Was Obama the Best Choice for Gay Rights?

Posted on 23 December 2008 by admin

I have a confession to make: I am a Hillary Clinton fan, and would have loved to have seen her today as the President elect. I’ve grown to be an Obama fan as well, but the Rick Warren controversy caused me to reflect on some feelings and concerns I had back in the primaries.  One was that Barak’s goal of unifying the country might come before and to the detriment of the gay community if it were accomplished by playing to the center.

During an email debate with some friends back in February I made that point, and directed their attention to an interview with Hillary on 60 Minutes.  She said, ”Unity for the sake of unity is not my goal. I want to unify the country around meeting big goals like dealing with our energy crisis. I want to call the country to action around global warming. I want to set some, you know, really big vision that young people can buy into. That’s the best way to unify the country.”

Unfortunately, the Warren invitation strikes me as unity for the sake of unity.  There is considerable debate within the gay community about the proper response — or if there should even be a response.  While I agree with those who say that there isn’t a lot to win by picking this fight, I think it would be very weak and degrading for us after Prop 8 to not have made our displeasure and offense known. When certain lines are crossed, we have to stand up and protest almost as a matter of integrity and pride.

I think it is wise to follow the lead of Barney Frank on this. 10 years ago I had the privilege of sitting across a table from him for a few hours socializing after he had dinner with a gay student group on my college campus. What struck me then, as I’ve seen reinforced many times since, is that he is fierce, smart and pragmatic. President Bush calls him “saber tooth” and he is widely respected on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

Frank was profiled on 60 Minutes on December 14 and said, “As a liberal, I am morally obligated to be pragmatic. What good do I do poor people, elderly people, people who are being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation if I’m not realistic about accomplishing something.”

So if Barney Frank feels compelled to speak out about Rick Warren, that is good enough for me.  And while I’m remaining optimistic about the incoming Obama administration, I’m unfortunately slightly less optimistic now as this controversy seems to bolster my earlier fears.

Barney seems worried about Obama as well. He said in a recent interview, “I think he overestimates his ability to take people, particularly our colleagues on the right, and, sort of, charm them into being nice.”

Here’s hoping that I’m wrong, and that Barney is wrong as well.

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Chino Blanco Says:

    For what it’s worth, I think there’s plenty to be won by picking this fight, but the kind of gains that are won in this kind of kerfuffle are not the kind that magically arrive in our stockings on Christmas Eve.

    This is no time for Americans who’ve been denied equal treatment under the law to be wishing for some reward from Santa for being nice … such Americans need to be asking the rest of the country to wake up and step up to the demands of justice.

    Obama’s no Santa Claus and his supporters don’t need to be worrying themselves about landing on his naughty list just because they disagree with him.

    As far as I can tell, this whole Warren episode has already helped move the Overton window in the right direction.

    And my sense is that Barack Obama remains as committed to liberal pragmatism as Barney Frank. And if you’re gonna follow Barney’s lead and make this a question of pragmatism, that’s a line of thinking that leaves it largely up to us (the electorate) to establish the terrain on which our pragmatists can fight and win their electoral battles.

    There’s no need to think that Barney Frank is any less on board with Obama’s “program” for having said what needed to be said. It’s always been the case that such a program depends on our saying (and our doing) that which will create the political space for an Obama White House to make the program possible.

  2. TheRadicalRealist Says:

    The best choice for LGBT rights is not obama NOR Hillary Clinton.

    For all you idiots who cling desperately to the democratic party even though they do nothing at all for us, the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney and Independent Ralph Nader both stood unashamedly for FULL and COMPLETE LGBT rights.

    The LGBT community needs to wake the fuck up and stop clinging to the democratic party the same way a battered wife clings to her abusive husband.

    Have you no self-respect? Grow a goddamn spine. If we don’t take our rights seriously, then you can be goddamn sure the worthless democrats will not.

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