A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests
Barack Obama issued a reminder to the American LGBT populace this last week as to why they should vote for him in the Presidential race later this year. Often criticised as a let-down on gay rights (as on so many other issues) his campaign have knocked together a graphic to remind everyone what he has done.
Obama will of course – barring accidents – win a second term in November but he needs to convince his own supporters to go out and vote. The current strategy seems to be “have you seen the other guy? Aren’t the Republican’s scary?” Well yes, they are and yes Obama will be a better President than them. yet, his goal should not be to be slightly better than a bunch of Republican nuts. The American people deserve better than that. A terrific campaigner, it’s hard not to accept the criticism that he’s a less talented office holder.
Let’s look at the timeline covering the last four years. He starts with extending key-benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. He could do this without legislation so it was easy to achieve but note the language – ‘key-benefits’ not all.
The following week – and I’m not making this up – they had an LGBT party at the White House. Please tell me that LGBT activists in the States expect more than a Whitehouse shindig? He then awards honours Billie Jean King and Harvey Milk. Nice, and welcome for sure but I feel underwhelmed. On and on we go. Federal law which apply to everyone are included (which seems patronising) and in the case of care costs for seniors is insulting given the massive issues that face LGBT seniors. The list largely comprises of making speeches, saying he doesn’t like things, and making the occasional video. These are not achievements, they are sound-bites. Judged by actions rather than words, with the exception of repealing DADT, Obama has been a massive let down for the LGBT community. What does he offer for the next term? Nothing according to this. Quite astonishing. He also has the brass neck to state that DOMA is unconstitutional and they won’t defend it in the courts. That doesn’t mean it won’t be found constitutional in the court, and nor does it stop the law being in force right now, affecting millions of Americans this very day.
The LGBT movement fear playing into the hands of the right by calling out Obama to put forward more positive LGBT measures. Republicans will – they argue – then be able to point to the terrifyingly lefty/socialist/communist things he would do if elected for another term. Keep your mouth shut and you’ll be looked after when we win is the implicit message. I’m unconvinced. The US desperately needs some LGBT out-riders who effectively take the administration to task on a shoddy record and a lack of future promise. Four more years of this might be better than the Republican alternative, but it’s simply not good enough for America.