A friend of mine posted The Presidential Memorandum — International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons that the White House released quietly yesterday. In reading it, I could literally feel my eyes narrow and my anger build. President Obama provided the following opening statements:
“That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.” Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere. Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”
I had to read it several times: yes, the President of the United States stated “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love”. President Obama is obviously heterosexual married: if he wasn’t he couldn’t even make that statement as a leader whose own federal government denies same-sex benefits to some Federal employees, denies Federal benefits of the US tax code to legally married gayl couples (since marriage is deemed a ‘state right’) and has done little to prevent the rampant state-legislation of DOMA.
Oh, wait, President Obama, ends his memo with this chilling note to the LGBT community:
“This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.”
The ultra cynical side of me sees this (and I know since it’s a policy memo it’s a legal necessity) as a check mark: look at all the good things I’ve done for LGBT people, I can’t do anything else ::shrug:: I’ve got the Congress from hell.
I’ve never been a fan of any American president proclaiming to the world how other nations should act. But this is a slap in my face that banks on the fact that the Republicans can’t nominate an equally tolerable candidate (I’m not an Obama fan) and there isn’t a real third-party option. This is another example of Obama’s ‘safe position’ on anything. Here are some facts about LGBT rights/protections in the United States:
1) There are no antidiscrimination laws for LGBT individuals. While crimes can be charged as a ‘hate crime’ under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of the 111th Congress, it is only an ancillary charge. I can be turned down for a job for being gay: the application may say “xxx company doesn not discriminate against xyz” but there is not a federal law that protects me in seeking employment from not being hired simply because I am gay.
2) One state allows conjugal visits for same-sex couples if one is in prison. One. There is a LGBT caveat that the relationship had to exist prior to incarceration (heterosexual couples don’t have this same limitation).
According to the White House’s website, “President Obama also continues to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. He supports full civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples and opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.” But in the words of Elmer Fudd “Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits” (or Obama’s case, elephants).
Look, I get that Obama has done more for LGBT rights than any US president: the LGBT community to a great extent does a good job of forgetting Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law: the same DOMA that is now causing a myriad of legal protection issues. I get that the economy should be the number one issue for President Obama. What I don’t get, can’t get and probably never will is that the same man who has the gall to tell the world how to treat LGBT citizens in other sovereign nations will not make a public policy speech demanding those rights for his own citizens, extending same-sex benefits for *all* Federal employees and stating the basic premise of leadership: I cannot and will not ask another (in this case a nation) to do something that I, myself, am unwilling to do.
My vote isn’t tied to my sexual orientation: please don’t assume that it is Mr. Obama. You are simply lucky that there isn’t a viable candidate from the other party.