capital on legislation?

        •  it is a possibility (0+ / 0-)

          It won't be the first time that any party to a litigation has put in a brief specifically designed to obtain the opposite outcome.  One could see how putting in this brief with the typical false canards used to defend anti-gay legislation, only to have it rejected by the Courts, would help the ultimate cause of LGTB rights.  I am not saying that this is the case.  I am only saying it is a possibility.

          "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

          by dmsarad on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 09:06:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Healing will take work on both sides of this rift (0+ / 0-)

    First, let me start by saying that I appreciate the post, I think there it's important for both LGBT Democrats and the Democratic Party to work to heal what right now is a widening rift that damages both sides.

    Make no mistake—the injustice that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people experience is immediate and humiliating. It does us great harm in sometimes subtle and all-too-often deadly ways. Although marriage equality is important to many of us, the impact of violence, discrimination and rejection by family has a wider legacy in our lives.

    A recent study out of Emory University credits marriage bands for increasing HIV rates by 4/100K population, which sounds small until you divide it into the US population (most of which is covered by a marriage ban).  They suggest thousands of new HIV cases are a result of a marriage ban (and make some attempts at explaining what the causal links might be.)

    For us to succeed, it's essential that we engage and build good faith with people of conscience like Barack Obama,

    This is really the crux of the rift.  With a President who won't speak to the issue, with a Senate that can't find a single sponsor for DOMA repeal; with a President who can't spare 15 seconds and a legal pad to halt military losses under DADT; with a White House that  silently removed DOMA repeal, a campaign promise, from their agenda just last month; with Press Secretary Gibbs doing verbal jujitsu to avoid even saying the word gay, and in view of history, a history which includes what the LGBT community perceives as backstabbing by President Clinton on DOMA and DADT sixteen years back, it is not out of line for people to be wondering if the President is a person "of conscience."

    I absolutely believe that it's important to find ways to heal this rift, but that's going to take work, understanding and patience not only from LGBT Democrats but from their supposed allies as well, and at this point, likely some action.

    “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” --Thomas Jefferson

  •  You're right that reality is complicated (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TiaRachel, ExStr8, Curiosity

    It's not as simple as "Obama is for/against us".  But does that mean that we shouldn't hold his feet to the fire to at least attempt to do something toward repealing DOMA and DADT?  Oh, and to please not slander us along the way?

    I disagree that marriage equality is not the 100th most pressing problem for our country.  When your life is severely impacted in a thousand ways by government-directed or  goverment-sanctioned discrimination, it's a little hard to be patient.  When that is your life, it's a little hard not to become frustrated at the political foot-dragging of this administration, oh and not to mention angry at the outright slander.  Besides, as our president has said, he can walk and chew gum at the same time. So why can't he at least start the process now to overturning these discriminations, they are minor steps after all?  What is holding him back?

    •  Confusion (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoVa Boy

      repealing DOMA and DADT are actions that require working with Congress, not the White House.  

      "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

      by dmsarad on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 09:02:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And Presidential leadership (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dmsarad, Curiosity

        is irrelevant to this process?  

        •  Just different (0+ / 0-)

          One can believe that the administration believes that DOMA and DADT are constitutional while at the same time continuing to believe they should be repealed.

          "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

          by dmsarad on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 09:08:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The administration... (0+ / 0-)

            ....has the option of halting discharges without congressional action.  They've punted on this one, as has Congress.  

            While it is true that DADT must be repealed legislatively in the long run, it isn't true that the Obama administration has no options here.  They can halt the discharges, they're refusing to do so.

            What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

            by Alec82 on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 09:38:14 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Can they (0+ / 0-)

              If the administration is tasked with carrying out the law and DADT is the law, how is it that they can halt the discharges without violating or ignoring the law?

              "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

              by dmsarad on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 09:50:45 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  The easiest way... (0+ / 0-)

                ..is to invoke a statutory provision that allows them to halt discharges during a period of national emergency (which itself is defined by the statute):

                http://www.palmcenter.org/...

                Prior to the release of Palm's study, many had argued that only Congress can lift the ban on service by openly gay troops.  But according to the study, Congressional approval is not needed.  Dr. Aaron Belkin, Director of the Palm Center and a study co-author, said "The administration does not want to move forward on this issue because of conservative opposition from both parties in Congress, and Congress does not want to move forward without a signal from the White House.  This study provides a recipe for breaking through the political deadlock, as well as a roadmap for military leaders once the civilians give the green light."

