The thrill of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal has left some LGBT rights advocates whipped into a froth about continued advances, despite the outcome of the mid-term elections.
Suddenly, we’re expecting the president to endorse marriage equality in the State of the Union address.
“Why not save everyone on both sides of the debate a lot of time, trouble and money by approving the entire gay rights agenda,” wrote Dan Savage in a Sunday New York Times piece.
Savage should stick to sex advice. As Rep. Barney Frank told the Blade in November, there’s zero chance of any pro-LGBT advances so long as Rep. John Boehner holds the gavel.
The Obama administration has certainly raised the bar and boosted expectations after “Don’t Ask” repeal and a string of pro-LGBT administrative policy changes, but it’s time to come back down to earth. As those of us who covered the eight painful years of the Bush administration know, change comes incrementally in Washington. And with a GOP-controlled House and a looming 2012 presidential election, we’ll be looking to the states and to the courts for progress in the next two years.
That said, I’m confident that President Obama will endorse marriage equality — maybe even before the 2012 election — but it wasn’t going to happen in the State of the Union address. How quickly we forget that in President George W. Bush’s 2004 State of the Union address (just seven years ago), he said, “Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.” Bush added that a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage would be necessary if “activist judges” legalized marriage for gay and lesbian couples. I remember watching that speech in disbelief, stunned that a U.S. president would use his most prominent speech of the year, which is watched around the world, to denounce our relationships and call for our second-class status in the Constitution.
No matter what you think of Obama’s record on LGBT rights, there can be no doubt that he views us as part of his America and his agenda. Yes, we should press him to do better, but let’s not lose perspective in our post-“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” exuberance.
His support for same-sex marriage is well known from that infamous 1996 questionnaire in which state Senate candidate Obama wrote, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
With a few exceptions, Obama has been a remarkably supportive president and no one believes he opposes marriage equality; he just doesn’t deem it politically smart to announce it right now. But it’s coming.
In the meantime, we should be working to advance marriage rights in Maryland and Rhode Island; to prevail in a number of court cases on marriage, adoption and trans rights; and to fight GOP efforts to repeal marriage equality in New Hampshire. There’s plenty of work to do and there will be victories in the next two years. Just don’t look to Congress to deliver them.