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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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ANALYSIS

Trump, Wanting to Change News Cycle, Appears to Confess to ‘Openly and Transparently’ Taking Classified Docs

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It’s been a tough month for Donald Trump.

After Republicans failed to produce the red wave he claimed he would have been responsible for if it happened, but could not be held responsible if it did not, then refused to take any responsibility, Trump has been held responsible by left and right wing pundits, and even some GOP politicians.

Trump then moved forward with his 2024 presidential campaign announcement, which was widely panned as “low energy” – so low that several guests trying to leave early appeared to be refused access to the exits.

Days later Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that because Trump announced he is running for President, a Special Counsel has been appointed to two of the DOJ’s investigations into Trump. (Some say that’s good news for Trump, some say bad.)

READ MORE: ‘Fraud’: Legal Expert Stunned After Trump Appears to Admit He Used DOJ to Interfere in Florida’s 2018 Election

And then a three-judge panel basically destroyed Trump’s attorney who was arguing the former president’s appeal in his case against the U.S. Government. Trump is arguing both that he declassified all the documents but also they are all his property.

That was all before last week.

Six days ago Donald Trump sat down with his invited guest, the antisemite and racist Kanye West, embattled after losing hundreds of millions in endorsements over his antisemitic remarks. That would have been bad enough, but West brought infamous white supremacist and antisemite Nick Fuentes, along with (reportedly) Milo Yiannopoulos and Trump 2016 aide Karen Giorno, who was reportedly involved in a pay-for-pardon scheme.

Since Wednesday the media has exploded with calls for Trump to denounce white supremacism and white supremacists. He has refused.

READ MORE: Republican Senator Denounces Trump’s Dinner With ‘Racist Antisemites’ – Critics Say His Claim ‘This Is Not the GOP’ Is False

Multiple advisers have urged Trump to denounce Fuentes, who has a long history of promoting white supremacism, but he has been “rejecting” their advice, The Guardian reports, “over fears he might alienate a section of his base, two people familiar with the situation said.”

Desperate to change the media narrative, late Monday afternoon Trump appeared to confess to stealing thousands of items (some counts say 13,000) including 300 documents with “Classified” and “Top Secret” headers.

“This fully weaponized monster, Jack Smith,” Trump said of the special counsel investigating him, “shouldn’t be let anywhere near the political persecution of ‘President Donald J. Trump.’ I did nothing wrong on January 6th, and nothing wrong with the Democrats’ fix on the Document Hoax, that is, unless the six previous Presidents did something wrong also,” Trump claimed on his Truth Social platform.

That’s when – in a departure from his previous suggestions that the classified documents, which he also claims to have declassified, may have been planted – Trump appeared to confess to the crime.

“When will you invade Bill and Hillary’s home in search of the 33,000 emails she deleted AFTER receiving a subpoena from the U.S. Congress? When will you invade the other Presidents’ homes in search of documents, which are voluminous, which they took with them, but not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?”

It’s the, “not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?” that has set off many.

The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, one of the first to notice Trump’s statement, wrote: “Imagine Trump’s lawyers may not love the final line of his latest Truth Social post. ‘When will you invade the other Presidents’ homes in search of documents, which are voluminous, which they took with them, but not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?'”

Some are suggesting the part, “not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?” appears akin to a confession.

Top national security attorney Brad Moss responded to Dawsey’s tweet, writing, “He has the right to remain silent. Anything he says can and will be used against him. He has the right to an attorney. If he can’t afford one, one will be appointed for him by the courts.”

Journalist Touré commented: “In which Trump admits to taking documents, charges other former POTUSs with also taking documents (without evidence), and says he took the documents in a way that’s somehow better than the way that those other stealing POTUSs did. Same ol Trump.”

 

Image: Shirley Preston / Shutterstock

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COMMENTARY

Franklin Graham’s Ugly Lie Ahead of Senate Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Bill

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Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will put the Respect for Marriage Act on the Senate floor late Monday afternoon. It is expected to pass, thanks to about a dozen Republicans who are expected to vote to protect, at least at the federal level, the marriages of same-sex and interracial couples.

Franklin Graham, who unlike his famous father has devoted a great deal of his time to attacking LGBTQ Americans, posted an ugly lie on Facebook to stir up his base of 10 million followers.

The Respect for Marriage Act merely states the federal government is required to recognize any marriage that was legal in any state it was entered into. An amendment to the bill goes a long way in codifying the right to anti-LGBTQ discrimination by faith-based organizations, but LGBTQ activists see it as a win to protect marriages after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called for cases that would help him overturn several laws, including the right to intimate contact and the right to marriage for same-sex couples.

READ MORE: 37 Senators Just Voted Against a Bill Protecting Same-Sex and Interracial Marriages. All Were Republicans.

The bill also ensures states, even if they ban marriage equality, will recognize any legal marriage that happened before any possible ban or that happened in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.

“It is very disappointing that these 12 Republican senators would side with the Democrats and ultra-liberal Senator Chuck Schumer to put the vast majority of Americans who believe in and support marriage between a man and a woman in jeopardy,” Graham wrote in an obvious and ugly lie on Facebook over the weekend.

He then listed the Senators’ names, and add links to their contact information on their government websites.

