Obama on gay rights

Billboard frame, Ottawa

Whereas John McCain thinks that it is a principle of “Human Dignity” that the “family represents the foundation of Western Civilization and civil society and… believes the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman,” Barack Obama has issued an open letter calling for equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals.

Unfortunately, Obama doesn’t come out and call for the legalization of gay marriage: doubtless due to a political calculation about what homophobia might cost him in a general election. While that is probably smart politics, it is a disappointing thing to see from a candidate that tries to paint himself as so progressive. In fifty or one hundred years, I am convinced that people in liberal societies will see restricting gay marriage as equally unjust as restricting interracial marriage or marriage between different social classes. It’s a shame that even progressives in the United States cannot recognize this now.

In truth, even McCain probably doesn’t have a problem with two people of the same sex getting married for the same reasons – and under the same laws – as any mixed sex couple might. The politics of the American conservative movement simply make it suicidal to acknowledge that.

Previous posts on gay marriage:

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

26 thoughts on “Obama on gay rights”

  1. FYI, Hillary Clinton was key in passing Gay Marriage in Massachusetts by having her campaign manager, Terry McAuliffe, quietly calling legislators to sway their votes. Obama did nothing….Marriage is a basic civil right that should be attainable by all Americans. For the truth about gay marriage check out our trailer. Produced to educate & defuse the controversy it has a way of opening closed minds & provides some sanity on the issue: http://www.OUTTAKEonline.com

  2. This is exactly right. There are many gay people working for republicans in Washington (Including on Bush’s staff). They just can’t say it or promote it because it does not tow the fictional party line. The same goes for Democrats. They can’t be anti-gay because Democrats are supposed to be for equality and inclusion. I don’t know who is telling the truth and who is just saying what they have to in order to get votes. Unfortunately, I think that there is more truth to this on the Republican side.

  3. SADDLEBACKING DEFINED: The votes are in, the people have spoken, our democratic ideals are renewed. But first: Anyone who picks up the January 24 issue of the Economist—I pick it up every week for the “Page 3 Boy,” sudoku puzzle, and horoscopes—will find this lead paragraph to a story about Barack Obama’s inauguration.

    “Any decision Barack Obama makes can cause a stir. He invited Rick Warren, a popular pastor, to say a few words at his inauguration. The aim was to stroke conservative Christians, thereby fostering a warm feeling of national unity. But some of Mr. Obama’s gay supporters were appalled. Though hardly a fire-breather by the standards of Southern Baptists, Mr. Warren holds old-fashioned views about homosexuality. Bloggers lamented Mr. Obama’s ‘betrayal.’ Dan Savage, a gay columnist, urged his readers to protest by coining a new meaning for ‘Saddleback’—the name of Mr. Warren’s church. Many of the suggestions were unprintable.”

    Many of them were unprintable? Not true, Economites. I printed all of them right here in this space. So it’s not that the suggestions themselves were unprintable—there’s not one single profanity in the lot—it’s that you poofs just don’t have the balls to print them. That’s very different.

    And now… without further delay… the winning definition of “saddleback”… by a gaping margin… definition number 5.

    “Saddlebacking: the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities.” After attending the Purity Ball, Heather and Bill saddlebacked all night because she’s saving herself for marriage.

    Here’s why this definition is perfect: Saddlebacking, like barebacking, involves one person riding up on another’s backside. But in this case, it’s not the bare-naked cock-in-ass that’s the most important feature of the ride, but the fact that the person being ridden has been saddled—thanks to the efforts of the Rick Warrens of this world—with religious hang-ups and serious misconceptions about sex. Like the barebacker who casually tosses away his health—or his partner’s health—because he believes, quite erroneously, that “risky = sexy,” the saddlebacker offers up her ass because she believes, quite erroneously, that she can get fucked in the ass—vigorously, religiously—and still be considered a virgin on her wedding night.

    I’ve set up a website—saddlebacking.com—to popularize the new definition. (Get to work, Google bombers!) Spread the URL far and wide, please, and let’s get this term into common usage as quickly as possible.

  4. OCTOBER 12, 2009

    Support Grows to End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

    WASHINGTON — Congress could be receptive to President Barack Obama’s pledge to end a 16-year-old policy banning gay people from serving openly in the military, a top Democratic lawmaker said. The Pentagon also signaled openness to a change.

    Speaking at a human-rights dinner in Washington Saturday, Mr. Obama pledged to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which allows homosexuals to serve in the military as long as they don’t disclose their sexual orientation or act on it. The president, who made a similar pledge during the campaign, didn’t provide a timetable for reversing the policy.

