Will Obama Come Through on Gay Issues?

We love adorkable pollster pundit Nate Silver and his uncanny ability to accurately predict the results of polls, but we’re doing a little head-scratching over his latest piece wondering whether the fact that Obama’s commitment to gay & lesbian issues is made more prominent on the Change.gov website than it was on his campaign is a post-Rev. Rick Warren attempt to kiss and make up with the gay community.

It’s an interesting idea, but Obama’s LGBT issues page went up on November 18th. As you can see in Queerty’s rundown of the Change.gov website we did at the time, all the issues Silver talks about were there at the time, and as far as we can tell, it hasn’t been changed at all post-Warren.

Nate asks:

“What to make of the difference? On the one hand, this would seem to demonstrate Obama’s (over)sensitivity to the politics embedded in gay rights issues. A waffling, now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t attitude toward gay rights is exactly what many in the community fear from the administration. On the other hand, one can argue that Obama is moving in the right direction, now willing to make a more explicit and comprehensive series of commitments to the gay community than he was while in campaign mode.”

Seeing as how the expanded gay rights section wasn’t a response to Rev. Warren, but something obviously planned during the campaign or, potentially, in the immediate aftermath of the various losing marriage equality battles that happened on Election Day, it doesn’t exactly strike me as being a knee-jerk response or waffle so much as an elaboration on a campaign promise. That the section on civil rights was beefed up is not all that surprising, as Change.gov platforms on all sorts of issues were expanded from the campaign versions of the explanations.

Silver does raise an important point, though:

“One consequence of the Rick Warren controversy is that Obama may now be under a greater amount of pressure from Democrats to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to pass ENDA, and to expand hate crimes statutes, and to do all of the above relatively quickly. As we have pointed out before, large majorities of the public are in line with the Obama position on all three issues. If Obama is not willing to expend the relatively modest amount of political capital required on those, then one can reasonably anticipate that he won’t be willing to touch more controversial subject areas like adoption or civil unions.”

There’s no argument from us here. If Barack Obama doesn’t repeal DADT and enact ENDA and The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act in 2009, there is zero chance we’ll see him tackling DOMA. The question is, will the gay community and equality and civil rights advocates keep public pressure on him to do so?

I’ve been sort of surprised by the number of people who think criticizing the Rev. Warren decision is going to somehow decrease Obama’s likeliness to pass gay-friendly legislation. Does anyone think Obama’s like a petty mother who denies a whiny kid their cookie to get them to shut up? It seems the best thing the gay community can do is to use every opportunity it can to make its case to the widest number of Americans it can. By that measure, the Rev. Warren inclusion is actually sort of helpful– the media circus that erupted started a new round of dialogue about LGBT equality.

Of course, the new President has many things on his table coming into the White House and will probably be criticized by conservatives if he acts on LGBT issues before more pressing matters (sorry, they are) like the economy and the war in Iraq. The flip-side to that is that Obama’s grace period in which to get things done is very short, and the longer he waits, the less likely it is that any real LGBT issues will be addressed.

Seems to me the best thing the gay community can do – other than have hope – is to keep LGBT issues in the public spotlight, loudly and often.