                There are three legal bases to the president’s authority, the report says.  First, Congress has already granted to the Commander in Chief the statutory authority to halt military separations under 10 U.S.C. § 12305, a law which Congress titled, "Authority of President to suspend certain laws relating to promotion, retirement, and separation"  Under the law "the President may suspend any provision of law relating to promotion, retirement, or separation applicable to any member of the armed forces who the President determines is essential to the national security of the United States" during a "period of national emergency."  The statute specifically defines a "national emergency" as a time when "members of a reserve component are serving involuntarily on active duty."

                No unitary executive parade of horribles to hide behind here.

                What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

                by Alec82 on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 09:53:39 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  It's called stop loss (0+ / 0-)

                Bush used it to prohibit service members from leaving the armed forces whenever it was determined that they were needed to prosecute the Iraq and Afganistan wars.  At the same time, of course, honorably serving but openly gay people were, and still are, being drummed out of the millitary.

                And it's not a matter of the "Unitary Executive".  This is an authority that Congress has specificially granted to the President.

      •  yes, and no (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Alec82

        repealing DOMA and DADT are actions that require working with Congress, not the White House.

        Yes, although effective halting of discharges under DADT is, by law, something the President has complete authority to order immediately without Congressional involvement.

    •  I think holding his feet to the fire is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lineatus

      perfectly appropriate. Write letters. Write blogs. Remind the president of his words. Make some noise.

      But what is happening all to often is a vicious attack on the President using the most venomous, strident language once reserved for Bush. In fact, Obama = Bush is a common refrain among such nutcases.

      Once you go this far, you lose all credibility and normal people stop listening. Especially people in the administration who are constantly polling the public to see where things stand.

      •  If you tell the president he's lost you, then he (0+ / 0-)

        doesn't have the same incentive to work on your issue as he would if you say that you want to work with him to bring change.

        They only call it Class War when we fight back.

        by lineatus on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 10:01:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Are we willing to hold our own feet to the fire? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoVa Boy

      I agree 100% - we should continue to pressure Congress and the Obama Administration in effective ways. By effective, I mean approaching the conversation with a degree of humility and leaving the vitriol at the door.

      Marriage equality is indeed a high priority for many of my fellow gay men, lesbian sisters and transgender siblings - for material reasons, and because of the tremendous social and symbolic importance of marriage. I'm not here to argue that you're wrong to prioritize it in your life.

      However, marriage inequality is not the most pressing concern in my own life as a gay white middle class man.

      My life has been severely impacted by the evisceration of public health funding that we previously used to build community and address community mental health issues that contribute to HIV transmission and other health concerns.

      Many LGBT people who are of color or working class have stated other policy areas would greatly impact their (and our) lives, such as:

      + Ending the criminalization of public sex, which disproportionately impacts young LGBT people of color and working class queers.

      + The passage of a trans-inclusive ENDA, which is of critical importance to transgender folk who experience extraordinarily high rates of employment discrimination.

      + Public health funding for building LGBT community and addressing LGBT community mental health issues in the wake of AIDS, ongoing homophobic violence, etc.

      + More expansive policy about relationships and family which address the needs of the many LGBT people who live and grow old outside of monogamous relationships.

      + And many other policies that are just as difficult/easy, which would massively improve LGBT lives.

      This is not meant to dismiss your advocacy for marriage equality, which I do share in some part. The problem is, other priorities have not been well represented within LGBT advocacy organizations or among the mostly white, wealthy people who fund them. Instead, LGBT politicos were quick last year to snub Obama in their own hero worship of Hillary Clinton. In the last year, they have diverted funding away from groups that advocate for LGBT people of color and trans folk.

      This dynamic is readily apparent to our more sophisticated allies within the larger progressive world. It does not help us build passionate support beyond a rather narrow base, no matter how many people might agree with you in spirit.

      While we're very rightly applying pressure to the Obama Administratino, it would behoove us to hold our own feet to the fire on these matters, if we are going to build a larger power base that extends beyond our own already very divided communities. This is absolutely necessary if we want to pass LGBT friendly legislation on the national level.

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