Judge Vaughn Walker, in handing down his ruling on California’s gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, marked the 4th of August 2010 as yet another historic day in the long battle for the recognition and protection of equal rights in the US. Whether they praised or decried the decision, across America reactions poured in recognising the historic nature of this ruling. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, in her reaction recognised the two basic rights Propostion 8 violated, and referred to it as, “a stain upon the California constitution.” California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself an opponent of Proposition 8, closed his statement saying, “Today’s decision is by no means California’s first milestone, nor our last, on America’s road to equality and freedom for all people.” From President Obama, the silence was deafening. The only reaction was the following statement from a spokesperson, “The President has spoken out in opposition to Proposition 8 because it is divisive and discriminatory. He will continue to promote equality for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transsexual) Americans.”
The reaction from ‘LGBT Americans,’ to that can be characterised overall being a resigned sigh. Murmurs of confusion and discontent on his LGBT credentials have tailed President Obama for a while now. Most of those murmurs, which are now escalating to outright denouncements, have been heard in primary from the LGBT media, but even now, the mainstream media is noticing this spreading zeitgeist.
As former Massachusetts State Senator, Jarrett Barrios, President of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) questioning whether to accept an invitation to the White House’s first ever event commemorating the Stonewall Riots, the political coming out of the LGBT community put it: “The problem is that I haven’t been as excited as I’d like to be about President Obama. I’d been excited by Candidate Obama. His campaign invited people like me and my husband Doug…into has aspirational vision of America the possible.” In running for office, Barack Obama promised many things, some attainable, some not, but most, falling into a murky grey in-between area. As candidate Obama, his LGBT positions were progressive and sympathetic to the cause, but once President Obama, there has been a marked lack of action on many of these promises.
A sad reality is that in American politics, LGBT issues tend to fall into that murky grey area though there is one that isn’t; ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ (DADT), the US military’s gay-ban. Whilst Obama using presidential powers may not be able to repeal DADT, as the repeal of this policy slowly makes its way through Congress Obama does have the power to stop its implementation, and has he? The answer to that question is a sad, expected and disappointing, no. With 80% of Americans being in favour of a repeal of DADT, scores of mainstream Republicans have also come out in favour of its repeal. This leaves Obama, who in public iterates support for such a move, and has the power to at the least to stop its implementation with the single signing of an executive order, having done nothing to support this policy.
As his time in office passes, the true image of Obama’s views on LGBT issues, despite his stated policies is starting to emerge, and the image, in light of his actions, and inactions, is a disquieting one. However, perhaps even more disquieting is the opinion, that, no, Obama is not putting forth a homophobic agenda, but rather is playing politics with basic civil rights.
In 1996, he is known to have been in favour of gay marriage. However, the higher his political aspirations have been, the further he has shifted from this unpopular position. In 2004, he then was quoted as saying he didn’t support gay marriage, and favoured civil unions, but only for strategic purposes (to advance the cause for equal rights). Though couched in politically correct language, the message is basic and as ugly as it always has been; separate but equal.
But the drift didn’t stop there. By the time he ran for office, he was stating that personally, he believed that marriage ‘is between a man & a woman,’ and that it is a ‘religious’ matter and a ‘state’ issue. Today, we are now in an even more perplexing position. By Sunday, Obama’s administration has to indicate whether it plans to appeal a decision to appeal a ruling that found an element of yet another odious piece of homophobic legislation, the Defence of Marriages Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Disappointingly, the signs are that they will, despite, yet again, Obama’s official policy being that DOMA should be repealed.
In a memorable, though nonetheless contrived piece of dialogue, from The Interpreter, Nicole Kidman’s character opines to Sean Penn’s that she is ‘disappointed,’ in the politician the movie revolves around. He replies; “Disappointed is a lover’s word.” He’s right, ‘disappointed’ is a lover’s word. That ‘disappointed’ is a word that is often used in describing Barack Obama by the left of American politics and specifically the LGBT community is telling.
Whilst to call him ‘homophobe in chief,’ may be too early a call to make, and one to harsh to be ever made, the facts are as follows. Obama presented himself as someone who could be relied on to advance the LGBT cause, that his election to the Presidency and the passing of Proposition 8 came on the same night, lessened the blow of Proposition 8. However, nearing two years into his Presidency, it is time that some serious focus is placed on this image. He says the right things, but it’s time to recognise the reality; his inactions and most damning, his actions speak volumes. Perhaps it is time for the LGBT Americans to take that disappointment and channel it into a politician who will champion the LGBT cause with real action, not just one who does so with soaring, inspiring, yet ultimately and disappointingly, empty rhetoric.