It’s always interesting when people find it hard to say thank you and then ask for more at the same time. Politicians don’t have that problem. How many times do you get a request for more money either with the thank-you for your last donation or even before you got thanked? It may be a little annoying but that is the way the game is played.
Advocates need to remember we have to play the game the same way. We can thank someone for all they have done for us, make a contribution and give support, while at the same time demand that they do the things they promised but haven’t yet done. It is kind of like walking and chewing gum at the same time.
Many of us have fought for equal rights and advocated for policies that we believe would make people’s lives better. Chances are as activists that the older we are the more issues we have fought for. Whether it was funding for AIDS education and care, affordable housing, women’s rights, the civil rights movement, new schools; and I even remember demonstrating alongside my mom when she was the president of the local PTA demanding that the city plant more trees around our school.
Today when we look at where we have come in the fight for civil and human rights for the LGBT community we must agree that we have made some big strides during the time that President Obama has been in office. Not all the strides have been due to him but some of the change in how people look at the LGBT community has come because he is willing to talk to and about us in a way that many previous presidents didn’t. We passed marriage equality in D.C., New York and Maryland and yes the change in national climate over this issue has made a difference. During his term an openly gay federal judge has been confirmed, more openly gay federal workers have been hired by his administration than ever before, top-ranking officials at OPM are members of the LGBT community and they have moved to make things better for our federal workers. We have seen the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the signing of the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act after years of working for it. So yes we do need to thank President Obama and he has earned our support for a second term.
That said, there is no reason not to continue to push him on the issues that still are outstanding and that are crucial to the LGBT community and their families. There has been no legitimate reason given for the president not to sign an executive order outlawing discrimination by federal contractors. This is something that candidate Obama promised to do when he asked for our support in 2008. The time to do it is now. A friend recently asked why we didn’t chain someone else to the White House gate for this. I responded that we shouldn’t need to and the mainstream media are picking up this issue with a Washington Post editorial among others demanding the president act. Contrary to the spin coming from the White House, this isn’t comparable to hate crimes or repeal of DADT. Those issues required congressional action; this just needs the president to pick up a pen.
Some question whether we should push him to fully “evolve” on marriage equality. Many of our allies are now doing just that, including members of Congress, mayors and even members of Obama’s campaign urging that marriage equality be put into the Democratic platform. It is time and there is no reason not to push him on this issue as well.
Some activists say if you pledge your support to him then he has no incentive to act on the issues you want. I disagree. In today’s world with news cycles and social media as it is, there are still many reasons to act even when you have already pledged support. Not signing the executive order led to eight minutes of a news conference on this one topic and that will only be the beginning. The president and his surrogates will get questioned about this across the country and they should. Eventually he will see that signing it is the smart political thing to do. We will win and he will win.