April 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm EDT | by Peter Rosenstein
We can cheer Obama and still demand more

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.

  • Thanks, Peter. Very well stated.

    I’m a former Republican from a mostly Republican family. So outside of LGBT matters, I am repeatedly surprised at the number of issues to which I find myself in agreement with the president’s very considerable judgment– both domestically and regarding national security and defense matters. I will vote for President Obama, again, of course.

    That said, no issues agreement, nor even a cute ‘Bo effect’ is going to keep me and other LGBT citizen advocates from “barking” when the WH stumbles on LGBT civil rights.

    In an era of Citizens United, I suppose its tolerable for a president to ‘study’ an issue for some months more– notwithstanding the breadth of its support and its general non-controversial status among the electorate. But to flatly reject an Executive Order on federal contractor ENDA, was as boneheaded a decision, on a number of levels, as the Obama White House has ever made.

    The president has lost both credibility and votes due to this decision.

    “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
    –Frederick Douglass

  • Enough of the LGBT blogs and major LGBT groups force-feeding us Obama and the 2party system.

    Obama is GWB’s 3rd term in the assault on civil liberties, war, the drug war, drones, environmental destruction, and government secrecy + killing US citizens, supporting indefinite detention, and the attack on the internet.

    Obama was never a 100% pro-equality candidate – the only candidates who were back in 2008 were Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel.

    If we can elect a black President and openly-gay candidates then we can certainly use the power of Occupy to overturn the 2party tyranny.

    Stop Voting For Democrats & Republicans

    2012 Presidential Debate Of Alternative Parties

  • I agree with your views. After the disastrous 2010 election results, turning the House over to Boehner and various State legislatures and governorships to the GOP, I am still amazed that people are still saying, “I’m not voting for Obama,” or “I’m not supporting Obama,” or “I’m not voting for any Democrat to teach them a lesson”. Puh-leeze! Look where that got us in 2010.

    Did Obama promise to sign ENDA legislation or an Executive Order? Given the President was a Constitutional professor, I suspect it was the former. The latter, an EO, would be but a band-aid approach covering Federal contractors only and would provide Congress a reason to continue to do nothing. We need to be pressuring our Congressional leaders to get legislation on the President’s desk so he can sign it and make good on his promise.

    Executive Orders are only valid and effective so long as the President agrees with the Order. I can’t imagine a President Romney continuing with this assessment. Just as Arizona provided domestic partner benefits to State employees through a State-type EO, one of Governor Brewer’s first duty was to issue her own EO to strip those benefits away overnight.

    We need laws and lefislations, which are permanent, not Executive Orders, which are temporary feel goods.

  • Not sure Obama deserves cheering but we really need to keep things in perspective.

    The entire debate about Obama not standing up for gay marriage is a bit of a red herring. In spite of his failure to make a symbolic declaration of support, he is pretty much doing all that he can in this arena by trying to overturn DOMA.

    Although he touts his “leadership” on DADT, he was actually late to the party and bit detached. His signature on the repeal bill was symbolic since it affirmed what the federal courts had already declared. Plus you can’t overlook the fact that unlike DOMA, the justice department worked diligently to get the DADT court ruling overturned and Obama didn’t use his executive powers to suspend discharges during the appeal process.

    The ENDA executive order was nothing short of a train wreck and a big failure by Obama to deliver on LGBT commitments. He is no fool and clearly understands that the odds of an inclusive ENDA bill reaching the floor of what he has deemed a “dysfunctional Congress” are slim to none. If you’re going to huff and puff as he did back in October about “Where they won’t act, I will” and promise that his administration “will look for actions they can take without Congress,” then I’m not sure “lame” is a strong enough word to describe Carney’s explanation.

    Don’t worry Peter, I’m going to vote for Obama, same as I did in 2008. The only difference is last time I did it gladly and this time I will do it grudgingly. What I find ironic is that Obama’s strategy with gays looks and feels a lot like Romney’s strategy with Southern Whites. Both candidates know that their opponent is not a viable alternative for that demographic so you don’t really have to give them much.

    The only miscalculation Obama makes is that this time my money will not come with my vote. I am shifting my contributions to help keep control of the Senate, just in case…..

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