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HRC Endorses Obama, Draws Conservative Gay Ire

by Kilian Melloy
Friday May 27, 2011
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GLBT rights lobbying organization the Human Rights Campaign has announced an early endorsement for President Barack Obama’s re-election--but conservative gays, a growing voice in politics, have decried the move as counterproductive and partisan.

Saying that Obama had "improved the lives of LGBT Americans more than any President in history," the HRC announced the endorsement in a May 26 news release.

"The decision was made based on the President’s demonstrated commitment to LGBT equality and his record of accomplishment, from major legislative victories to critical administrative reforms," the release said.

"President Obama has improved the lives of LGBT Americans more than any President in history," HRC head Joe Solmonese said in the statement. "In 2008 we were promised change and profound change is what we got."

GLBT equality activists have expressed disappointment at the number of GLBT equality initiatives that the White House has taken direct action upon, and also voiced impatience with what has been seen as the administration’s slow pace regarding issues important to gay Americans and their families.

Obama has said that he prefers to work with lawmakers to ensure comprehensive reform that will endure, rather than simply issuing executive orders that could be set aside by a successor to the Oval Office.

"More remains to be done," the HRC release acknowledged, "and ensuring that President Obama is able to continue the forward momentum toward equality for another term is an absolute priority of the Human Rights Campaign."

The release enumerated a number of accomplishments achieved by the Obama Administration, including securing Congressional repeal of the ban on openly gay and lesbian patriots serving in the Armed Forces; signing a hate crimes law that remains the single federal statute that protects gays and lesbians; declining to continue defending an anti-gay 1996 law, DOMA, which singles out same-sex families for denial of federal recognition; and implementing a mandate that hospitals extend non-discriminatory visitation policies toward GLBT patients and their families.

"In addition, the administration’s policies: added gender identity to the equal employment opportunity policy governing all federal jobs; permitted married same-sex couples to use their marriage licenses as evidence of a name change for passports and instituted more reasonable standards for changing a gender marker on passports; allowed the Census Bureau to release data on married same-sex couples; extended a number of benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees possible under existing authority; launched a National HIV/AIDS Strategy and efforts to target populations most at risk; required abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs be inclusive of and non-stigmatizing toward LGBT youth; and recognized LGBT families are protected under a host of laws from the Violence Against Women Act to family and medical leave regulations to housing programs," the release noted.

"The records of the other candidates seeking the presidency should be a wake-up call to fair-minded Americans," Solmonese said. "As the fight for equality moves forward, President Obama is marching with us while the alternatives would stop us in our tracks."

But gay conservative organization GOProud condemned the endorsement as "premature," while the Log Cabin Republicans--a gay rights group that won a federal suit against the anti-gay law barring open GLBTs from military service--said the endorsement "sends the wrong message" both to Obama and to Republican contenders for the White House in 2012.

"Today, the Human Rights Campaign chose to endorse Barack Obama’s re-election even though the field running for President in 2012 isn’t even set yet," a May 26 statement by GOProud head Jimmy LaSalvia said. "This pre-emptive endorsement ends HRC’s charade of bipartisanship.

"LGBT people who are interested in putting policy before partisanship now know that HRC is little more than a puppet of the Democratic National Committee and an organization that has one goal--to elect more Democrats," LaSalvia added.

"By prostrating themselves before Barack Obama eighteen months before the 2012 election, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has effectively told the president that he doesn’t have to do anything more to earn gay and lesbian votes," said Log Cabin Republicans leader R. Clarke Cooper in a May 26 media release.

"Given his lackluster record in the fight for ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal, LGBT Americans were counting on HRC to hold the president’s feet to the fire on his other campaign promises, not to become a branch of his re-election campaign," Cooper added.

"This endorsement also sends the wrong message to potential Republican nominees. There are several possible candidates who deserve to be fairly judged on their own merits, and the dialogue on equality issues for the 2012 campaign has barely begun. This decision makes it clear that Joe Solmonese’s greatest priority is an invitation to drinks at a Democratic White House, not securing votes for ENDA, DOMA repeal, or tax equity. Such a pre-emptive endorsement is a mistake and will undermine equality efforts."

Other GLBT advocacy organizations also weighed in, both pro and con. Truth Wins Out, a group dedicated to countering claims that gays can be "cured" or "converted" and turned into heterosexuals, hailed the early endorsement in a May 27 posting, saying that the Republican field of contenders "is shaping up to be a disaster of epic proportions.... this motley crew is virulently anti-gay, or pretending to be in an effort to kiss-up to social conservatives in Iowa and South Carolina."

The posting went on to declare, "In terms of the GOP field, there is no silver lining, no hope, and no pro-LGBT Republican savior. This is the truth and it is reality for those who choose to embrace it.

"It is clear that Barack Obama is the obvious choice for the Human Rights Campaign, the LGBT community’s national lobby," continued the posting. "Their early endorsement is wise because it sends a strong signal that the community will organize and mobilize to reelect the most LGBT supportive contender in the race--one with a fairly good record on LGBT rights."

GLBT news site Queerty posted a May 27 article relating that GLBT bloggers had responded with criticism. Under the headline "Has The HRC Screwed Us By Endorsing Barack Obama A Year Before The Election?" Queerty noted that one narrative from the GLBT blogosphere was that the HRC had "[thrown] away a bargaining chip" by simply handing the endorsement to Obama, and doing it so early on, rather than looking for more support from the White House for GLBT causes over the next year and a half.

"Obama knows he has the gays in his pocket," the Queerty article responded. "Who are you gonna vote for? Newt Gingrich? Sarah Palin? Tim Pawlenty? Puh-leaze. Gonna stay home on Election Night? We so so at our peril."

Queerty went on to quote AmericaBlog’s John Aravosis, who wrote in a May 26 posting, "While an eventual endorsement of Obama by HRC is inevitable, expected, and fine, there’s a dance that’s expected where both sides get something... now that HRC has already given the President the prize he seeks, what incentive does the President, who claims he’s ’evolving’ on marriage, evolve before the election? He has no need to."

"Aravosis is right: because the HRC has endorsed Obama so early, he’s a lot less likely to mention gay rights in his campaign speeches. But his campaign still relies heavily on LGBT funds and he knows that young voters, a demographic he badly needs, care about equality issues too," the Queerty article stated. "So he still has good reason to invoke marriage equality and non-discrimination on the campaign trail even though the HRC has bungled yet another good opportunity."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2011-05-27 22:42:23

    I disagree with Queerty, the Log Cabins and others. At this point in time the president has done about all he can that requires any congressional approval. Let’s not forget the gains we made were made when the Dems had a majority in both houses. Obama’s real gains for us will be in his second term when he doesn’t have to run for reelection. Hopefully the Repub/nuts will fall on their faces bad enough for us to take back the senate and the house. Thats when the rel accomplishments will be made. The Log Cabins are not worth debating on this issue. They will vote for some lame repub/nut anyway, because they are into political S&M. Remember who ever wins in any capacity will be subservient to the Tbaggers. Any cooperation from them to aid and abed any gay cause will met with vengeance.


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