is the clear choice
It should not surprise our readers that we enthusiastically endorse President Barack Obama for re-election. While California is a solid blue state, the November 6 election will be close in several swing states that will likely determine the presidency. Over the last four years, Obama had some major accomplishments regarding LGBT rights. Two stand out in our mind: one a major policy change and the other an important symbolic shift – the Democrats' gutsy move in December 2010 to push through repeal of the military's anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy with the full support of the president and Obama's May interview with Robin Roberts in which he came out in support of same-sex marriage.
The long, slow road to DADT repeal was littered with studies, books, testimonials from retired service members, and op-ed columns. But when then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen told Congress in early 2010 that "my personal belief is that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do," the writing was on the wall. Obama called for an end to the policy in his State of the Union speech that year, and as the months went on more military leaders came to support repeal. With the backing of the top brass, House and Senate members increasingly voiced support for a bill by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut), a known hawk on military matters.
After the midterm elections that November it was obvious that the Democrats would lose control of the House in January and so DADT repeal was part of a lame-duck congressional session. The days ticked by and advocates became worried that time would run out. It did not. Following an eloquent speech, Obama signed the bill on December 22. It would be another 10 months until the policy was officially rescinded but during that time the service branches went about creating tools to help implement the new policy. Now, just over a year later, there are few negative effects as gay and lesbian service members are allowed to serve openly in the armed forces.
At the time, gay Republicans praised Obama, particularly R. Clarke Cooper, head of the national Log Cabin Republicans, who helped get GOP votes for the repeal (eight Republican senators ended up voting for it). It was disheartening to learn this week that Log Cabin has endorsed GOP candidate Mitt Romney in this presidential election. And while the group said it has a disagreement with Romney on marriage, it's clear to us that a Romney administration would do nothing to help LGBT Americans and would perhaps implement policies that could harm them. Cooper has to know DADT repeal would not have happened with a Republican in the White House. It's that simple.
Obama had long frustrated LGBTs with his statement awhile back that he was "evolving" on the issue of marriage equality. As public opinion continued to increase in support of same-sex marriage, the president was still talking about the outdated and ineffective civil unions and it grew tiresome.
Obama's remarks on Wednesday, May 9 came just days after Vice President Joe Biden said on NBC's Meet the Press that he was "absolutely comfortable" with gay couples marrying and the heat was on the president. The White House quickly arranged an interview with ABC's Roberts, and a few days later the president had evolved, stating that after talking with friends and family and neighbors and staff, "I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
It was, as MSNBC's Chris Matthews said, a political earthquake. Since the president's statement, public opinion has grown in support of marriage equality. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People passed a resolution in support of marriage equality. Several high-profile gays – CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and musician Frank Ocean come first to mind – came out of the closet.
Unfortunately, the president's remarks came one day after voters in North Carolina passed a state ban on same-sex marriage, but the tide is clearly turning as it's possible that at least one of the four marriage initiatives – Washington state, Minnesota, Maryland, and Maine – on the ballot in November will pass.
Tied in to the president's support for marriage equality is his administration's decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in several federal court cases. By now, several federal courts have found DOMA unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to take up the issue. Obama endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill in Congress to repeal DOMA.
The Obama administration has moved on other issues important to the LGBT community. It created a national AIDS strategy that had input from communities around the country.
In October 2009, Obama signed the first major gay rights bill, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expands the 1969 United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
The administration also extended hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights to LGBT couples. That's a big difference from Romney, who recently said that he thinks hospital visitation for same-sex couples is a benefit, not a right. That's the alternative we're looking at in November if the Republicans win.
In a second Obama administration, we would like to see the president end raids on medical cannabis dispensaries. Attorney General Eric Holder indicated at the start of the administration that the raids, common in the Bush administration, would cease and for awhile they did. But for over a year now the U.S. attorneys in California have been waging a battle that has forced numerous dispensaries to close, depriving patients of easy access to their medicine. Ideally, marijuana should be reclassified from a Schedule I drug, but in the meantime, the administration should stop the raids.
We'd like the president to be more outspoken on matters of racial injustice. A New York Times article last Sunday examined the president's complicated issue with race and we think that the nation's first black president should step outside of his comfort zone.
Of course, there are always qualified LGBT people who can be appointed to various posts in the administration. Obama has done a good job so far, but there are still lavender ceilings to be broken.
Progress on LGBT rights will cease if Romney wins. LGBTs will be scapegoated, discriminated against, and relegated to second-class status. Republicans are currently pushing back the rights of women and immigrants. Under this president, we have seen much progress. We want that to continue.