  5. “Mullen’s heartfelt, plain-spoken testimony gave perfect expression to the nation’s own slow but inexorable progress on the issue. He said he had “served with homosexuals since 1968” and that his views had evolved “cumulatively” and “personally” ever since. So it has gone for many other Americans in all walks of life. As more gay people have come out — a process that accelerated once the modern gay rights movement emerged from the Stonewall riots of 1969 — so more heterosexuals have learned that they have gay relatives, friends, neighbors, teachers and co-workers. It is hard to deny our own fundamental rights to those we know, admire and love.

    But that’s not the whole explanation for the scant pushback in Washington to Mullen and his partner in change, Defense Secretary Robert Gates. There is also a potent political subtext. To a degree unimaginable as recently as 2004 — when Karl Rove and George W. Bush ran a national campaign exploiting fear of gay people — there is now little political advantage to spewing homophobia. Indeed, anti-gay animus is far more likely to repel voters than attract them. This equation was visibly eating at Orrin Hatch, the Republican senator from Utah, as he vamped nervously with Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC last week, trying to duck any discernible stand on Mullen’s testimony. On only one point was he crystal clear: “I just plain do not believe in prejudice of any kind.”

  6. Gay rights in developing countries
    A well-locked closet
    Gays are under attack in poor countries—and not just because of “local culture”

    May 27th 2010

    Some 80 countries criminalise consensual homosexual sex. Over half rely on “sodomy” laws left over from British colonialism. But many are trying to make their laws even more repressive. Last year, Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, signed a law criminalising consensual gay sex, despite the Senate’s overwhelming rejection of the bill. A draconian bill proposed in Uganda would dole out jail sentences for failing to report gay people to the police and could impose the death penalty for gay sex if one of the participants is HIV-positive. In March Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, who once described gay people as worse than dogs or pigs, ruled out constitutional changes outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    But Peter Tatchell, a veteran gay-rights campaigner, says the real import into Africa is not homosexuality but politicised homophobia.

    This has, he argues, coincided with an influx of conservative Christians, mainly from America, who are eager to engage African clergy in their own domestic battle against homosexuality. David Bahati, the Ugandan MP who proposed its horrid bill, is a member of the Fellowship, a conservative American religious and political organisation. “Africa must seem an exciting place for evangelical Christians from places like America,” says Marc Epprecht, a Canadian academic who studies homosexuality in Africa. “They can make much bigger gains in their culture wars there than they can in their own countries.” Their ideas have found fertile ground. In May this year, George Kunda, Zambia’s vice-president, lambasted gay people, saying they undermined the country’s Christian values and that sadism and Satanism could be the result.

  7. “When it passed DoMA, Congress said that it was protecting heterosexual marriage and encouraging responsible heterosexual procreation. Judge Tauro said these justifications were so attenuated as to be irrational. In American law, he noted, procreation has never been either necessary or sufficient for legal marriage. And anyway, Judge Tauro found, legions of experts in every social science have concluded that “children raised by gay and lesbian parents are just as likely to be well-adjusted as those raised by heterosexual parents.” Certainly, making life worse for the children of same-sex couples does nothing to improve the lives of the rest. Judge Tauro also made short shrift of the argument, heavily featured in defense of Proposition 8 in the California case, that it is necessary to exclude same-sex couples from marriage in order to motivate marriage-averse heterosexuals to tie the knot.

    The group that brought Gill to court, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, carefully tried to frame the case so that it could nibble away at some of the worst aspects of legal hostility to same-sex marriage. But they got a decision with the broadest of implications. The decision in Gill doesn’t just ensure that lawfully married same-sex couples will pay the same federal taxes as straight marrieds and get the same benefits. The opinion also rejects every argument for state laws that forbid same-sex marriage altogether.

  8. “The controversy is also being defused by a shift in public opinion. In May pollsters for CNN concluded that 78% of Americans would like to see the ban on openly gay soldiers lifted. Such positive results have been the norm for several years now, in contrast to the early 1990s, when opinion was closely divided. It is not that Americans have become more relaxed about sexual mores across the board, points out Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute, a think-tank: they are still just as disapproving of extramarital affairs as they were in the 1980s. But they have become markedly more receptive to almost all forms of gay rights. Only gay marriage still leaves a majority uneasy, she argues, and even there opposition is shrinking.

  9. “Fifty-six Democratic senators voted to repeal DADT; three (including Harry Reid, in a procedural manoeuvre) voted against. The effort to end DADT was blocked by a unanimous Republican filibuster. I don’t see how more pressure from the Human Rights Campaign on Democratic legislators could have persuaded any Republican legislators to vote to end DADT. But even if DADT repeal’s failure were due to Democratic lethargy, and gay voters were to get angry at Democrats as a result, America has a two-party political system. Gay voters can’t realistically express anger at Democrats by turning to the Republicans who just voted to retain DADT. And staying home on election day doesn’t work as a way of encouraging political parties to prioritise your issues; if anything, it takes your constituency out of the equation.

