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What You’ve Been Waiting For: Obama’s Gay Rights Revolution

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The Administration Discusses Its “Plan.” Hint: There Is None

“Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” might accurately describe the turn of events for the gay community and their supporters since late Thursday, thanks to the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice, which filed a brief in Smelt v. United States, a federal gay marriage case. (If you’re not up-to-speed, read, “DEVELOPING: Obama Defends Defense Of Marriage Act?“)

Akin to any Republican who criticizes Rush Limbaugh, the Obama Administration once again had to go back to the gay community to smooth things over. You remember, even before the election, there was Obama’s silence on Prop 8. We knew it was a hot-button issue and we wanted him elected, so we ignored it. Then, even before Obama took office, there was the Pastor Rick Warren debacle. We got angry, but sloughed it off. And then there was the conspicuous silence after every gay marriage win. We said, he doesn’t want to get involved in the smaller issues, he’ll make it a big issue. Besides, there was that whole the-country’s-about-to-go-down-the-tubes thing called The Recession. We accepted nothing because we figured that’s all it was. back in March there was the total ignoring of gay issues during Obama’s “Online Town Hall.” And then there was the very quiet in-the-dark-of-night removal of Obama’s promises to repeal DOMA and DADT that somehow disappeared from WhiteHouse.gov. Some thought maybe it was an over-zealous intern. But the White House came back with the spin, “we want WhiteHouse.gov to list successes, not plans” BS. And we thought, OK… Hmmm… But we let that go by as well.

(In case you feel like you’re reading that old poem, “First they came…,” well, feel free.)

After Thursday’s DOJ filing, the punditocracy was ablaze in speculation as to what the brief meant. Was it a mistake? Was Obama legally required to defend DOMA? Was the brief a left-over from Bush? But sure enough, the truth has seeped out, thanks in large part to the Obama Administration itself. Obama unleashed his highest-ranking openly gay official, John Berry, to chat with The Advocate over the weekend, another sign he gets that his gay-community blind-spot hindered an intelligent approach to the Smelt/DOMA brief.

Before I get any further, I have to ask, why is the director of the Office of Personnel Management the highest openly-gay member of the Obama administration? I get that it’s a huge position, but it’s not that high up the food chain. And why is he qualified to be Obama’s defacto representative to the gay community? It’s because he’s gay. That’s fine, but this issue is a legislative issue, and a DOJ issue, not a personnel management issue. So, while I respect Berry’s statements as representing the Administration, I reject the idea that he should be their voice to us on gay issues. We deserve a representative that can actually do something for us once they return to the White House. (I can imagine the conversation in the West Wing: “Oh crap, the gay issue just blew up. Who can we put on this? Oh yeah, Berry, he’s gay.” Sorry, not good enough.)

So, here’s what we’ve learned from John Berry’s talk with The Advocate:

• There is no “secret deal” with any or all of the gay rights groups. No secret HRC deal, Joe Solmonese did not offer to delay DADT to next year in favor of getting Hate Crimes passed this year. (Honestly, I’d be happier if there were a plan, call it what you want.) I find it interesting that the White House wanted “to be clear about” this at all.

• Berry said their first goal is, “we will get our federal house in order.” That’s great. Definitely want to set the example. “[T]he president is going to be announcing something in the very near future that is going to be a very significant announcement…” making “sure that we get the benefits for the LGBT community that are equal to all other benefits provided to other federal employees.” OK.

• In no specific order, Berry says: Hate Crimes, ENDA, DADT, DOMA. Well there you have it. The same ones I’ve been talking about for months. Good to know we’re on the same page. Berry says Hate Crimes should be this week. (Word just came that Hate Crimes is attached to a tourism bill. Not sure who to blame for that irony.)

