Strong opinions, weakly held

Losing patience with Obama on gay rights

Andrew Sullivan is losing patience with the Obama administration when it comes to gay rights issues:

Here we are, in the summer of 2009, with gay servicemembers still being fired for the fact of their orientation. Here we are, with marriage rights spreading through the country and world and a president who cannot bring himself even to acknowledge these breakthroughs in civil rights, and having no plan in any distant future to do anything about it at a federal level. Here I am, facing a looming deadline to be forced to leave my American husband for good, and relocate abroad because the HIV travel and immigration ban remains in force and I have slowly run out of options (unlike most non-Americans with HIV who have no options at all).

And what is Obama doing about any of these things? What is he even intending at some point to do about these things? So far as I can read the administration, the answer is: nada. We’re firing Arab linguists? So sorry. We won’t recognize in any way a tiny minority of legally married couples in several states because they’re, ugh, gay? We had no idea. There’s a ban on HIV-positive tourists and immigrants? Really? Thanks for letting us know. Would you like to join Joe Solmonese and John Berry for cocktails? The inside of the White House is fabulous these days.

The gay rights issues Sullivan brings up are basic issues of fairness and justice, and seeing no action on them is incredibly frustrating. Politifact counts five promises that Obama made regarding gay rights issues — three have not seen any action, one (repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”) is stalled, and the other (hate crimes legislation) is rated has having been kept. Lifting the absurd immigration restrictions for HIV-positive people is not on the list.

Complaints from the left on these issues have a chance of leading to further action, so I’m complaining.

1 Comment

  1. I dunno — I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, these are clearly human rights issues, and Obama has said he will act on them, so the delay is wrong in human terms. On ther other hand, Obama’s main agenda (health care at the least) is already being preempted by the economy and war issues that he can’t sidestep, and I’m not sure that he can squander the political capital that a move on gay rights will take and still hope to get the other things done. So I guess I think the delay is right in a political/practical sense. Let’s do healthcare this year and do it right — saving the lives and livelihoods of millions — and then next year he can take on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and other absurdities that are within his reach, without burning critical bridges.

    This makes it sound like I’m cavallier about human rights, which I’m not. But this could be the only time in our lifetimes that somebody could bring the power of the office and this level of personal popularity to the big issue of our times, which I’m sorry to say is healthcare and not gay marriage or military service. To say he can do everything at once is just naive and counterproductive.

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