Gay activists not impressed with
President Obama's latest rights overtures are calling it too little,
Today, the president signed an
executive order that extended several benefits to gay and lesbian
spouses of federal employees.
“[It's] a matter of fairness,”
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
The order changes little; it offers
federal employees sick leave to take care of a sick partner or a
non-biological child, but partners remain blocked from access to
primary health insurance and pensions. Obama did grant access to a
government health insurance program that pays for long-term health
conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.
But the move failed to placate gay
activists hot over Obama's hesitation to deliver on promises made
during the campaign.
Chief among the rabel rousers is David
Mixner who started calling for a national march on Washington soon
after the California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionally of a
gay marriage ban in May.
“What that says is that we can have
time off to be by our dying partner's side, but, by the way, our
health insurance won't cover those hospital bills,” Mixner said on
National Public Radio.
“It makes a mockery. It's an
insult,” he added.
Also not impressed was gay blogger John
Aravois who argued at Salon.com
today that the president's order had more to do with keeping
Democratic pockets lined with gay cash than fairness.
“[T]his was all hastily thrown
together after the incestuous and pedophilic gays nearly brought down
a Democratic National Committee gay pride fundraiser scheduled for
next week,” Aravois said. “In other words, the only reason we're
getting anything: The gay ATM ran dry.”
Aravois was referring to a June 25 DNC
gay fundraiser featuring Vice President Joe Biden that began to
unravel last week as gay activists and bloggers called for a boycott
after news that Obama was defending the federal Defense of Marriage
Act (DOMA), the federal law that allows states to ignore legal gay
marriages performed elsewhere and defines marriage as a heterosexual
union for federal agencies. The administration defended the law in a
brief against a gay couple who have sued the federal government,
claiming the law is unconstitutional. Candidate Obama called the law
“abhorrent,” and promised the gay and lesbian community he would
The DOMA brief appears to have been the
last straw for many already reeling from a string of missteps by the
Obama administration. Obama's pick of anti-gay pastor Rev. Rick
Warren to give the nation's prayer at his inauguration ceremony drew
heavy protest in December. More recently anger has simmered over
inaction on repealing the military's ban on open gay service, “don't
ask, don't tell,” and the convoluted, even contradictory, messages
being offered on the issue by the Pentagon and White House.
John Berry, the highest ranking openly
gay official in the administration, reiterated Sunday that the
president is committed to repeal of DOMA, but that the administration
cannot cherry pick which laws to defend, and promised repeal “before
the sun sets on this administration.”
“This president took a solemn oath to
uphold the Constitution of the United States and he does not get to
decide and choose which laws he enforces. He has to enforce the laws
that have been enacted appropriately and that he has inherited.”
“[W]e want to repeal the Defense of
Marriage Act,” Berry, who heads the Office of Personnel Management,
added. “Now, I'm not going to pledge – nor is the president –
that this is going to be done by some certain date. The pledge and
the promise is that this will be done before the sun sets on this
The president is not only being
criticized by gay activists and bloggers. New York Congressman
Jerrold Nadler issued a statement today calling the president's
latest moves “disappointing.”
“Today's announcement, while a fine
first step, falls dramatically short of what federal employees need,
and, of course, does not at all provide the LGBT community the
recognition and equal treatment under the law that they are long
“Speaking personally, I have gay and
lesbian staff members who are being denied these rights, even, in
some cases, after decades of service to the federal government. They
cannot, as my straight staff members and many LGBT employees of
America’s top companies can, provide health care or retirement
security to their partners. This is unconscionable,” Nadler said.
Mistrust among gays and lesbians who
voted overwhelming (70%) for Obama is leading to a serious case of
buyer's remorse and threatens to separate the faithful voting bloc
from the Democratic Party.
“Many of us were willing to cut our
new president some slack,” Arvosis said. “Not anymore.”