• Before we start jumping up and down, here’s the sound of the other shoe dropping: “The pledge and the promise is that, this will be done before the sun sets on this administration…” Before the sun sets? To me, that sounds like “by the end of our second term.” So, “four more years” takes on a whole new meaning, now, doesn’t it? Did the president say, “You Don’t Poll Whether People Get Treated Equally Or Not, you do it because it’s the right thing to do” in your second term? You can say, all you want, “give the guy a break.” Problem is, we have given him a break. And every time we do, we get not only ignored, but the White House sets us back a few years. To be fair, Berry says,

“It’s clear that we want to accomplish these things on this administration’s watch. We hope we get eight years, but if we’re limited to four, we’re still going to try to pursue this agenda. I was there for the entire meeting, start to finish. Nobody said second term, nobody is crazy enough to presume that we get a second term – the American people decide whether we get a second term.”

But to be fair, that’s political posturing. Of course they hope for and are thinking about a second term. (I certainly hope they are. Too many reasons for us to not want them to. Do not even begin to think the Republicans will ever be on our side on this.) • On the Smelt/DOMA fiasco that was unleashed Thursday, Berry claims that the president had no choice, “This president took a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and he does not get to decide and choose which laws he enforces.” Well, that sounds reasonable. But wait, did the President have to invoke references to incest and marrying children to uphold the Constitution? I think not.

Let me take a moment here to say a few things. First, as I have been reminded, the Department of Justice is supposed to be free of presidential interference. It should act impartially, uphold the law, not act on the president’s personal law-enforcement agenda. I get that. But I find it terribly hard to believe that Eric Holder had no clue what was in the DOMA brief, that there was no conversation between Justice and the White House. And if there wasn’t, why wasn’t there? This is a terribly pragmatic administration. Surely, given the amount of coverage gay rights and gay marriage have, surely someone must have thought that this was a very sensitive issue that could blow up in their faces? Well, it did.

While we’re here, let me remind you of Andrew Sullivan’s take on all this:

“I suspect that this was a function not of malevolence but of negligence. The truth is: this administration is not hostile to gay equality; it just doesn’t give a damn about it.”

OK, back to Berry, who next says,

“We ought not waste energy and angst attacking him when we should be focusing the energy and effort on getting 218 votes in the house and 60 votes in the Senate, and that’s where we ought to target the energy and the strength of this community and this president is with us, this is our agenda and it’s his agenda.”

Now, just a moment. The gay community has done nothing but support this president. We’re a big group, we carry a lot of weight, and a lot of votes. Granted, the vast majority of them would have gone to any Democrat, but it’s still a lot of votes. And a lot of money. A lot of money. Money that some think we shouldn’t be so generous with.

It’s time someone asked, Why isn’t there a specific gay agenda advocate in the White House? So, here’s the kicker. Berry ends with,

“We don’t have the votes to do Hate Crimes right now, we don’t have the votes to do ENDA, how are we going [to get “don’t ask, don’t tell]?”

WHY THE HELL NOT? This is a Democratic President with a Democratic Congress. I get Obama’s busy. But there’s a difference. A big difference between letting things slide, which, I think many in the gay community would accept, to viciously supporting DOMA and comparing gay marriage to incest and invoking marrying children. Say what you want about who might have written the brief; it doesn’t matter. Lighting the fire and ignoring the person while they strike the match have the same effect here. And it’s going to take a lot more effort now to put the blaze of homophobia that is Smelt back in the bottle.

I’ll throw one on the side of Bill Maher at this point:

“I’m glad that Obama is president, but the “Audacity of Hope” part is over. Right now, I’m hoping for a little more audacity.”

Me too.

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News

‘Taking Us All for Fools’: Critics Decimate Greg Abbott’s Claims and Defense of His Actions in Wake of School Shooting

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Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott in a press conference that left reporters frustrated defended his actions and insisted his earlier praise for law enforcement’s widely criticized response to the Uvalde school massacre was the result of being “misled.”

“I am livid about what happened,” Abbott declared, blaming others for his “recitation of what people in that room told me.”

Critics aren’t buying his claims.

Abbott, who’s in the middle of a heated re-election campaign, appeared extremely defensive when reporters asked him questions.

“Let’s be clear about one thing. None of the laws I signed this past session had any intersection with this crime at all,” Abbott told reporters when asked if he would call the legislature back for a special session, as The Texas Tribune’s Sewell Chan noted.

“No law that I signed allowed him to get a gun,” Abbott insisted.

