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.

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  • Matt


  • Berdie

    I’m excited for the Obama presidency…it’s an opportunity for him and for Democrats to put their money where their mouths are for the gay community (so to speak). We will have a liberal new President, a Democratic-controlled Congress…so no excuses. I’m looking forward to the pro-gay legislation that we’ve all been promised to pass…relatively soon.

  • ggreen

    I don’t feel Obama or any politician for that matter will do any thing for the LGBT community. They must be MADE to do it. The political fallout must be so great that politicians are made to feel like Chicken Little or LGBT issues will again be under the bus (again). That comes from constant pressure and much less ass kissing (got that HRC?).

    Obama’s deafness to the Rick Warren issue is very similar to Bush 43. Obama is a Leo if he feels pressured or his judgment is questioned he retreats. This is NOT a good sign, neither is homophobe, Christianista Tim Kaine’s promotion to head the DNC.

  • David

    Very thoughtful. Well put. Thanks.

  • seitan-on-a-stick

    When it comes to progressive issues, it finally feels that the next administration gives us hope (a sustainable and regulated economy, alternative energy investment, education, health care (including AIDS issues) and nation-building with an admirable Secretary of State but when it comes to my Gay Family, the ‘O’ is batting an ‘F’ already and President-Elect Obama is the King of Pageantry. There is much more to be lost with the presence of Pastor Rick Warren like women at a time when many of their choices are still hanging in the balance! All this emphasis (though justified) on the bigoted Pastor of Mega-Hate’s denigration of Gays negates the fact that he is the antithesis of progressive Democratic values. The Democrat’s courting of homophobia will spread to other groups who will be taking a second look as they discover that they also are not on this administration’s radar like Women, Latino/as and Immigrants who will be increasingly marginalized by the over-represented voice; the Evangelicals who will help run this White House from God’s bully pulpit!

    Read this today in Manhattan’s widest read newspaper (Take that Gray Lady and NY Compost!)

    Letter to AM New York Editor(s)

    Rick Warren shouldn’t give invocation at inauguration

    Barack Obama’s civil rights blunder stands unchallenged by the rule of law. With no apology or change of heart by Obama, he invited Pastor Rick Warren, whose ministry preaches against equality before the law for gays and others under the guise of religiosity to give the invocation at Obama’s inauguration. Besides being yet another glaring argument for the principle that religion should be separated from government, Obama’s stance that he may legitimize and empower religious bigots by inviting the apostle of anti-gay bigotry is a giant step backward for civil rights and egalitarianism.

    — Michael Meyers, executive director, New York Civil Rights Coalition, Manhattan

  • Paul

    Obama should be called out on all of his anti gay policies and decisions. The last thing we need to do is shut up and “HOPE” that he does right by the GLBTQ community. Obviously, the passive silent tactic has never worked in the past so why would it now?

    Keep up the loud voices, at least until they are heard. As far as I can tell, Obama simply does not ‘get it’.

  • seitan-on-a-stick

    O’Bummer, 4 more years of Bush’s anti-gay policies…thanks to the party of Leah Daughtry!

  • Michael W.

    @seitan-on-a-stick: A new Gallup poll among liberal Democrats on Obama’s performance thus far, including cabinet selections, the overall transition and Rick Warren’s selection to give the invocation, finds he has a 93% approval rating. You’re overreacting quite a bit as progressives are rather ecstatic with President-elect Obama thus far. There’s no evidence that he risks losing anything outside of your little fantasy world.

    Rick Warren is as mainstream as apple pie. People like you have only served to help Obama by attacking him.

  • Tom

    I’m here, waiting for the bus. And I’m confident that Obama will throw me under when it becomes convenient.

  • mark

    After reading about that Josh dubois courting Tony Perkin’s FRC, Lamb at Southern Baptists, Catholics….it’s looking less and less likely Obama will fulfill his campaign promises to US.

    Four F*CKIN Faith Based years….this is CHANGE for who?