    There is, however, a way for gay voters to exert influence on the priorities of the Democratic Party. It’s the same way the tea-party movement has successfully influenced the priorities of the Republican Party. They can mount and back primary challenges to Democratic candidates seen as insufficiently supportive of gay rights. For that matter, they could try mounting and backing primary challenges by libertarian-leaning Republican candidates who do support gay rights, but those seem less likely to succeed. In any case, this is the way you influence political priorities in a two-party system: through the primary process. There are lots of gay Americans, they are relatively well-educated and affluent, and they should be able to make their concerns felt as strongly as anybody else’s, if they apply pressure in ways that are effective.

  10. President Barack Obama opposes the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military, so why are Obama administration lawyers in court fighting to save it?

    The answer is one that perhaps only a lawyer could love: There is a long tradition that the Justice Department defends laws adopted by Congress and signed by a president, regardless of whether the president in office likes them.

    This practice cuts across party lines. And it has caused serious heartburn for more than one attorney general.

    The tradition flows directly from the president’s constitutional duty to take care that the laws are faithfully executed, says Paul Clement, who served four years in President George W. Bush’s administration as solicitor general, the executive branch’s top lawyer at the Supreme Court.

    Otherwise, Clement says, the nation would be subjected to “the spectacle of the executive branch defending only laws it likes, with Congress intervening to defend others.”

    That is why solicitors general not only serve the president who nominated them but also have a special duty to Congress, “most notably, the vigorous defense of the statutes of this country against constitutional attack,” Justice Elena Kagan testified to Congress in 2009 after Obama nominated her to be solicitor general. She joined the Supreme Court a year later.

  11. Pentagon study ‘backs allowing gays to serve openly’

    Allowing gay troops to serve openly in the US military would carry only a low risk to fighting ability, a Pentagon study has found.

    The survey also found a large majority of personnel would have no problem serving with openly gay comrades.

    Defence Secretary Robert Gates urged Congress to repeal the ban but said the military would need careful preparation before a new policy was implemented.

    Under the ban, gay troops may serve but must hide their sexual orientation.

    The report, ordered by Mr Gates, lays out how repeal would affect “unit cohesion”, benefits, housing and training.

    It broadly supports arguments by opponents of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that the US military could adjust to openly gay comrades.

    The survey, answered by more than 115,000 US military members and more than 44,000 military spouses, found that 70% of those who replied said the presence of an openly gay or lesbian servicemember in his or her immediate unit would have “positive, mixed or non-existent” effects on the unit’s ability to “get the job done”.

  12. THE prestigious law firm King & Spalding has not fully explained its decision this week to stop assisting Congress in defending the law that forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage. But its reversal suggests the extent to which gay men and lesbians have persuaded much of the legal profession to accept the basic proposition that sexual orientation is irrelevant to a person’s worth and that the law should reflect this judgment. The decision cannot be dismissed simply as a matter of political correctness or bullying by gays.

    Gay-rights supporters have transformed the law and the legal profession, opening the doors of law firms, law schools and courts to people who were once casually and cruelly shut out because of their sexual orientation.

    But it was a process that took a half-century to unfold. In 1961, a Harvard-trained astronomer, Frank Kameny, stood alone against the federal government. Fired from his federal job simply for being gay, he wanted to petition the Supreme Court. But at a time when all 50 states still criminalized sodomy, even the American Civil Liberties Union declared it had no interest in challenging laws “aimed at the suppression or elimination of homosexuals.” Mr. Kameny wrote his own appellate brief; without comment, the court turned him away.

  13. Gay marriage
    Cuomo’s pride
    The Empire State lets them say: “I do”

    THE Stonewall Inn, in New York’s West Village, is famous in gay history as the scene of riots against the police in 1969. On June 26th Roy O’Neill and Michael Gigl stood just across the street from it to watch the city’s Pride march. The couple’s daughter Kiera sat on Mr Gigl’s shoulders for a better view. This year’s march was even more joyous than usual. Some 36 hours earlier, New York had become the sixth and most-populous state to legalise same-sex marriage when the governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed the bill into law. It will go into effect on July 24th. After watching the vote on their sofa, Mr O’Neill and Mr Gigl proposed to each other.

    Mr Cuomo cajoled, pressured and tirelessly negotiated to drive the bill through the state Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. In 2009, the last time the issue went to Albany, it was rejected soundly. Not a single Republican supported it and eight Democrats voted no. This time four Republicans joined 29 Democrats to push it through. One, Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, opposed gay marriage for religious reasons, but could not justify denying to gay couples the 1,324 rights and legal protections the state offers married couples. “Who am I”, he asked, “to say that someone does not have the same rights that I have with my wife?”

