July 2, 2010 at 11:07 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Obama policy chief briefs LGBT media

Melody Barnes, President Obama’s top domestic policy adviser, said the president and his senior advisers decided early on to arrange for “many” high-level White House officials to address LGBT issues rather than appoint a single LGBT liaison to handle those issues.

In what may have been the first briefing for the LGBT press by a White House domestic policy chief, Barnes called the divvying up of LGBT-related issues to the senior staff a “maturation” of both the LGBT civil rights movement and the U.S. presidency.

“I can tell you that it was Rahm Emanuel who urged the president to take action on hospital visitation” for LGBT partners, said Barnes, referring to the White House chief of staff.

She said Emanuel pushed for the president’s decision last month to take executive action to require hospitals that receive federal funds to allow same-sex partner visitation and decision-making rights similar to that of married spouses.

President Bill Clinton became the first U.S. president to designate a White House staff member to serve as the administration’s official liaison to the LGBT community, although the staff person had other, non-LGBT related duties. President George W.Bush, who succeeded Clinton, did not designate a White House LGBT liaison.

Barnes fielded questions from reporters and editors from eight LGBT media outlets at a briefing held in a conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.

In most instances, she reiterated positions expressed in the past by the president or his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, on issues ranging from efforts to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and the Defense of Marriage Act to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill passed by Congress.

“[W]ithin the last week or so you and many people have had the opportunity to hear the president talk about the issues that he believes are critical, specifically with regard to the LGBT community,” she said. “And we believe that we have, in the last 18 months, the year and a half that we’ve been in the administration, taken more steps and made more progress with regard to the LGBT community than past administrations have.”

Asked by Pam Spaulding, editor of Pam’s House Blend blog, why the president has yet to grant an interview with one or more LGBT news outlets while giving interviews to media outlets for other constituency groups, Barnes said she didn’t know the answer but would make inquires to find out.

Other LGBT media outlets participating in the briefing included the Advocate, Philadelphia Gay News, Gay City News [of New York], the Washington Blade, the Bilerico Project, and Lisa Keen of Keen News Service.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

1 Comment
  • Here is a news brief: The President hasn’t done anything for the LGBT Community and doesn’t plan to do anything for us anytime soon. Why hasn’t he granted an interview to any LGBT news outlets? That’s easy enough to answer, its because he doesn’t have a good reason for not accomplishing the goals he laid out. I voted for Obama and the Dems in Congress thinking they would finally pass some of the Pro-LGBT legislation they have been dangling in front of us for years only to be disappointed by their near total inaction on LGBT issues. Clearly, the LGBT community and its issues have not been a priority for Obama or the Democrats in Congress. There are a few Progressive Democrats who are trying to pass these Pro-LGBT bills, but they are minority within the Democratic Party and the Republicans, (with the exeception of Maine’s two senators) are always against us. Obama and the Dems need to deliver for the LGBT community before they come back to us asking for more money, support and votes. Why should we give them anything until they deliver at least some of what they promissed us, like the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Uniting American Families Act, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, and the Repeal of the rotten Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, just to mention a few of the bills they haven’t passed!!

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