token achievements

Obama Will Give Benefits to Gay Federal Workers. Big Whoop

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Well isn’t this just so nice of him: President Obama tomorrow will sign an executive order directive granting workplace benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. What’s that? An executive order actually catering to gay rights? Amazing. And while we applaud Obama for, you know, finally making good on a single promise to the gay community, here’s the rub:

It’s seriously late. And it’s not enough.

Obama had the power to issue this order on his first day in office. He chose not to. Only on the heels of vehement criticism from the gay community and mainstream media — from Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to his vile defense of the Defense of Marriage Act — did he decide to act. Yes, we expect our president to listen to our concerns — but the order, while benefiting thousands of federal employees, is also a chance for the White House to trumpet how much it’s done for gay rights.

When it hasn’t done shit.

This order — which gives health care and other benefits to gays (just like straights have been enjoying for decades) — is meaningful could be meaningful. It’s been a long time coming, and it will end much hardship for untold numbers of gay Americans and their families. It’s also the absolute bare minimum Obama could do to show he’s hearing our cries for equality, our demands that he keep his campaign promises.

His defenders will point to the order as a clear sign that Obama is supporting GLBTs. But when Obama signs the order in a press-heavy ceremony tomorrow morning in the Oval Office (you bet your ass he’s going to milk this for some friendly press coverage), he’ll be showing it’s just more of the same: The bare minimum to satisfy the gay community. We can only hope any media covering the event makes serious note of how short Obama still falls on his commitments to us.

And let us be clear: This is a starting point, but there are miles and miles to go. The heat won’t be relaxed a single degree, Mr. Obama. Your pen better be busy.

UPDATE: Ugh, it gets worse. Turns out this is only a “memorandum,” which means it expires when Obama leaves office. Also, there won’t be any of those little “health benefits” tied to this, because of a little something called DOMA. You know, the policy the Obama administration defended last week? Same thing goes for Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: Eligible military servicemen and women won’t be able to receive these benefits, whatever they may be.

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