January 25, 2011 | by Kevin Naff
Back to reality for LGBT movement

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.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

8 Comments
  • Good god! Strong words of weakness, there! You know, that makes me think…

    When we think about positive social change, who comes to mind? The noble crusaders who fought and died for their cause? Sure! The evil conservative dirtbags, whose false perception of the world was long overdue for a reboot? Of course! So who don’t we think of…

    …oh, yeah! The sniveling, naysaying, tiptoeing cowards, who spent their free time telling the crusaders to keep it down, to take it slow, “to come back down to earth.”

    “Gwarsh, because a major success isn’t likely, I guess we shouldn’t try, huh? Because we won’t be able to hit a home run, let’s just stand in front of the pitching mound and take a hit, square in the jaw.” That’s sound advice. I’m glad no one who matters has ever listened to it.

  • Oh please. Kevin’s right. And he’s right because there isn’t a physical movement to back up any demands on gay marriage right now. If there were then it would be a different story. But more braying and whining and complaining? Boring.

    No, it’s time to get real. And Kevin’s take sounds grounded and sensible. You’re in no position or any other gay person in America to call Kevin or anyone else a wimp.

    When gay America takes its hands off of PC mouses and into the streets only then can you talk about wimps. Not a moment before. So—STFU.

  • Kinda reminds me when Blarney told us to shut up last time and stay off the lawn. They had DADT and ENDA all worked out for us they did. That and some land in FL. You sit back and cover white parties I am going to continue to demand my rights,

    The state workers just lost protections in FL what do you think waiting is going to do for us?

  • Wow, you sound kind of jealous. We should know after DADT that shutting up isn’t a good option.

  • Dan Savage is bold albeit wishful and that’s what this community needs. Never throw in the pink towel, we must wave it everywhere and always, beyond party lines. I respect your strategy in budgeting efficiency efforts, but there’s nothing saying we can’t have it all unless we ourselves say that.

  • “When gay America takes its hands off of PC mouses and gets into the streets, only then can you talk about wimps. Not a moment before. So—STFU.”

    Well, it seems to be working for Tunisia…. And now Yemen….. and now Egypt… and… and… Oh, and Blarney does gets paid (quite well) to help discourage mass protests in the Capitol… as does HRC, I am sure. Because you don’t see HRC encouraging civil disobedience, do you? No, only strict conformity and oBEDience… SIT! HEEL! HEIL! Not joking…… go Tooooneeeesia…!!! Eeeeeegypt!! DeeeeeCeeeee!!

    Want to have voting rights? Gonna have to march in the streets someday…..

  • WOW! Kinda early for a Blade endorsement of Obama for re-election in 2012, isn’t it?

  • Naff is a peckerhead who doesn’t seem to understand that marriage is a state issue and that Obama’s endorsement one way or the other doesn’t matter one bit. And Blubbo Barney should shut up and retire. He couldn’t even get ENDA passed when the Democrats had control of both houses of Congress with a supportive President. The Blade needs a total makeover to focus on issues like hair, food, clothes, and decorating, with less emphasis on all this boring political crap. So there.

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