  14. Gay rights in the South
    Still far behind
    New York’s celebrations are not echoed down South

    A BATTLE is brewing in Batesville, Arkansas. The daily newspaper there recently omitted the name of the partner of a deceased gay man in its free obituary notice. The Batesville Daily Guard’s owner-manager told a grieving Terence James, that its policy is not to include anyone—gay or straight—as a survivor unless they are legally married. His only option? To buy a paid notice and list himself. But when a national gay-rights group tried to place an obit on his behalf, its money was rejected. The Centre for Artistic Revolution, an Arkansas equal-rights group, has been holding vigils in front of the newspaper’s offices, and is starting a campaign aimed at the newspaper’s advertisers.

    The fight for gay equality in the South lags behind that in the rest of the nation. True Annise Parker, the mayor of Houston, Texas, is openly gay; but the local Fox affiliate there created a furore in April when it aired a segment asking viewers if television, including programmes like “Glee”, was “too gay”. The New York-based Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation demanded an apology, which never came.

    On June 28th Arkansas’s Democratic governor Mike Beebe made history and angered the state’s gay community simultaneously. He became the state’s first sitting governor to address a gay-rights group. But when asked during a question-and-answer session about gay marriage, Mr Beebe said he did not think the state would ever pass a law like New York’s allowing gay marriage. He added that he believed marriage was between a man and a woman and stated that he opposes civil unions.

  15. The original post was written four and half years ago. The same time it took to fight the Civil War. It is interesting in following the 21 comments and then linking it to the early December entry that reported on the first two gay marriages at Wesst Point.

  16. I meant to write that it was the early December 2012 entry about the gay marriages at West Point.

  17. Perhaps the best illustration of Mr Obama’s campaign-by-niches is his wooing of gay voters. After much dawdling, he put an end to the long-standing policy of expelling openly gay soldiers from the armed forces, expressed personal support for gay marriage and told government lawyers not to fight court challenges to a law barring the federal government from recognising gay marriages. Mr Romney opposed all these things. The 5% of voters who identified themselves as gay in exit polls opted for Mr Obama by 76% to 22% — enough to account for his entire margin of victory.

  18. The word “gender” is used by prudes to avoid saying “sex”, and restricted by purists (and, until recently, The Economist’s style guide) to speaking about grammar. In the 1970s feminists described the restricted behaviour regarded as proper to men and women as “gender roles”. But in recent years “gender identity” has come to mean how people feel or present themselves, as distinct from biological sex or sexual orientation. Growing numbers of young people describe themselves as “non-binary”. Others say gender is a spectrum, or that they have no gender at all. Facebook offers users a list of over 70 gender identities, from “agender” to “two-spirit”, as well as the option to write in their own.

    But transgender identities raise more general questions, and not only for those cultural conservatives who regard them as transgressing the natural, perhaps God-given, order. There is a tension between believing that it is possible to feel, act or look so much “like a woman” that you should be acknowledged as one, and believing, as feminists do, that a woman can act in any way she wishes without casting doubt on her womanhood. A war of words has broken out between some transgender activists and women they call TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) about who should be let into women-only spaces, from domestic-violence refuges to women’s literary and sports competitions.

    Until recently intersex children usually received the surgery doctors thought most likely to produce a body typical for one sex or the other. Now many think doctors should wait until children can decide what to do themselves. In 2013 the UN special rapporteur on torture condemned gender-normalisation surgery for children. Eric Vilain, a medical geneticist in Washington, DC, is leading a longitudinal study on the treatment of intersex children. “Right now, we’re exploring a lot of diagnoses, without the appropriate research,” he says.

    Intersex people are unusually likely to switch gender identity at some point, perhaps because those identities are less stable or they were misclassified in childhood. Their existence, and their varying gender expressions, show that biological sex is neither cleanly binary nor inseparable from gender identity. But most gender-dysphoric people have no known anomaly of hormones, physique or brain structure. Some neuroscientists think they have found atypicalities in such people’s brains; others are unconvinced.

    A crucial concept for those who work with trans people, says Ms Castro, is “gender-identity threat”—an attack on a trans person’s identity. As an example, she describes projects she works on to reduce the number of trans women who are HIV-positive. They may engage in risky sex to shore up their sense of femaleness, she says, in response to remarks or situations that threaten that sense, for example being treated in anti-HIV programmes designed for gay men—or excluded from women-only spaces. Cutting HIV transmission requires “gender affirmation”—reinforcing their identities in constructive ways, for example with support groups or counselling.

    In the late 1960s and early 1970s Richard Green, a psychiatrist and sexologist then at UCLA, studied boys with markedly feminine identities. Some four-fifths of those followed to adulthood matured into gay or bisexual men. Only one was transgender. Studies in Canada and the Netherlands have since found rates of 12-39% for persistence of transgender identity into adulthood.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *