What You’ve Been Waiting For: Obama’s Gay Rights Revolution
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 â€œOnline Town Hall.â€ 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 cameâ€¦,” 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:
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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.)
â€¢ 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, â€œYou Donâ€™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,
“Itâ€™s clear that we want to accomplish these things on this administrationâ€™s watch. We hope we get eight years, but if weâ€™re limited to four, weâ€™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 â€“ 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.) â€¢ 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 thatâ€™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 itâ€™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 donâ€™t have the votes to do Hate Crimes right now, we donâ€™t have the votes to do ENDA, how are we going [to get â€œdonâ€™t ask, donâ€™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.”
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'DISTURBING SURGE IN VIOLENT THREATS'
Biden Launches Major Initiative to Protect LGBTQ Community Ahead of Massive White House Pride Celebration
The Biden administration is launching a three-pronged plan to protect members of the LGBTQI+ community, including protecting their safety and civil rights, supporting LGBTQI+ children, and protecting students from book bans.
“Over a dozen states have enacted anti-LGBTQI+ laws that violate our most basic values and freedoms as Americans, and are cruel and callous to our kids, our neighbors, and those in our community,” the White House said in a statement Thursday. “The Biden-Harris administration stands with the LGBTQI+ community and has their backs in the face of these attacks.”
The initiative will be announced during President Joe Biden’s Thursday evening Pride event, which Reuters reports will be “the largest White House Pride Month celebration in history.” In a “a deliberate contrast to a cascade of Republican legislation and other attacks targeting LGBTQ+ people,” President Biden will host “thousands” on the White House South Lawn.
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“This year we’re seeing a disturbing surge in violent threats against LGBTQ community organizations,” Biden White House domestic policy advisor Neera Tanden told reporters. “In too many parts of our country, LGBTQ Americans are being targeted for who they are, and that, simply put, is discrimination.”
President Biden has directed three federal agencies, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to “launch the LGBTQI+ Community Safety Partnership. The Partnership will work hand-in-hand with LGBTQI+ community organizations to provide critical safety resources to ensure these organizations can remain safe spaces for the community,” the White House says. “In acknowledgement of the mistreatment that LGBTQI+ communities have often faced in interactions with law enforcement, the Partnership will also work to build trust between LGBTQI+ organizations and federal law enforcement agencies.”
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Kristen Clarke, will chair regular meetings with the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s LGBTQI+ Working Group, focused on “issues related to discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community.”
The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services on Thursday will “issue a Behavioral Health Care Advisory on Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth to provide evidence-based practices for mental health providers. HHS will also issue a guidance to states and communities on using federal funding to support mental health services for LGBTQI+ youth.”
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The administration points to the disproportionately large number of LGBTQI+ youth in the child welfare system, and notes that “far too often” they “experience trauma, including being exposed to so-called ‘conversion therapy,'” which Biden has spoken out against before. HHS says it “will issue a Behavioral Health Care Advisory on Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth to provide evidence-based practices for mental health providers. HHS will also issue a guidance to states and communities on using federal funding to support mental health services for LGBTQI+ youth.”
The White House also says it is working to “Shield LGBTQI+ kids and families from discrimination,” and “Address LGBTQI+ youth homelessness.” It also points to its efforts on “Protecting Americans from book banning,” and “Uplifting LGBTQI+ communities.”
In December, President Biden signed a law protecting same-sex and interracial marriages.
You can watch the video above or at this link, and read the entire White House announcement on its website.
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House Freedom Caucus Republican: Trump Is Spinning Out of Control
A right-wing GOP lawmaker who has backed Donald Trump through both of his impeachments is sounding the alarm that the former president is becoming increasingly erratic which could put the 2024 general election at risk for his party.
According to a report from Politico, the closer Donald Trump gets to becoming the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nominee the more some GOP lawmakers are growing worried that not only will they lose their shot at taking back the White House, but he’ll take down-ticket GOP candidates down with him.
The report also notes that the battle between Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis is starting to turn off conservative voters and some are hoping that an alternative will rise from the squabble.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was blunt about the GOP’s prospects as they stand today, telling reporters, “I’m worried about it,” and expressed fears that Trump will keep independent voters at a distance.
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With a wide array of candidates having just appeared over the past weekend in Iowa, Rep. Zach Nunn (R-IA) claimed the infighting is turning voters — even Republicans — off.
“We’ll see if the two titans punching each other fires up the base, or if six months from now people are tired of both and ready for a third way,” Nunn explained before making tha blunt observation, “When you talk to Iowans, s–t-talking other candidates will not get you success. We don’t necessarily pick the winner, but we’re pretty good at smelling bulls–t.”
Kentucky Rep. Tom Massie (R), who has sided with DeSantis, is very worried about the possibility of Trump at the top of the ticket.
“I wish Trump were on Twitter. He’s in an echo chamber right now. And people don’t know how far he’s spun out from where he was,” he said in an interview. “The more visibility that we can help Trump get — when he attacks [his former White House press secretary] Kayleigh McEnany, for instance — the better.”
You can read more here.
Image via Shutterstock
RIGHT WING EXTREMISM
Trump Has Been Notified He Is Target of DOJ Investigation – Insists ‘It’s Not True’ He’s Getting Indicted: Reports
Attorneys for Donald Trump reportedly have been notified the ex-president is a target of a criminal investigation into his handling of classified documents. The ex-president denies he is being indicted.
The Guardian Wednesday evening reported federal prosecutors told Trump’s attorneys last week he is a target of the long investigation that is now led by Special Counsel Jack Smith. That investigation, experts believe, could lead to obstruction of justice and Espionage Act charges.
“Trump’s lawyers were notified before they met on Monday with the special counsel Jack Smith leading the Mar-a-Lago documents case and the senior career official in the deputy attorney general’s office and made the case that prosecutors should not indict the former president in the matter,” The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports.
Politico also confirms The Guardian’s reporting, stating: “Federal prosecutors have notified former President Donald Trump in a letter that he is the target of a criminal investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.”
Earlier Wednesday, a conservative website reported federal prosecutors had informed Trump’s attorneys he is a target and likely to be indicted. That website is run by John Solomon, who Trump named as his official representative to the National Archives last year. That move reportedly gave Solomon access to non-public administration records related to Russia, Politico reported.
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Later Wednesday, The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reported via Twitter she had been in touch with Trump.
“Trump tells me minutes ago he has NOT been told he’s getting indicted, when contacted. ‘It’s not true,’ he said, adding again he hasn’t done anything wrong,” Haberman tweeted at 2:40 PM.
“When I asked if he had been told he’s a target, he demurred, saying he doesn’t talk directly to prosecutors,” she added.
Haberman says she used the Solomon report as the basis for her conversation with Trump.
Less than one hour after Haberman says she spoke with the ex-president, he again posted an angry rant on his Truth Social platform.
“No one has told me I’m being indicted, and I shouldn’t be because I’ve done NOTHING wrong, but I have assumed for years that I am a Target of the WEAPONIZED DOJ & FBI, starting with the Russia, Russia, Russia HOAX, the “No Collusion” Mueller Report, Impeachment HOAX #1, Impeachment HOAX #2, the PERFECT Ukraine phone call, and various other SCAMS & WITCH HUNTS,” he rambled.
Trump made clear he expects House Republicans to protect him: “REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS MUST MAKE THIS THEIR # 1 ISSUE!!!”
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