Leveraging more out of the Obama administrationTrans Progressive Thursday, May 26th, 2011
Commentary: Trans Progressive
One of the things I’ve learned about the LGBT community is that we do a really good job of shooting ourselves in the foot. So with that thought in mind, here’s a question for my peers: How does the LGBT community get more out of the Obama administration in the next two years – those next two years running up to the 2012 presidential election?
The answer seems fairly obvious. There are issues that can only be directly addressed through federal legislation, and because Congress doesn’t appear to be inclined to pass any more LGBT civil rights legislation between now and the presidential election in November 2012, what changes are going to occur toward LGBT equality are going to happen by presidential prerogative via federal regulation.
The way to leverage for changes we want is to leverage our community’s campaign dollars. Both our community’s big and small donors to political campaigns need to strategically leverage donations to get what we want out of the administration.
So what could we leverage for? Well, for example, the Obama Administration could, through presidential prerogative, change federal regulations so that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) would require all federal contractors to have an antidiscrimination policy, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity, to protect LGBT employees from employment discrimination.
Yet another item that we, as a community, could leverage for is the implementation of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal together with an antidiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity – as the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has already requested of the Obama Administration. The current Department of Defense plans for certification that the military services are ready for open service for lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers doesn’t call for implementation of an antidiscrimination policy for those servicemembers as part of the policy.
So how did a number of our community donors shoot themselves in the foot over this?
In a Politico article entitled, Gay donors fuel President Obama’s 2012 campaign, a number of LGBT donors made statements to the effect that the president has already done enough. From the article:
“The spur for the gay community becoming an anchor for Obama’s re-election fundraising is a series of policy shifts in 2010. After a year of rocky relations and suspicion from Obama’s gay supporters that he wasn’t really committed to their issues, the last year saw a surge in activity. Along with the high-profile repeal of the military ban, Obama’s Justice Department recently refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. And the administration has taken smaller steps, like gay partner hospital visits and hate crimes legislation, concrete and important gestures that simply weren’t made during the Bush administration.
“‘It’s ironic; a year ago there was no constituency more unhappy. There was a sea change,’ said David Mixner, a veteran New York gay activist, who said that White House actions during the past year had swayed restive gay donors. ‘You not only will see a united community that will contribute to Obama, but they will work their asses off.’”
More than just David Mixner said in the article, there were quite a few who were arguing that the president had done enough already to warrant financial support of the LGBT community.
In one sense, President Obama, when he signed federal hate crime legislation based on sexual orientation and gender identity, did more for the LGBT community than any other president in the history of our country. There’s no question about that. But it’s not that President Obama has done more than any other president on LGBT community issues to date, it’s that the president promised us more than what he’s done so far.
While he was running for office, then Sen. Obama stated:
“It is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans; it’s something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to be consistent on during my presidency.”
Candidate Barack Obama talked about passing an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and those weren’t addressed when his party had majorities in both houses of congress and the presidency. And, he has had the opportunity to change federal regulations, as a “fierce advocate,” to provide civil rights protection to LGBT community members.
If we don’t strategically hold back on financially supporting the president’s re-election campaign in 2012 until we see more changes in federal regulations that benefit the president’s LGBT constituents, then we will deserve not having our civil rights moved forward via federal regulation. We will, in essence, be shooting ourselves in the foot.
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