“The answers fell pretty flat,” opined MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, who noted the press event lasted just 36 minutes, less time than the police officers “stood outside and did nothing,” which was 47 minutes.

Abbott ended the press conference with many reporters almost begging him to take more questions. As the governor got up and left one frustrated reporter was caught on a hot mic saying “unbelievable.”

Chan, who is the editor in chief of the Tribune, added on Twitter: “Abbott rejects background checks as a simplistic and ineffective fix. Wouldn’t have prevented Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe shootings, he says. Tries to turn focus to broken mental health system.”

Former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi on MSNBC delivered a strong rebuke to Governor Abbott’s remarks.

“No amount of free flights, no amount of free caskets, no amount of mental health counseling is going to bring back any one of those murdered children,” Figliuzzi said, referring to Abbott’s announcement an anonymous donor is putting up  $175,000 for funeral expenses of those who were murdered in the shooting and said the state will pay for mental health treatment.

Abbott also insisted that since Texas became a state it’s been legal for 18-year-olds to buy long guns.

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was murdered in the Parkland school shooting, blasted Abbott:

And long guns of today, as Figliuzzi noted, are often semi-automatic “killing machines.”

“The governor seems completely unable to understand that he can easily make a distinction when you’re talking about whether an 18-year-old should buy an assault rifle or not. And all he cares about is a century of history in Texas on long guns. We didn’t have the AR-15 style assault weapons back then.  He can easily make a distinction and say, ‘you can go hunting, here are the rifles you can do, you can buy, you can possess – and here’s an assault-style rifle.'”

“If he thinks that people are stupid and unable to understand that there is a clear distinction between a killing machine and a hunting rifle, that he’s taking us all for fools.”

 

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‘I Apologize for Interrupting Your Press Conference’: Tearful Texas Democrat Urges Greg Abbott to ‘Do Something’ on Guns

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The Texas Democratic State Senator who represents Uvalde stood up during Greg Abbott’s Friday afternoon press conference and almost begged the Republican Governor to “do something” about gun violence after Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School that took 21 lives.

Abbott was trying to place the blame for the school shooting on mental health despite the gunman having no documented issues, and told attendees, “we’re focusing our attention on the wrong thing.”

That was not good enough for Democratic State Senator Roland Gutierrez, who politely introduced himself and said, “I’m not making a political speech.”

“My colleagues are asking for a special session, you’re getting a letter tomorrow,” from the Senate Democratic Caucus.

“We’ve asked for gun control changes – I’m asking you now, bring us back in three weeks.”

Gutierrez grew emotional, sounding as if he was choking up, and added, “I apologize for interrupting your press conference about the needs of this community. I’ve been here for three days with all of these elected officials – this county judge has been working his ass off,” he continued.

“I don’t know how to express the loss of the families that I’ve talked to,” he added.

“You have to do something, man,” Gutierrez said, all but begging the governor to take action, and saying his “own colleagues are calling me and telling me this is enough.”

Watch:

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Watch: Right Wing Host at NRA Convention Likens 18 Year Olds Buying Guns to 3rd Graders Deciding Gender

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A host from a right-wing streaming service covering the NRA convention in Houston decided to compare conservatives’ growing active opposition to the rights and existence of transgender people, to the majority of Americans demanding expanded gun control legislation.

“We are being told by the left that a third-grader has the knowledge to determine if they were born a boy or they were born a girl, whether or not they want to stay that gender that they were born with,” said Brian Glenn, Right Side Broadcasting’s director of programming and correspondent.

“And if we feel like at a third grade you can make decisions on your gender, then I think by the time you’re 18 you should have enough maturity – assuming you’re not a complete psychopath – to buy a handgun and exercise your Second Amendment.”

Of course, that hypothetical third-grader is harming exactly no one and later can reverse that decision if they choose, which the vast majority do not.

That hypothetical 18-year old, or, in the case of this week’s horrific tragedy, an actual 18-year old, buying two AR-15 style assault weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition within three days of their 18th birthday, gunning down 21 people including 19 elementary school children, cannot reverse any of those decisions.

Watch:

 

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