Graham’s false claim that somehow anyone who believes in or supports marriage between a man and a woman would be put “in jeopardy” by this bill is a dangerous falsehood.

READ MORE: 35 States Still Have Same-Sex Marriage Bans on the Books – Dems Say Same-Sex Marriage Bill Has Enough Votes to Pass

Graham didn’t stop there.

“The deceptively-named Respect for Marriage Act that Senator Schumer is trying to push through is just a smokescreen to give more protections to same-sex marriage—and it doesn’t protect the religious liberties of those who support traditional marriage. In fact, it would make individuals, churches, academic institutions, and organizations who stand with marriage between a man and a woman in danger of persecution and legal attacks because of their convictions,” Graham added, which, again is false.

As NCRM has previously reported, all the religious protections that people of faith currently enjoy would be unchanged – if not strengthened – contrary to numerous false claims of far right extremists and religious extremists, like Graham.

The bill and its accompanying amendment do such a good job of protecting religious liberties that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, has issued a statement supporting it.

READ MORE: Watch: Chasten Buttigieg Says Tucker Carlson Is Focusing on ‘Hate’ After Host’s Latest Anti-Gay Attack on His Husband

Despite decades of demonization by the right, same-sex marriage has become extremely popular, and not one of the false claims Graham and the religious right made before Obergefell has come true.

Same-sex marriage enjoys a favorability rating of 70% (per Gallup), and 61% of Americans say legalization of same-sex marriage is good for society (Pew).

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is the original sponsor of the bill, and Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, an original co-sponsor, is taking the lead for the Democrats.

A joint press release that also includes Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Thom Tillis (R-NC), states an amendment to the bill, which Republicans fought for, ensures no religious rights will be impacted.

The amendment, their statement says, “Protects all religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution or Federal law, including but not limited to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and prevents this bill from being used to diminish or repeal any such protection.”

Why Graham is telling his flock something greatly different is par for the course.

“The bill strikes a blow at religious freedom for individuals and ministries and is really the ‘Destruction of Marriage Act,’” Graham said two weeks ago in an egregiously false statement.

“Its sponsors remarkably claim it protects religious freedom. It does not. This disastrous bill sends a message to America that if you don’t agree with the left’s definition of marriage, you are a bigot,” Graham added, again, falsely.

Should the Respect for Marriage Act pass it heads back to the House for a final vote, as the House’s version is slightly different. President Biden has promised to sign it into law.

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News

Republican Senator Denounces Trump’s Dinner With ‘Racist Antisemites’ – Critics Say His Claim ‘This Is Not the GOP’ Is False

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U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has become the first sitting Senator to denounce Donald Trump‘s dinner last week with, among other extremists, antisemite and white supremacist Nick Fuentes and Kanye West. But while some are relieved an elected Republican has finally denounced what they say should have been done lone ago, critics are informing the Louisiana Republican that he’s wrong to say, “This is not the Republican Party.”

“President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites. These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party,” Senator Cassidy wrote on Twitter Monday afternoon.

Shortly thereafter U.S. Senator Susan Collins also denounced Trump’s dinner with Fuentes, as Axios reports. Fuentes was a guest of antisemite Kanye West, who has also made racist remarks going back nearly a decade.

READ MORE: Trump’s Dinner With Kanye Also Included a Former Aide Accused in Pay-for-Pardon Play, and White Supremacist Fuentes

“I condemn white supremacy and anti-semitism. The president should never have had a meal or even a meeting with Nick Fuentes,” Collins told NBC News’ Frank Thorp V and Sahil Kapur.

“Spokespeople for nearly two dozen House and Senate Republicans,” Axios adds, “including party leaders, co-chairs of caucuses and task forces focused on Judaism or antisemitism and sponsors of legislation to combat antisemitic hate crimes — did not respond to requests for comment.”

Nearly all House and Senate Republicans are not the only ones refusing to denounce the dinner or Trump’s antisemitic, racist, or white supremacist guests. Despite his advisors’ urgings, Donald Trump has spoken several times to defend himself and paint himself as a victim — not once to denounce his guests’ extremist and vile beliefs.

Some on the left are thanking Sen. Cassidy for speaking up, while many critics are correcting his proposition that the GOP is not the embodiment of today’s far right, including antisemites and white supremacists.

READ MORE: Kellyanne Conway, Who Trump Reportedly Told He Understood He Had Lost to Biden, Testifying Before J6 Committee

“Notable and praiseworthy to see an actually elected Republican lawmaker condemn Trump by name for meeting with antisemites. Of course, whenever someone says ‘there is no place for X in our party,’ it generally means there is! But naming and condemning the thing obviously matters,” wrote The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg.

“Actually embracing ‘racist antisemites for dinner’ is 100% percent today’s GOP. But still good to see a Republican denounce it–although Sen Cassidy has long been a Trump critic,” wrote SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah.

The Dispatch’s senior editor David French, a former Republican who used to write for the right wing National Review, called Cassidy’s statement “Exactly right,” and added: “Thank you.”

“Took almost a week for ONE lone Republican Senator to openly say this,” pollster Natalie Jackson noted. “This is why I continue to say Trump has a chokehold on the party, even if some indicators wane.”

Brianna Wu, the co-founder the progressive political action committee Rebellion PAC, tweeted: “Spoiler. This is definitely the Republican Party.”

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