  • rigso

    Interesting, I think the test on ENDA, DADT, and hate crimes will be a great way to see where he will go with gay-rights, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping but also working hard which is even more important. We can’t let Obama forget we’re here

  • Alan down in Florida

    Was laughing so hard at the headline I couldn’t read the article.

  • Robin

    Is Nate Silver gay or not?

  • ggreen

    As the details of Obama’s stimulus package have emerged. Mr. Obama seems to be playing the same “try to please everyone” BS that has NOT worked for him with the Rick Warren issue. This is change?

  • Michael W.

    @ggreen: Why, because he included tax cuts?

    We don’t all subscribe to Paul Krugman’s economic policies. Stimulus can be given in more than one way and these middle class tax cuts are what Obama promised us through months of campaigning.

  • Utterly Adorkable

    Does Japhy want to marry Nate Silver? Or does he just want to perform fellatio on him?

  • TheD

    @Utterly Adorkable:

    Maybe I’m greedy but I’d choose both.

  • Nick

    @Michael W.:

    Because our civil rights aren’t important.
    Thanks for that statistic, nice to know not only are we insignificant we are apparently hysterical as well.

  • Jack

    Japhy, do you want Obama to REPEAL the Matthew Shepherd Act or pass it? Because they dropped it in 2007, and it would really be a step in the right direction for us…

  • Kyle Bella

    Last time I checked, The Matthew Shepard Act was proposed in 2007 but ultimately not passed. In any case, the Act is a priority of the Obama-Biden administration: http://change.gov/agenda/civil_rights_agenda/. So I hope that it is passed.

  • Japhy Grant

    @Jack: That was some typo. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • Chuck

    When are we going to get the liberal we all thought we were voting for?

    So far the right has been falling all over themselves with approval of his cabinet appointees (including a Republican), Bigoted Rick Warren, and now tax cuts for corporations and “families” earning $200,000.00.

    So when exactly does the Change begin??? This feels like Bush 3.0. What is up Barack?

    Yeah, we get it, you want everybody to like you now. You feel like Rick Warren was polite to you during that campaign forum on Religion and now you want to return the favor.

    FYI, if the GOP, Republican talking heads, and W is happy with you, that means you are doing something wrong. Remember the past 8 years and how they ruined America and laughed at the Constitution. Remember Dick Cheney.

    Ok, now for the love of God, start making some waves. You know… some CHANGE. Was “Yes we can” just a slogan or do you really believe it?

  • poliguy27

    The gay community seeks “civil rights” while continuing to embrace racism within itself. The fact is that the gay community does not value “diversity” at all. How can we as gay people ask for equality when we deny it to our own. Obama built a diverse coalition to acheive his victory. He embraced that diversity and valued what it brought to him and his campaign. Maybe we as a community should take a lesson and begin to value the vast diversity in our own community.

  • chuck


    Ooooh puleeeeeze, Louiiiiise!

    C’mon back down to earth before you sail off into the ether.

    You make politicians, and remember, that’s exactly what Obama is, sound like Vestal Virgins born of a miraculous conception.

    He did what any other politician before him did. He kissed unborn babies and pandered to anyone he thought would vote for him. That’s the way the game is played. Spare us all this trip about “diversity”. Pandering to homophobes (Prick Warren) is exactly what it is. Kissing ass. It’s payback time for Obama.

    And who are we denying equality to? Are we voting black rights away? Are we preventing Jews from marrying Gentiles? Are we telling the Mormons what God they should be worshipping? Are we preventing Catholics from fingering their beads? What? What? Please tell me? Inquiring minds need to know.

    I think the same rule should apply to politicians and Vestal Virgins alike.

    If they lose their virginity during their term of service they should be punished by being buried alive.

  • Kdogg

    But what will the gays do if the Democrats don’t support the gays.. I imagine we’ll still campaign for them and make excuses for them and pretend like someday they will help us… SOMEDAY

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